Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Beantown 400K: Three Down and One to Go!

This was my first time riding in one of the Boston Brevets and boy, let me tell you, it was fun worth repeating. This was my third brevet of the season and my goal for the day was to finish in under 16:12 towards qualification in the Cyclos Montagnards R60 Challenge. With these hills and this weather it might not be easy. On the other hand, unlike the Saratoga 300K, with its NINE controls, this event had only FOUR. While I would not lose as much time having to stop for control business, I knew I would have to forage a bit for water along the way. When I left the hotel at 3:20, the rains were steady and thunder and lightning filled the air. It did't look too promising for a full day in the saddle. In fact, it was downright biblical. Sensible people might find this plan a bit off.

As if on cue, though, the rains stopped and the clouds parted enough to allow a sliver of moon to poke through as I signed the waiver and grabbed a fresh cue sheet out of the organizer’s tailgate. I rolled out at 4:00 am at the front of the pack with Matt and Chris, two other riders with whom I would ride for roughly the the first 200K. While these two knew each other, the three of us soon found that we had ridden in many of the same events, if not always at the same time. Matt and I even discovered that we both competed in the Rapha Gentleman's Race last May. 

Living in New York’s Hudson Valley, I'm roughly 2 hours from events that originate in Westfield, Saratoga, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania so the Boston series lies just a bit out of my orbit. Too bad really, because it was well worth the drive and inconvenience getting there. The ride was well-routed and took in some simply beautiful sections of New Hampshire where we spent most of our day riding through one colonial village after another. We passed the birthplace of Franklin Pierce, the only US president born in New Hampshire as well as Daniel Webster. Not only that, we climbed right past the Canterbury Shaker Village which inspired awe in a tired old randonneur like me. It made me think that if the Shakers didn't kill themselves off with the whole abstinence thing, they might make some hearty randonneurs with their emphasis on austerity, design, efficiency and community. In contrast, we also rode by St. Paul’s School, one of the wealthiest prep schools in the nation where the headmaster reportedly makes over $500,000 per year in salary alone. Sadly I did not have a resume with me, so I’ll have to follow up with them another time.  

It was great riding with Matt and Chris but I knew that if I held their pace, I would blow up in the second half of the day. Sadly, I had to drop off the back of our little group to let them carry on with their more aggressive 15-hour goal and maintain my reserves. I needed to finish within 16:12 and anything (like riding too hard too early) that kept me off that goal needed to be avoided. On the solo "back nine," I was able to keep up a fairly steady pace, but the stretch between control 2 and 3 was pure evil. The weather was disagreeable with heat climbing into the 90s, the humidity hovering near 100% and plenty of exposed roads with TERRIBLE surfaces with which to contend. I had originally feared more roads like this, but was pleasantly surprised to find many of the surfaces superior to those I’m used to. At a few points, though, the roads were so filled with cracks and frost heaves that I realized why so few professional cycling teams are based in New Hampshire. It was also during this section that I noticed a crack in my left Time pedal. This was worrisome, but did not turn out to be catastrophic. So much for lightweight carbon!

The ride was quite hilly with around 15,000 in accumulated climbing. None of the individual climbs were all that significant, there were just a lot of them. For large stretches you were either going up or down. One of the highlights of the day was the pilgrimage to Peter White Cycles which housed Control 3. Peter and his wife Linda (both of whom I’ve spent time with on the phone over the years) could not have been more gracious. It was great to see where great rando gear is born.

Matt made a good point, as we looked up into the clear blue sky: never make plans to cancel a ride at 4:00 am. After what looked like a total washout, we enjoyed a mostly dry day with only about an hour or so of steady (even refreshing) rain. I was glad I stuck to the original plan and despite my uncertainly at a few points along the way, I rolled into the finish with 16:08 elapsed time, a full FOUR minutes inside my goal. It was a little too close for comfort, to say the least, but I was 3/4 of the way towards reaching my BHAG. Up next, the Cranbury 600K in under 24 hours.

(Photo Credit - top: Hyperboreal - CC)


  1. Hey George - I've been following your blog for a few months. I've also added a link. Would you mind linking back? Many thanks! Dodger


  2. You got it, Dodger! Lookin' good. Enjoyed reading your blog. Thanks for checking in.