Saturday, June 13, 2015
The Central / Western New York 400K: Just One More To Go!
As a result of a very hectic spring calendar with work and family obligations around every corner, I found myself riding through the Finger Lakes on a 400K last weekend in one of the very last brevets of this distance on the RUSA calendar. While not completing the ride was not really a possibility, the added pressure did cross my mind from time to time. Living in the Hudson Valley, I'm blessed with four brevet series within two hours of my house, so it's rare that I pack up the car and drive 4-1/2 hours to a ride start. This means that I rarely get up to the Finger Lakes region, which is too bad since the vistas are gorgeous and the roads ideal for long distance cycling.
The ride began on Saturday morning at 6:00 AM at RBA Pete D.'s house side-by-side with a 600K. Due to the lateness of the season, the field was extremely thin with only three starters on the 400 and seven on the 600. With a field this small, I knew that it was quite likely that this would be a solo attempt at the distance for me and so I settled into a pace that felt good from the start. The first and last 30 miles of the route hug the beautiful southern shore of Lake Ontario and conjured fond memories of my experience on the Lap of the Lake 1000K last summer among a much larger field of riders.
After about 30 miles, the route turns south and heads towards the Syracuse area and into the heart of the Finger Lakes. Not long after the start, I was approached by Boston rider Keith C. who had gotten off to a late start riding a sweet Seven Mudhoney with an abundance of youthful energy. When we were chatting and he asked if I was retired or still working I realized that it may be time to step up the training a wee bit or to at least grab a bottle of Grecian Formula at the pharmacy. After our initial conversation, Keith and I leap-frogged a bit until finally settling into a more or less common pace. While he took a bit longer in controls than I had planned, I'm sure that I was riding a bit slower than he would have preferred, especially on the hills when my legs seemingly turned to stone.
Luckily, the weather could not have been more favorable. There was a slight wind out of the north, which aided our progress during the first half of the day and dropped off completely after dark as we made our way home to the finish. There was only one long stretch of open field were we caught a headwind and this reminded us just how lucky we were and how bad it could have been. As the sun began to fade, we approached Lake Skaneateles, one of the loveliest of the Finger Lakes, and arrived in the charming village of the same name on the lake's north shore just as the sun set in time for a welcome meal.
The last time I rode this course, I recall not liking the last 100K all that much, but this time around it was quite pleasant despite the very cold temperatures that set in after midnight. The sky was filled with stars and the moon rose over expansive fields that would soon be filled with corn and other treats of summer. The roads were largely free of traffic and, despite some concern over the quantity of alcohol purchased by drivers at the penultimate control, we did not run into any trouble with cars on the last stretch. Shivering at 43F along the final 50K, I have to thank Keith for his graciousness in not dropping me like a bad habit. We both finished in 21:13, long after we had planned, safe and sound and 3/4 of the way qualified for PBP.
Up Next: One of my favorite brevets of all time, The Catskill 600K on June 20-21.