We had pristine conditions for this year's D2R2 ride. About 300 riders were pre-reg'd among the different ride lengths. 144 were registered for the full treatment, the 112 miler. Per Topo, this contains about 15,800ft of climbing, most of it on dirt. This ride is touted as being harder than anything out there, including some of the California epics. Here's a nice description of it.
This year I spent the night locally so I could start with the main group at 6am. The sun is nowhere in sight at this hour. In fact, it was still pretty dark, especially under the trees. Lining up, missing were Dave Penney, Solobreak, and one of my IBC teammates. My other teammates thought for about a millisecond before deciding we weren't giving up riding with the main pack for for tardy individuals. I didn't get up before 5am just to start late like I have in the past either.
Starting out, I immediately recognized I was going to have a tough day. I was on a heavy bike that rolled slow, and my legs were just dead. I should have been recovered from the hard efforts last weekend and earlier this week, but I wasn't. Almost from the get go, my legs felt crampy. I could not get my respiration rate up. My legs were limiting my output big time.
We still had a sizable group rolling into the first waterstop. My legs felt like they rode 100km already. This stop was only about 32k into the ride. Dave Penney started about 15 minutes late and amazingly already caught us riding solo. The terrain between the waterstop and first official check point contained a brutal 15%climb. This pretty near killed me and I had trouble staying with the gang.
Between checkpoints one and two, there were multiple big climbs, including the dreaded Archambo Rd climb at a claimed 27% grade on loose grave. A couple riders capitulated immediately going into this and resorted to walking. You at least have to try. I cleaned it, probably with a little more margin than last year when I rode bigger gears. Dave Penney was riding a 34x27. I don't know how he managed that. I was quite sure I was not going to be able to sustain the pace the group was riding. I was already sucking wheels every chance I could get. After the first checkpoint, our group had dwindled in size some. In it were Jay Gump (Incline Training), a CCB rider, Tim Coleman (Incline Training), Dave Penney, Alex Combes (Cycle Worx), Jason? (NCC) and a couple others with just one off the front I believe.
The lunch break stop at the Green River Covered Bridge was brief. Jay was late coming in, and I think I heard he flatted. After gorging on watermelon and PB&J sandwiches, we headed right into the next climb, a biggie. It takes a sick sense of humor to put the biggest food stop down in a deep valley where the only way out is up, up and up. I wonder how many part with badly needed calories on this climb. I could no longer hold wheels of the faster guys in the pack but somehow managed to claw my way back on during descents. A couple of the riders were really good descenders on the nasty stuff, like Jason and the CCB guy. I managed to hit 43mph on dirt on one of these. A little later, I hit 53mph coming down into Colrain.
The next section became a blur. We were down to just four riders (Dave P, Alex, Jason and myself) by the time we hit Green River Rd. This is my favorite part of the ride. It runs four miles with slight downhill bias. I was too wiped out to take my share of pulls though. Before we went into the next climb, Tim got back on and we were five strong.
Turning onto Nelson road is a shock to the system. You go from bombing 20-25mph on gravel along the river to an incline that strains your neck looking up at it. I'm glad the other guys didn't kill this one, as I surely would have been riding solo the rest of the ride. This climb has a double hump to it. You think you're done, but the course slaps you with another dose of vertical. There is some really nice descending from here, mostly on pavement I recall. Dave Penney was fearless on these. I have done the ride twice before now too, but I don't trust my memory well enough to bank 50+ mph around these turns.
The climb I was certain would be my doom was next. This is the feared Patten Hill climb. It starts uber steep pavement, then continues on for an eternity as wicked steep gravel. Tim was having cramping issues and dropped back early. Dave, Alex and Jason left me in their dust. Eventually Jason faded too, and I nearly caught him before the top. Some friggin redneck in a pickup buzzed all of us on this one lane road at about 40mph. I'm wobbling all over at 5mph and he missed my elbow by about 2". It would have been great if five angry cyclists caught up to the a-hole. Dave and Alex graciously soft-pedalled up top to let the rest of us get back on just before the third and final checkpoint.
This was our briefest stop. With only about 13 miles to go, we assumed fumes in the tank would get us there. I was completely done by this point, getting popped from the group up even the tiniest of hills. And there were still a couple sizable ones too. But I kept clawing my way back on. Tim lives very close to here and knows the roads well. He bombed down Cooper Ln. We didn't realize how abruptly it ends. I left skid marks coming to the stop sign. I think I felt my rear wheel hop up a few times. It was that close. Four of us nearly piled into one another. The only thing left at this point was a gnarly jeep road climb and even gnarly descent. Riders from the 100k ride were flatted along here. With my nuke proof Armadillo tires, I had no worry of flatting, but at 100psi they were beastly to control on rough stuff. Jason had full cross tires on his rig and utterly ripped this descent. He and Tim were gone, leaving Dave, Alex and I to snort dust. We didn't see them again until the finishing tent.
It was such a relief to finish the ride. My riding time was 7:43:30, which is about 45 minutes faster than last year. The course was shortened a little this year though. Not sure of elapsed time. Forgot to check clock, but I think it was around 8:30hrs. The markers this year were a real blessing. Riding with folks that knew the course, like Tim, helped too. It was just starting to warm up as we finished around 2:30pm.
Dave had to split, and I went down to the river to wash up. Coming back out on two track, I commented to another rider going in he had the same idea as me. As I turned to say this to him, my front wheel nailed a big rock. Before I knew it, I was bouncing off rocks and hard packed black dirt. I hit hard, tweaking my wrist, wearing no helmet. I was pissed. The other rider stopped to see if I was alright. I was now dirtier than before I went into the river and I had blood running down my leg. He quipped "and I supposed you just finished the 180k and then this happens?"
The food this year was not comparable to last year. We had catered burritos last year that were out of this world. This year, burgers that were prepared earlier, put on buns and wrapped in foil. They were soggy. Sweet corn was good. I stuck around for an hour but still no sign of my teammates or Solobreak. Can't wait to here his D2R2 tale.
Next year? Maybe. Each time I say I won't do it again. I'm a glutten for punishment. One thing is certain if I do it again. I will come back with a decent bike, faster tires, and fresher legs.