Don't let this bucolic farm picture fool you; the Englewood 400K is no stroll in the park. It follows one badass route, filled with hills (both choppy and long) that can feel relentless at times, but for me, it was perhaps the timing of this particular event with a late 7:00AM start that threw me for a loop. Starting in Englewood, NJ on the western edge of New York City, the route follows the Hudson River north to Rhinebeck before heading back south through some hilly and beautiful countryside. There is plenty of lovely scenery to go around, but you have to work to earn it on this ride, which should leave you feeling a high degree of accomplishment once you reach the end. It contains about as much variation and adventure as I've seen on a 400K route.
The Englewood 400K is put on by NJ Randonneurs, who again applied a high level of care and support along the way. Each of the controls was staffed with cheerful randonneurs happy to share some cold water and local advice.
The Shawongunk Ridge is a local treasure to those of us fortunate enough to live in the Hudson Valley. Home to the Mohonk Mountain House and Minnewaska State Park, the ridge is technically not a part of the Catskill Range, but provides wonderful climbing complete with stellar vistas like the one above. On this event, riders come up and over the ridge from Ellenville rather than New Paltz (where I typically ride). At 4.5 miles, this hill deserves respect, but also provides some relief in the form of varying pitches and remarkable views, which is especially true in the late afternoon.
One of my favorite parts of the ride was the opportunity I had to ride with Bill R. and his remarkable velomobile. While I've seen photos and read ride reports, this is the first time that Bill and I have had a chance to ride together since he traded in his diamond frame bike for the White Arrow. Let me tell you, this is one cool vehicle. I was amazed by Bill's facility and persistence powering this machine up hills of all types. Luckily, since the speed differential between Bill's up and Bill's down is so significant, that he was able to hopscotch the lead group for much of the day and we had a chance to catch up with one another.
As far as my own personal odyssey, this really is a tale of two rides. I rode comfortably up front with David, Tim and Chris (and Bill) for the first have of the day, but after the halfway point, I began to suffer from a sour stomach (likely the result of too much heat and Perpetuum) that forced me to fall off my pace and climb like I had rocks in my socks. As a result, I rode the second half of the event solo, which made for a somewhat majestic and somewhat spooky crossing of Harriman State Park in the wee hours of Sunday morning. At about 2:00AM, I was so tired that I decided that a nap on the side of the road was preferable to dozing off and falling into a ditch so I pulled over (at the suggestion of volunteer Bob T.) at a firehouse where I dozed for a bit on the benches of two picnic tables pushed together. Upon starting up again at 4:00AM, I was in much better shape and able to attack the last 30 miles with determination.
You can read a fine account of the event over at Iron Rider.
Up next: The Catskill 600K out of Westfield, MA. One of my favorites.