Thats what this was to me. Pure Bonus! As you know I was pretty sure 2 weeks ago that the D2R2 was off the schedule for me. I hoped to get back for Cross at first, but then after quickly feeling a lot better, I figured I'd be able to race Green Mountain Stage Race. Then after more healing and more ride time, I decided in the 11th hour that I'd be saddling up for D2R2. With this being billed as the hardest century ride you'll ever do, which is actually well over 100 miles at 113 or so, it wouldn't seem too hard to believe. But.....there's always a "but", this is no road ride. This is a "dirt road randonee" that starts in Deerfield, MA, in the "hilltown" region. Hence the name D2R2. It is 85-90% dirt roads, some of which are basicly cart roads that you couldn't drive a 2 wheel drive car on. It is hillier than you can imagine. 13,000 feet of climbing. With that comes descending, lots of descending on dirt roads. This year was gonna be tricky because with the dry summer, the dirt roads have turned into washboards in lots of places. Not great for a broken collarbone with 2 weeks of healing, but as I told all my mates, my ribs were actually the worse injury in terms of feeling pain while riding a bike. I knew I had to be safe and easy on the descents, but I have to admit to feeling the thrill most of the day and letting go of the brakes a fair amount. I had one close call when I almost overcooked a left hander that entered a small bridge. I managed it OK though by putting an outrigger out (clicking out of the pedal and leaning the inside foot out in case of a tire slide) and measuring what distance I had left to complete the turn. I made it with a couple inches to spare, and then told myself to go back to being more careful than that again. I'm very sorry to report that 2 very good friends from the ccb team had 2 separate cases of bad luck, and went down hard, both breaking collarbones. Well I don't know that for sure, but I know Tyler Munroe did for sure because he was back at the finish tent, drinking a beer, (atta boy Ty) with the tell tale signs of a clavicle fracture. Then we heard Jim Nash had also gone down and it was said that he had also broken a shoulder and was at the hospital. Many speedy recovery wishes to you guys. I hope it's not too bad for you. This is RUGGED terraine, and it has demanded respect from lots of men.
At any rate, I was on an absolute high just being there with this crew. I had been somewhat depressed since my Louisville trip, and I knew this was the sort of thing that could snap me out of my funk. I hate the hot weather and Saturday was calm and cool with a hint of cyclocross in the air. Had I stayed home because of the injuries, I would have woken to that cool dry autumn air and instantly gotten more depressed, knowing what I was missing. So in the start corral at 6:30 after letting all the tough guys go at the early 6 AM start time, we had Solobreak, Dougie, Kevin Buckley, Sammy, Kev, Synjen, John Funk, Tim Grosbeck, Steve Roszco, John Mosher, Chris White, Chris Peck, and our fearless leader who knows the entire route by memory and was also our gracious host Friday night....Jay Gump and lots of others.
It was cold starting out so we started with arm warmers and thin vests. After about an hour we stopped and dropped any extra clothing items by a covered bridge and Jay's wife Megan picked it all up later and put it another car that was coming down later for the shorter 100k ride. A BIG thank you to Jay and Megan for making our adventure as fun & friendly as it could be. By that time we had already done some serious climbing. I highly recomend Dave's report for a much better description of some of the technical aspects of where we were and what kind of grades we faced, and of course Dave's unmatched humor. But this is such a huge ride that we really hadn't even scratched the surface yet, especially since we were still fresh. 1 hour into a 9 hour "Hellride" means squat! The first few descents were a litmus test of sorts for me personally. The climbs were hard, yes, but the descents were where I'd have to absorb more vibration and shock into my injured skelatal system. I'm not a big believer in pill popping, but for this extreme effort under extreme circumstances, I'd decided to have as close to 800 mg of ibuprofin coursing through my blood as possible. So I had advil with me and took 800 mg before we started and again 3-1/2 hours later and then again 3-1/2 hours after that. The first few washboard sections were unpleasant, but I finally decided I wasn't doing any more damage and was just holding on too tight making things worse, so I loosened up a bit and it made all the difference in the world. Like all sports, the key is to do it in as a relaxed state as possible.
We were climbing a very tough hill in the woods at one point and as we looked up there was a calf (baby cow, not Sammy's lower leg) in the road and more or less trotting right at us with a somwhat disgruntled look on his face. I had told myself I wanted to enjoy this ride more and take some pictures, but when you're climbing these brutal dirt climbs and you've got one bad arm that doesn't reach pockets on your back very well, it's well.....hard. I faded back though and made the attempt, I fumbled with the pocket and the cliff bars on top of it but managed to get it out and turn it on and fire one off just as "Norm" (Cityslicker's) got off the edge of the road. It turns out I videoed him by mistake which I have no idea how I did it, but here he is.
We eventually hit the food/fluid stop at the sunflower field. This was one of the main reasons I had brought the camera along. Last year this was a sea of 8' tall sunflowers that were all in full bloom. The ride was about a month earlier last year, and this year they had planted a different kind of sunflower, they weren't as tall and had gone by just a little bit by the time we arrived. It was a better snapshot last year, but that will have to live on in my memory, unless someone took a shot in 2009 that they'd like to share. Thanks to Rosey, we can now see the difference...
There were countless climbs and descents. The steepest was easily Achambo, the longest was probably Hillman, but the hardest of all was Patton that falls at about the 90-93 mile mark. We had an extraordinary group of climbers. Most of the day, the only somewhat competitive times were on these hills, and I was able to be at or on the front for all of them.....until Patton. In 2009 I famously attacked Kevin here (and by famously, I mean he and I remember it) after he waited for me numerous times earlier in the day, only to have him counter attack me and club me to death on the final steep wall that is more or less 20% on golf ball sized gravel. I survived the first half OK with Kevin and Chris Peck and John Funk who I have a mountain of respect and admiration for, then it lessened in terms of steepness and I repeated my attack from a year ago.....kind of. I was able to recover and go between Chris and Kev and put in a surge, but I gapped no one, and I laughed to myself as Kev said "oh no, not this again". I'm even laughing now as I write this, because it will be tradition from now on of course, but I was pretty close to being toast at that moment and the kill was imminent. Those 3 took off and I was left in the dust and backward rolling golf balls as I suffered up to the top, but while this is where my suffering was at it's greatest, it was where my happiness was at it's peak. I was here, I was in the late stages of the ride on the last killer climb with a food stop at the top and as long as I kept my head, I was gonna do this. I promise you I wasn't trying to be a hardass when I decided to ride it, rather I needed it. I wouldn't risk furter injuring myself if that was a possiblity. Of course it's a possiblity for anyone to injure themselves on this ride, but I didn't feel as though just participating would injure me, so I trusted my instincts again. Ya, that let me down last time, but I could list hundreds of thousands of instances where it didn't so I wasn't gonna check my confidence at the door now. I say I needed it, because this is my drug. People like anyone reading this right now inspire me. People like you Dougie, that live life like it's a one time chance (because it is!). I'm more comfortable in my skin with all of you masochistic nutjobs than I am anywhere else. I mean that affectionately of course!
The rest of the ride wasn't uneventful, we had 3 flats, one of which was mine, but no crashes and when we came off the last, possibly hardest dirt road sector, we were all smiles. The group was fragmented a little but it was more or less all together for a good size portion of us that started together.
I felt like I was on drugs! I'm so greatful that I was able to have this day with everyone, with absolutely perfect weather. I thought for sure it was gonna be wiped away after my crash, so it only served to emphasize how much I do love the spiritual side of cycling. Racing is great, but I won't always race, I will however always ride. I have to, I need it like a junkie needs the needle.
They do SO much for you at this event. The food along the way is unreal and the friendliness is off the charts. The organization is flawless, and when you're done they offer a shuttle to the school where we can shower and then back to an incredible dinner and beer. I would have sat there and drank with Solo 'til they threw us out, but my pal Sammy was driving and he needed to go, so we left after only a few. I'm sure it was for the better anyway.
If you like tough rides and dirt roads and you think the Battenkill race is the big deal, you're dead wrong. That's a silly little flatish spin with a circus atmosphere compared to this baby. This is THE challenge for anyone looking for one, and it supports a great cause. You also get more than your money's worth throughout the day.
Thanks for reading, JB