Sunday, August 22, 2010


Early yesterday day morning, I picked up Dario, with whom I was wearing a matching jersey, and set for the great bicycle summit at D2R2. To get pumped, I played some Fran├žois Couperin for the ride up. We arrived, did some bathroom work, messed with bikes, shook hands with Sandy (who invented D2R2s and hails from West Hartford), Dario wrapped himself in a tubular, we signed in our start time (6:41am) and we were off.

Our plan was to go slow, so we went slow. The staggered start of this year was nice, because we stayed out of a group, creating little impellment to attach oneself to a group and ride their pace.
The first section to the top of the hill in Heath has a lot of climbing, but nothing super steep until the hill up to the first check point. It averages 15% for like a mile or something crazy like. I was worried that I was overgeared with my lowest ratio being 34:32 (with 700x32c wheels, that's a 28.7" gear), which for most people is pretty low, but is it for a weakling like me? It was ok: I found that if I maintained a bit of momentum and stayed on top of the gear that I could work it. It was still pretty difficult, though.

My brush with mechanical problems also came during the first section. There was a "thump thump thump" coming from the rear end of the bike, whose frequency was related to the bike's speed. At first I thought I'd picked up a pebbled and it was hitting the chain stay, but upon investigation, it appeared that a knobby had partially detached itself from the tire. We asked a couple riders if they had a any glue and one nice had some rubber cement. He was in a hurry, so he gave us the cement and rode off. I glued it on and it held for awhile (about a mile). I glued it again and the realized there were other knobbies falling off, and to some extent, my rear tire was falling apart. I glued what appeared to be the other worst one, but was fairly certain that this was futile. Another mile and the "thump thump thump" returned and then after a big descent it ceased because the knobby had fallen off and I was riding on the patch of casing underneath. With the thumps gone, the tire problem wasn't distracting me anymore, so I was able ride normally. I returned the rubber cement to its owner at the check point. And, by the end of the day, learned that you can ride pretty far on casing.

When you get back on your bike after checkpoint 1, you learn whether or not you were pushing yourself too hard at the beginning. I felt great, unlike last year. Royer Road comes pretty soon after the checkpoint, which is the closest thing to mountain biking on the route. It's great. Section 2 has Archambo Rd (the 27% gravel wall) and Hillman Rd, which along with Patten Hill at the end, are the hardest climbs on the route. Archambo is a pretty crazy little road, as in, why did they construct it without a switchback? Even the other side of it, which is paved, is very steep. It can't possibly be drivable ever in the winter, but people live on it. Almost immediately after Archambo is Hillman Rd., which is deceptively difficult because it's gets steeper in 200 yard stages (for about a mile) and each stage has a looser and looser road surface. There's some descending, a final climb up Franklin Hill Rd. and then some more descending to lunch.

Lunch was great this year! They had an excellent vegetarian sandwich & pasta salad for me and roast beef and ham for meat eaters. No cold baked potatoes (as I've often queried, what's up with Vermont (the lunch stop is in Guilford, VT) and cold potatoes on bike rides?) this time. I also ate a bunch of cheetos.

At this point, I had ridden considerably ahead of Dario and when he arrived, he was cramping up considerably. Sandy gave him a bunch of salt, but things looked dire. Intelligently, unlike me last year, he decided to take Green River Rd. back to Deerfield and confine himself to 80 miles for the day. I was sad that I was now the lone snail.

After lunch is when the true D2R2-ness of the D2R2 sets in. Everyone is spread out and the roads start to feel lonely. Maybe it's just the contrast from the lunchtime hubbub or maybe the roads really are lonelier, but for either reason, when you meet up with the cop in Leyden who's handing out water and Gatorade, you're pretty sure that the Leyden Police Department is comprised of the world's greatest public servants.

You go up and you go down, then you hear some bagpipes playing at a wedding. I caught back up with the Rapha guys, who seemed to be having some kind of problem on the side of the road, but they smiled and waved off my offer of assistance (when I saw them again at the finish dinner, one guy had a torn jersey, so maybe it was a crash or something). I got to the Green River water stop and then went down a section of Green River which was one of my favorites from last year. But, this year, I guess we've been having a big drought, because instead of being verdant, it was totally parched. I ran into Joe from Enfield, whom I met earlier in the day because he recognized me from this blog.

There are a couple of switchbacks off the river, when I (and several others) cramped up last year. Not so, this year!

Things flatten out for a few miles in Colrain before the intimidation that is Patten Hill. Going down Deerfield Rd. into Colrain, I drafted and then passed a Jeep. That was kinda cool.

And, then there was Patten Hill: the source of so much agony and angst for me. I mean, I've thinking about this hill all year, to the point that when I got to it I realized it existed in my mind more as myth than reality. Don't get me wrong, it's a really nasty hill. It starts off with pavement at like 15% or something, then flattens out on dirt, the steepens up again progressively until the top-- whereupon you eat salted watermelon and pickles.

But, I cleaned it and I cleaned all the hills this year, and I finished (complete with corn maze). Except for a chaffed but, I felt pretty good. I couldn't think of a better reason to get up at 4:00am and toil for twelve hours.

One final thought, with the weather so nice this year, I wonder if anyone set a new course record.


Erik Jorgensen said...

Nice job, Brandon! I enjoyed your writing about D2R2 last year; nice to see you had a better time in 2010.

I dream of doing this ride some day.

Anonymous said...

Very cool entry. Sounds like you had a great ride. I recently moved to New England and have had my eye on D2R2 since I first heard of it. I was lucky enough to make it into the event and had a great time. Cool vibe all around and terrain that was first rate. I also wonder if anyone laid down a real fast time. I had a 8:27 ride time but saw a few out there who were riding a faster tempo that certainly could have took them under the 9:00 barrier. Regardless of time this is a great ride. Thanks for writing.

Erik Jorgensen said...

Also, sorry I just noticed that I got your name wrong....

Brendan said...

8:27? That's pretty awesome.

The organizers have posted the times on bikereg before, so they'll probably do it again this year.

Interstatement said...

Well done, both riding and writing! I'm glad it went better for you this year, that makes it seem a bit less daunting for me. It looks like a beautiful ride! I definitely want to do this in 2011 or 12.

Joe said...

Nice work Brendan. I only managed to ride half of the course, and I would say that is the most difficult ride I have ever attempted. Finishing it and not having to put a foot down has to make you one of the strongest riders I know. Congrats - Joe