The air was already soupy when the four of us headed out early Sunday. There were intermittent wet spots from overnight thunderstorms, and the grassy areas were all wet. This was going to be a messy ride.
Heading out on the Ashuelot Rail Trail. First five miles have been "improved" to
almost gravel road quality. Later on it gets narrow and even overgrown in spots.
Dave and Mark ensured a rigorous pace. I did a pretty hard 2.5hr ride on Friday and was feeling that. You may think how hard can flat rail trail ride be? It is as hard as you make it. You can all-out drill this loop if you want, with no natural breaks for recovery, save for brief road crossings. We had an honest paceline going at about 22mph on a variable conditions surface. Given the high dew point, I worried about cramping, which I've done multiple times on this loop.
We reached the midpoint of the ride in my fastest time by far, stopping at a convenience store to top off water. Then it was into the climbing section, mostly on skinny dirt roads. Dave was killing each rise, leaving casualties in his wake. I was hanging on by a thread and was glad we had to regroup a couple times. Like to know what "program" he's been on...
When the route swung close to Rt 9, Curt said he'd see us back at the cars. There was a bunch more climbing and Rt 9 was an easy(ish) way back to Keene. Now I feared getting tag-teamed by Dave and Soups. Not sure where the Watts were coming from, but I stuck with it. I couldn't let Dave be the last man standing. I was wearing my BUMPS leader's jersey after all.
We finally reached the Cima Coppi of the ride. It was "all downhill" from here. Yeah, right. As we picked up the third rail trail, the Cheshire, we ducked into Stonewall Farm for the singletrack segment of the ride. Apparently the direction I picked to ride the loop was opposite the Root 66 race. No matter. It still rode well. Almost all narrow singletrack, it climbed and descended repeatedly. Somewhere along the way, Dave turned up missing. Perhaps those earlier hard efforts caught up to him. Soups and I doubled back. No Dave. He was back up to his old ways again. We started hollering out, like for a lost dog that has run off. He was somewhere way below us. He seemed marginally coherent, saying something about needing food. I think there was about five miles of trail in there. Good stuff, but I'm not sure I'd want to race it. Passing would be very challenging for long periods of time.
Dave just after going AWOL at Stonewall. Lots of narrow bench cut here.
We popped back out on the rail trail and finished a gradual descent into Keene, trying to cool down a tad. I logged 55.1mi in 3.6hrs moving time. We would have finished the base 50 mile loop in under 3hrs, had we not done the singletrack. This would have been way faster than my previous best, which I think was 3:18hrs. Curt had cold chocolate milk waiting for us when we got back to the cars. That never tasted so good!
It would have been great to race Burke this weekend, to claim and defend the leader's jersey. But the hillclimb was cancelled due to low registration numbers. It was a tough weekend to hold a hillclimb race in upstate Vermont with the Green Mountain Stage Race and the Dirty 40 road race going on nearby. Holiday weekend too. I can't make the next two hillclimb races due to other commitments. I asked if a jersey could be sent to me since Burke would likely have been the only race I could do while at the top of the leaderboard. Somebody else will surely move up in the next two races. Mary Power mailed a jersey out. I wore it today. Not quite the same as racing it in the series, but still thankful and appreciative to hit the top of the leaderboard again since winning BUMPS in 2009.
Left wrist still looks pretty fat.