I once said Stage 2 of the 2010 Trans-Sylvania Epic was the most humbling thing I have ever done on a bike. After yesterday I can now say the Rapha Gentleman's race has eclipsed that.
Ironically taking place on the day of the rapture, RGR fielded 20 teams, and Philadelphia Ciclismo was lucky enough to be one of them. Armed with Cannondale CAAD 10's and new kits, Ciclismo sent The Harris Brothers, Newport, Lebair, Bruce, and myself to contest the race.
The course was published and it looked relatively scary. Only one of us had actually completed 134 miles or more before.
The Long Version of the Race Report...
Starting at the Trexlertown Velodrome, we set off at 8:56am we set off on our way. It took 10 minutes to get our first puncture. We were able to fix it pretty quickly and get back rolling. I am fairly certain every single dirt road withing 30 miles of the velodrome. The six of us had a pretty good first two hours. We were making good time over the "rollers" for the first 40 miles to Kuztown. The rollers were really more like walls. One part of the file says it was over 14% on dirt for 5 minutes. Needless to sat that stung a bit. Spinning the cranks at 37 rpm is a feeling I couldn't mind forgetting about for a bit.
Stopping in Kutztown we ran into C3's team as well as a few others. As we fueled up I made a mistake that would prove pretty painful. While drinking some water, it accidentally went down the wrong pipe. I started to cough and my lower back went into spasm. I didn't think much of it, it hurt, but wasn't limiting in any way.
We rolled the next 90 minutes to the top of Hawk Mountain. This was a true mountain as there was in fact a visitors center at the top. Only mountains have visitor centers... When I hopped off the bike for some more water, the back was a complete custer cuss. I couldn't even bend. This seemed odd to me as the climb up hawk wasn't that bad. Equally odd was that when getting back on the bike, the pain dissipated.
Onwards. With 3 more passes to go over the ridge, we kept even pacing and ticked out the miles. Descending off Hawk Mountain was a blast, watter running off a few of the switch backs was a bit tricky though.
Climbing back over the ridge for the second pass was completely blank. I cannot remember a thing about it. I can remember blowing by a turn though on a decent off the mountain. By the time we realized it we were almost a mile off course, along with 3 other teams. We climbed back up the ridge and found the turn. 15 minutes wasted and 425 ft of climbing.We figured it would happen at least once.
Trips up the mountain 3 and 4 were both dirt and very close to one another on the course. We basically climbed went back down and climbed back up. Climb 3 consisted of a slimy sticky mess. Our wheels slipped quite often on the soft clay surface. The real story about climb 3 however was the descent off of it. Straight up mountain biking. We suffered one puncture on the rocks and held up a bit. Fortunately this would be the last puncture on the day.
30 minutes to rapture and we had one big climb left: On the final climb we had the taste of overcoming a huge accomplishment on our palates. We as a team firmly believed that if we made it over the last climb, we would be set for a smooth 30 mile trip back to the velodrome
We summited Climb 4 with some of the other teams we had ran into. I stayed back and kept my eye on our guys and ate, and ate, and then ate some more. One dirt descent and 30 miles left. A moment of relief came upon us. We felt safe for a second.
On the second turn on the decent off the mountain, things went a little nuts. I was leading the group out and went into a left hander too hot. I broke, but the wheels slid on some loose gravel and I started going straight, headed off the road and down the embankment. I unclipped my low side foot and initiated a 2 wheel slide to the side. I was waiting until the last second to actually lay the bike down and hope not to go off the ledge. As I entered the ditch off the side of the road the bike suddenly caught and started to turn back up the road via a bed of rocks. I didn't flat, I didn't crash, and I don't think I soiled my chamios either.
Now that I hadn't died, I continued to lead the way off the mountain and start on the final stretch.
I am trying to forget the last 30 miles of the race. I expected a straight flat magic carpet of a road with 20mph tailwind, but instead we were through into a twisty web of dirt roads and flats. By this point we were all fried and navigation became a challenge. The Garmin's battery was dying, and we resorted to the cue sheets and smart phones.
At sometime around 6:40pm we entered the track. We rolled around in formation and finished what we started.
Afterwards, I could hardly move. My legs were not terrible, but my back was shattered. If this post seems like its lacking my typical brand of humor, well its because I am completely fried. My body has never been so deconstructed at any level.
The Funny Stuff:
Quotes of the day(s):
-Fat Marc at mile 40 while refueling at Turkey Hill "Smile for the picture, this blog isn't going to write itself, hurry up" Click.
-While asking Fat Marc if he was ok while his C3 teammates changed a flat "Of course I'm not ok, I just rode 101 fucking miles."
-Craig Lebair "I'm going to mess that team's shit up like a dung beetle"
-I think I will go ride the bike path for a month after this.
Topics of discussion included but not limited to:
Long vs short legged sheep.
Me bitching about everything,
Things being PRO vs Fred.
Yelling at road kill telling it to "HTFU"
Marvel at the power file here: Watts.
Oh Yeah, it turns out we finished 4th out for 20 teams. Only 9 teams actually were able to complete the ride.