Archive for May, 2015

GFNY15 Course Recon Ride

With just over a week to go before the 2015 edition of Campagnolo Gran Fondo New York a few of us set out on a long, slow ride to recon the course – and what a day it was! With mild temperatures and beautiful sunshine, the 8:30 AM meet up in Fort Lee was an easy start. Five riders began the journey at 8:45 and three returned after 6:00 PM. (The other two had an evening commitment and split off a bit early.)

We skipped River Road on the ride out knowing that section well and knowing we’d have to navigate around three closed gates. (And, personally, I’d already navigated the stairs on the GWB North path, so I just wanted to ride.) The ride up through Piermont was lovely and uneventful – and here we picked up a sixth rider for a portion of the trip.

We continued up the usual route to the top of Bear Mountain without any incident and soon four of us were at the top of Perkins munching Pringles and drinking up cold drinks. I don’t think I’d ever been there on a weekday before and it was so incredibly peaceful and quiet! But then we began to wonder what happened to the fifth rider. Thankfully, I was sure that he knew his way and was either dealing with a mechanical or choose to head back early.

Knowing that we’d pass the final rider on the return if he didn’t head back, and knowing that lunch was only a few miles away, we began the Bear Mountain descent. The speed, thrill and views never cease to amaze me. After the descent we tackled “Baby Bear” (which, by the way, was getting strips of pavement to cover the worst of the potholes) and were nearing our lunch spot when we found the missing rider. Sadly, he had a double flat and then, after repair, had another and was out of tubes. Ironically, this is the rider that gave me a tube on GFNY14 after I had a similar incident, so I was more than happy to return the favor.

A little while later we arrived at the newly re-opened Cove Deli and relaxed over some sandwiches and banter about the ride so far. There was also plenty of banter about the next ten miles – the ones with some of the hardest climbs.

As lunch wound down two riders headed down 9W for their earlier return and three of us went straight from lunch to the climb up Buckberg (otherwise known as Fuckberg). I’d never gone up Buckberg so I really wanted to try it once and it didn’t disappoint – quite the challenge! I will say that I’m glad it’s not on the official course at this time.

Following Buckberg we rejoined the official route on Mott Farm which took us into Gate Hill (Andrea Pinarello) climb. Gate Hill is a long climb with many pitch changes and sweeping curves, so you never really know where it is going to end. I kind of like it for this reason and any climb with even the smallest recover “plateaus” suits my climbing style. Gate Hill ends with a very fast descent before a shorter uphill and then immediately into Overlook Terrace (Cheesecoat) climb. Overlook is the opposite of Gate Hill – once it starts, it is a relentless slog up a rough and completely exposed roadway. Even though temps were mild, this as where we all felt the sweat.

After descending from Overlook we began the roughly 20-mile stretch of somewhat flat suburban roads with mild rollers. It’s funny how difficult these little rollers can be when you’ve already done over 5,500 feet of climbing! And then, just when we thought we were out of the woods comes State Line climb on the 9W return. Ouch!

17667_10206487233570033_9124649944848607909_nFollowing State Line we proceeded to enter the park for the River Road/Hudson Terrace finish. The descent down Alpine is one of my favorites since the road was repaved last year, but then the 5-miles of relentless rollers take their toll. And at the second roundabout we may or may not have ventured up Dyckman Hill to test out the final climb on the official route. (That may or may not be me in this photo and it may or may not have been Photoshopped.)

After exiting the park on Hudson Terrace there’s one mile left to the official finish and with fresh pavement and a slight downhill pitch, it’s a great finish. There is Unnecessary Hill to content with, but I like to carry some momentum from the descent into this climb and then sprint to the top – what a great way to finish the course on May 17th!

The Long and (Sometimes) Lonely Road

Long Lonely RoadTraining for long rides means taking lots of long rides. And there can be a lot of long and lonely roads during training. Sometimes there’s nothing better than the solitude of a solo training ride – just you, your bike and your thoughts. Other times you need a group for that extra motivation. More than likely on a given long ride, you’ve got a little of both.

A fellow rider took this photo of me during the 30+ minute climb up Bear Mountain. We were riding in a group of about 40 riders this day, and for the most part, the group kept together. But a long climb like Bear Mountain means anything can happen.

I began the climb at the start of the group, but since many hadn’t been there before, I waited about 1-mile up to direct folks at the traffic circle, making sure no one got lost. Once the group passed, I began my ascent in earnest and wanted to get as close to the front as possible. It’s always a good personal challenge to see another rider ahead and set your goal to pass them. And for me on Bear, I can excel, but only to a point. I passed a few riders fairly quickly, but after that, I’d see the next rider in the distance, and closing the gap was really challenging.

I saw the friend who ultimately took this photo ahead of me and I knew I’d reached a part of the group that climbs at a similar pace to me, so I knew passing him would be a challenge. Eventually, I did pass, but after a few minutes I looked back to find him right on my wheel! A few cars got in our way, breaking our stride, and I was able to ride ahead for a bit, and I think that’s when he took this shot. There were other riders in my sights, but I couldn’t pass any others before the summit.

Here’s a fellow rider named Shannon – we rode the Putnam Trail together not that long ago – with snow on the trail! Today, there was no snow and it was pretty warm; even warmer as your body furnace works hard to push you up this mountain. This was Shannon’s first time on Bear Mountain and he absolutely killed it! He is #SoReady for GFNY 2015 in two weeks!

At the top the crowd slowly gathered as riders finished the climb one by one. Some had been there before, others hadn’t. Some suffered on the climb, others relished it. But one thing we all shared is both the sense of accomplishment from getting to the top and a mild trepidation about the miles still ahead. After all, this was mile 45 of an 85 mile ride! But for now, we could all relax, take a drink, eat some Pringles, enjoy the view and tell the different stories we all have about the exact same climb.

This is a shot of the entire group from the beginning of the rider, but this is the difference when we get to the big climbs. Here we’re a tight group riding together and sharing in the experience. But each challenging climb on a given ride becomes a very personal and solo experience. Even if riding in a small cluster, the challenge becomes you, your body, your bike and the climb. Everything else sort of falls away. Even as I tried to “pick off” riders ahead of me – it wasn’t about getting ahead of the rider, it was about me picking a point ahead and getting there. The rider is just a means to an end. But then, at the top, each of those riders becomes real again and helps to bring the group camaraderie back around. It’s quite an interesting and wonderful experience to ride both solo and with a group during the exact same ride.

Below is the final ride record. And while I am undoubtedly a data junkie who loves things like Strava, it’s getting personal and connecting with the ride itself that makes me want more. There’s no data that tells the story of my climb up Bear Mountain on this day, or of seeing Shannon and others come over the top for the first time. That’s what group riding is all about.