The 4NaaP acronym stands for Four Notches and a Pass. This classic loop can be ridden either CW or CCW. I typically like to ride it clockwise, as it makes three of the five climbs more challenging. The climbs are Kinsman, Franconia (via Rt 18), Crawford, Bear and Kancamagus.
Heading out just after 9am, it was already hot. I had sweat beading up on my arms within a mile of leaving the cars. Once we got through Woodstock on Rt 112, the climbing started and the talking stopped. It seemed our effort was in direct proportion to grade, in that we were in denial that we were actually climbing a 12% grade and refused to let our speed drop. Yet the group stayed together as we crested Kinsman Notch. Interestingly, this effort was good enough to claim 3rd through 6th place on Strava for the four of us running GPSs. That did some damage. We all knew it, but we kind of swept it under the rug.
After some rollers en route to Franconia via Rt 116, we hit the feared "Cannon Mountain" climb on Rt 18. Unfortunately, we took a little shortcut on Wells Rd, which cut off the beginning of any Strava segments that I'm sure are defined for this climb. Dave and Brett led out at a very stiff pace. I got scared. Do I try to stay with them and go thermonuclear later in the ride, or do I behave rationally and back down? Well, I think Dave and Brett came to their senses and backed off just a bit. Did I do the same? Noooooo! I maintained the same power up and over the top. I wanted snow to lay in when I reached I-93, I was so hot. Needless to say, the snow that fell here a week earlier was long gone.
When Keith reached the top, he was in a bit of a pickle. He had heat goosebumps. That can't be good. He clearly was overheating. It was still morning and it was going to get much hotter. We had three more climbs and 75% of the ride to go. Dave and I had somewhat of an advantage on the others in that we not too long ago spent a week riding in some hot weather in Utah. Keith had zero acclimatization. He did the rational thing and bailed, heading back to Lincoln via the bike path through the notch.
Top of second climb at Cannon Mtn
The rest of us pressed on. We decided to add a second water stop on the planned 90+ mile ride by stopping in Twin Mountain. I had already gone through three large water bottles in about 100 minutes of riding. The other guys only took two bottles each.
We had slight tailwind on Rt 302. We took turns pulling. Mike probably felt he was being tag-teamed, as he was capping off a huge volume week with this ride and was not exactly fresh. Dropping down the steep side of Crawford Notch is always a blast, hitting 55mph on the 13% grade. We reached Bartlett in no time, claiming the Strava KOM from Rt 3 to the notch in the process (who defines these things?). Brett wanted to keep going, still having a little water in two bottles. I thought huh? We have the two biggest climbs of the ride to go in the hottest part of the day. I was stopping.
Mt Washington from Rt 302
My Garmin showed a 21.3mph avg when we stopped, clearly a PR pace for this loop. I really had doubts about maintaining that over the next two climbs in the heat.
Passing through Crawford Notch
Bear Notch was next. This one climbs at an almost perfect 6% grade for 1200ft. Dave and I joked while driving up about slowly ramping the pace up on this one to see how long it takes others to crack. Evil, eh? Dave is riding exceptionally strong these days, and I thought I'd actually be one of the first to crack. However, Dave didn't seem to be interested in going any harder than I was going. We crested together less than a minute ahead of Mike and Brett.
Next up was the final climb, Kancamagus Pass. Surprisingly, I wasn't the first to suffer muscle spasms. That would be Brett, who I've never heard complain about cramping. Slow twitch guys seem to have much less problem with it for some reason. I was pretty amazed actually that I hadn't seized up yet in this heat, about 3.5hrs into a hard ride. I did add electrolytes to my first three bottles and I was consuming massive quantities of fluids. But it wasn't two miles later when one of my inner thighs fired a warning volley. Yep, getting over the Kanc was going to be interesting.
I waved goodbye to Dave with Brett and Mike behind me, all four of us spread out. I could do nothing more than soft pedal, else about every muscle in my legs would revolt with uncontrolled firings. I so badly wanted to be on the other side coasting 30 mph for 10 miles. I had to earn it first. Stupidly, I switched my Garmin screen to one that showed average speed for the ride. My 21.3mph average quickly dropped below 20mph. When I reached the top, 19.1mph. Losing over 2mph that many miles into a ride shows how pathetically slow I climbed the Kanc. Dave said he would wait for us but was nowhere to be found. He probably gloated all the way back to Lincoln knowing that I was getting no assistance into the wind. I had to earn the descent too.
I waited for Brett, but Brett doesn't descend like I do, so I was soon alone again. Part way down, on a particularly fast section, a truck pulling a large trailer slowly overtook me. While the trailer was next to me, the guy pinched me off. I'm going 30-40mph, about ready to shoulder-lean into the trailer, with my right calf about ready to rub the guardrail. WTF! I slammed on my brakes, shot out behind the asshole, then waved my arms in a "WTF was that!" manner. The guy then slammed on his brakes, nearly causing me to rear end him. He then took off. He was no more than 6" from me going upwards of 40mph squeezed up against guardrail with nowhere to go. This was the business logo on the trailer: http://precisionapplications.net.
When I got back to the cars, I asked Dave if he was buzzed by this guy. Yep. Then when Brett and Mike rolled in, same thing. This asshole didn't pinch them off as badly as me. He's going to kill somebody. At 40mph, NH law requires minimum 4ft clearance, and bikes do have a right to use the traffic lane. There is a small shoulder on most of the Kanc, which with new chipseal, was rough. I was in the traffic lane within a foot of the white line, perfectly legit. There were no oncoming cars in all our cases. No excuses. I was going to call the state police on this guy but calmed down a little by the time I got home. Many drivers believe cyclists do not have a right to ride in the traffic lane will let you know you don't belong there. It was not taught when I took drivers ed, and it never shows up in those stupid tests you take when you renew. I thought maybe a call from the police could correct misinformed behavior. Or not.
Changing at the cars was an ordeal. Seems anyway I moved caused my legs to lock up. Then as soon as I dropped my bibs, a Lincoln cop slowly rolls through the parking lot. Shit! I couldn't find my boxers. He must have not seen me. Dave, being the good friend he is, capitalized on my panic by laying on his freaking horn! Yeah, I'll remember that one. I didn't get arrested, but Dave better hope I don't show up for one of his Tuesday night rides.
Anyway, the ride was quite successful despite the heat. I just barely eked out a 20.0mph avg for the 92mi, 6300ft ride, which is almost as fast as the last time I did this loop under less oppressive conditions. I drank about eight large bottles of fluids, probably over 200 ounces. Brett and Dave probably consumed a little more than half that much. Crazy, eh? Looking forward to more rides like 4NaaP this summer, including D2R2 in August.
Drive home in Nashua. 97F.