Monday, June 25, 2012

2012 Rapha North East Gentlemen's Race: This Post is/not Epic

Rapha is a somewhat polarizing brand. On the one hand, they invented epicness, which is worth a lot of street cred. On the other hand, they invented epicness. Moaning about what constitutes 'cool' aside, six Tall Tree Cycles riders committed to trying to get into this year's Rapha North East Gentlemen's race. We - Todd, Rodd, Alex, Dave (not Jamie, he doesn't respond to emails) - collaborated to create what had to be the most clever, insightful, and impressive race entry application ever. A week or so after overnighting handwritten prose to Oregon, we were in. 28 teams, a whole lot of awesome was about to go down in New Hampshire and Vermont.

The Norwich Inn
The Norwich Inn. Enchanting.
We prepped our bikes with (mostly) fat tires and (mostly) low gears. A 'just in time' delivery had me rocking a 34x34 climbing gear, sure to put the fear of GOD into our competition. Alex ran a 36x36; bigger numbers for bigger quads. Dave and Todd were to be on 34x28 and 34x27 tooth cogs respectively;  we'd see how that went. Todd was on 'tubulars,' some sort of 'high performance' tires that promise to be more puncture resistant than clinchers, exude in-crowd cachet, and roll like butter down a hot skillet. Hmmm, ok.

Loaded up in a rental pervert van, we were on the road bright and early, 10:30am, headed south. Things got real when we got busted peeing on the side of the road stateside. Lets just say 'public lewdness' is not tolerated around Massena, so guys, keep your twigs concealed. "There's a Stewarts down the road, their restrooms are really nice." We got off with a (severe) warning, after about an hour of 'sweating it'...and trying not to laugh. Wow.

Then we were there, partying with the organizers (who are lovely people, BTW), and a bunch of bike folks at an historic inn while a swank wedding party went down out front. It was majestic. It seemed we'd won a 15minute last-team-drinking-time-bonus until we realized the women's Rapha Ambassadors team was still hitting the beer as we walked away. Whatever, it was almost 11, that's late.

Early up, bedazzled by waffle batter provisioning technology, fuelled, locked and loaded, it was off in the PV to the start, which none of us could locate on a map. Hanover, New Hampshire.....the school.... No matter, we intuited it, (aka we followed a car with bikes on it) and arrived in time for the team captain meeting, distribution of Garmin 800s, cues sheets, espresso, and clever jokes. The crowd was big, and eclectic, 27 teams strong (one pre-dropped out). The air was electric with good vibes, and interesting facial hair was in ample supply. Teams ranged from dudes who looked like they'd hurt us, but clearly had tires that were too small, to a rocking team of tandems 'manned' by hip vet riders like Todd Holland, of D2R2 fame. We occupied the 'all over this shit, we're dialled with our high volume tires and low gears' part of the spectrum. Except Todd.
le group, shortly before we rolled off and turned left.  supposed to turn right. lost 30 sec right there!
Todd, Alex, Rodd, Jamie, Matt, Dave, about to roll.
We were nestled between Rapha Racing and Mad Alchemy down near the bottom of the handicapped start list. I lied to Gerben, the organizer, saying we were soooo fast, we'd likely average somewhere around 26-27kph. Pride cometh before a fall or something like that.  Departing around 8:35 am, we rode off, immediately going the wrong way. Left instead of right. Tip:  hit 'go' on the Garmin 800 when you want to navigate.

Fast forward through gorgeous paved road, melding into gorgeous dirt road, the buff stuff, over gorgeous terrain. Lather rinse repeat. Get the idea? Passing, being passed, catching the Strava team; riding with the tandems, sun, blue skies.  Life was good, we were loving it. The camera moto pulls in front of us, Dave orders us to rotate over a dirt road with many embedded rocks, Todd flats. His 'tubular.' the un pinch-flattable tubular.  We attempt to seal it with the shittiest cycling product I've ever seen, Vittoria Pit Stop. The camera crew captures us, the gravel road 'specialists', with it spraying white foam all over my face. Ok, fine, I'll accept that, if it seals. It seals. We ride. It unseals. We try the next canister. No luck. Ok, spare tire on. Wha'?  No valve core?  I harvest one from the one tube we have with a removable core using an improvised skewer/frame 'wrench.' Rodd airs it, the tube disintegrates. WTF? That's it, Todd's screwed. We're out.  We roll down a long dirt descent and into a town, refuel, and leave Todd with Gerben and his van. Now 5, we can't place, but we can rock out with our....wait, no, bad idea.
mad alchemy slowly pulling away early
Mad Alchemy passing us. I didn't smell any embrocation on them....hmmmm.
Todd, before the 'incident.'
Alex, loving the low gears, and low brim.
before the deluge
Jamie lets the Canaries do their thing.
saw this often
What, I didn't sign up for this!
We ride on, meditate on our mis/fortune, nurse Jamie's not-getting-worse-cramp, jibber jabber, and swear about the storm we're about to ride under. Then it got real: raining cats and dogs, lightening, thunder, mud in every orifice, two wheel slide on slick dirt, and cold. Real cold. A long descent delivered us to a convenience store, where Rodd jumped into action, attaining garbage bags for us to wear as ponchos, merino socks for Alex's arms (cut open on Rodd's big ring), and a hunting toque for Dave. Coffee, yes, that too. Dave's hand was shaking so bad I thought he was going to spray coffee all over himself. Teams trickled in, zombified, and followed suit with the bags.
about 60 miles in, 60 miles to go.
Why doesn't Jamie look cold? He's a freak, that's why.
matt is much better with a garbage bag on his chest and a coffee
Hot, no? I grew to love this garbage bag.
After about 40 minutes of shivering, yawning (WTF?), and climbing (YES, a climb, thank Gary Fisher!), we were human again, warm enough to get back to lovin' it. We just couldn't go wrong; climbing was great because it helped us stay warm, and descents were great because they were so incredibly fun. Jamie's cramp subsided, Dave, Alex and I attacked the Strava climb (ouch!!!), we ate peanuts and stuff (not Rodd, apparently he's 'allergic'), caught and passed the Rapha Continentals (too skinny tires), and generally had a lovely time. 
The second 'wing' of the butterfly shaped course from mile 90 to the end had some of the loveliest terrain on it.  We were constantly passing places like this (for sale! under 5 million!)

 Clear skies greeted us through our approach to the finish, just under 200k for the day, and lots of good sensations. Todd, still feeling guilty for totally screwing us, played soigneur brilliantly, and even had vegan delights on hand for me, as the BBQ fare was not suitable, or available.

Was it epic? I know you are want to know. It was. Not because the course was hard, though it was; over 3000m climbing in 200k of paved and lots of dirt roads. It was epic because Todd's tire catastrophe could have seen him sitting on the side of the road for 6 hours. We could have suffered hypothermia. We could have been struck by lightening (I am sad to report a young local woman was struck and killed near the route as we rode), we could have eaten it on a blazing dirt descent in driving rain. None of that happened, but we were exposed, and there were points where we weren't really sure whether we'd be ok. We pushed on, got through it, and I think we're all stronger for it. That's epic.

Kichesippi kicked in a growlers for us to put in for the winning team, and I'm sure they are tickled to have gone home with such a treat; many thanks to Kichesippi for the support!

Thank you Thom and Will for hooking us up with the pervert van for the weekend. The rolling sausage party was nothing short of entertaining.

Thank you Rapha for putting on one of the best run and most fun events I've been to. We'd have loved to hang with all the riders and organizers apres ride, drink, eat, tell war stories, so we encourage Rapha to try to make that possible next time around. Assuming we are accepted to race again. Please accept us....flawed as we are.

A final thank you to the team, Rodd, Todd, Alex, Jamie, and Dave for committing to this event, following through, and being great team mates. Respect to Dave for the second fastest time of the day on the Strava climb, a 4k dirt-nasty. He got me by 5 long seconds. I have no idea how we'd make up the two minutes required to take the KOM. By adding a motor, perhaps.

Dave the Sinister
Alex, chuffed
Rodd, deep.

Jamie, sad kitten.
Todd, ashamed.
Camera Roll-9

Here's the day's data:

Movie here

For all you RGRacers reading this, check out our posts on the gent's race we hold every May, and consider coming North to check out what we ride. Our 150k route isn't as gnarly as the RGR or D2R2, but its May, so that's ok. The scenery is beautiful, and the crowd is fun. Plus, we finish with a BBQ and beer! Teams of 5, its the Ride of the Damned.

I'll end with the best quoted from the weekend, in chronological order (f-word alert):

"So, who's your weakest rider?"

"This isn't Canada, you can't just take a piss wherever you want."

"Are you guys carrying anything that you should not be carrying? Marijuana? Oxycotin?"

"Old enough to know better."

"Do these look like 'fire-roasted olives' to you?"

"Chocolate Honey Stinger Waffles....fuck yeah!"

"She says: 'That bitch, I can't believe she'd crash like that, she's from around here!'"

"Our guy Matt finished D2R2 under 8hrs, and finished first at the New York Gran Fondo; yeah we ride gravel a lot."

"Those ladies are still drinking, they're gonna get the 15-minute bonus."

"Man, this is the first time I've ridden 25s; they feel really bulky!"

"Rodd, which way is it?"

"This is awesome."

"Don't look at the amazing remote controlled helicopter camera. It ruins the shot. And we won't make the final cut."

"So, is being 'helicopter-worthy' similar, or better than being 'sponge-worthy?'"

"Kodak Courage, eh?"

"Get into a paceline."


"Where's the fucking valve core?!"



"Looks like we're gonna get it."

"Jamie's cramping."

"Merino socks; Alex, get these. Dave, you want this? I think you should."

"Dave, gimme your coffee and do some jumping-jacks."

"Gaaaaarbage bag, fuck yeah!"

"I hope there's a big fucking climb coming."


"I bet its going to be sunny at the finish."

"Go Matt, get the KOM!"

"Good god that sucked."

"We just dropped the Rapha Continentals; their tires are too narrow."

"I am having so much fun."

"Check that out."

"10k to go!"

"They're out of food."

"You guys are good."

"He said, 'You guys are good.'"

"Hope we get another shot."

As a word cloud:


hooked on phonics said...

Great writing!
Such a small world- was amazed (but not surprised) to run into Dave and Rodd.
Ride of the Damned sounds interesting- would be nice to coincide a biz trip with that weekend...
Here's Team Forzza's report:


Gravel Grump said...

Rodd and Todd Flanders?

Matt Surch said...

hooked on phonics, thanks! I found your post entertaining too. I hope you can wrangle a team for next May. I think you guys would love the route, its really beautiful, and plenty hard for spring.