The ride was a memorial ride for a guy named Chet Warman. I met Chet when I crewed at the Furnace 508. He helped me crew for a friend of a friend. He died a week or so after the 508 in a bike wreck in Moab. Chet had a fantastic sense of humor and a great philosophy on life. We had a blast crewing together and I miss him a lot.
Chet lived in Pittsfield, Vermont and there was a loop of six mountain passes he loved to do. Thus, the ride included all six, as well as a 4 and 2 gap option. The six gap ride clocked in at a little over 150 miles with 15,000 ft of climbing. The farthest I had ridden was 112 so I was a bit nervous. I knew I could ride that far but also knew that everything over about 90 hurts.
We spent the night in Pittsfield at the guy’s house who I crewed for in the 508, Joe. He owns the whole side of a mountain there and has a massive ranch. We were staying “high on the hog,” if you will.
Chris and I got there on Thursday because Chris was directing the race and had to get ready. Soon after arriving we drove around and marked the course. Apparently the native peoples are fond of moving course markers so we had to be more inventive.
This worked well…
Around dinner time we stopped off at this place.
The said they stopped serving at 730. Oh, the simple life. We didn’t finish marking the course until after dark. Good enough for government work.
We woke up early and got to work prepping for the race. There were a lot of errands that had to be run and we had to get all the food for the aid stations.
We bought a ton of pb & j and set up shop…
Around 8 I headed back to the house and got prepped for Saturday’s ride.
I wake up before the alarm even goes off. I eat a large breakfast and we head to the start.
While I’m airing up my tires I manage to break part of the stem so I have to do a last minute tube change. Rookie. I fix it and then head inside the barn for the orientation.
The race gets going soon after and we’re on our way. I find a wheel and sit on. I hear that one of the guys in the group is legally blind. Then I realize that guy is right in front of me. I shift over a few wheels. Needless to say the guy still smoked me on the descents.
The first of the six gaps comes and goes without any problems. They’re going a bit fast near the top so I back off a bit but catch back up on the flats.
The second climb is a bit more difficult and I drop off the lead group. I tell myself it’s because I don’t want to bonk but what I really mean is I don’t want it to hurt that bad.
I catch up to the pack again and am riding along fine until I hit one of the many crevasses (a mild understatement) on the Vermont country roads. I’m jolted but don’t think anything is wrong until my front wheel goes flat. I drop off and fix the flat.
I ride along on my own for a while before Chris’s girlfriend, Lisa, and sister, Carrie, drive by. I flagged them down . Poor Lisa, she knew I was stupid but she didn’t want to kill me. Every time I got close enough for a draft she would take off. As the saying goes, a bad draft is better than no draft.
I rest up a bit before Lincon Gap. I’ve been told it’s the steepest road in the US.
It’s not too bad at the start but I take it easy weary of the coming grade. Before I know it the road starts getting steep. A mile or two into it the road kicks straight up. It’s as steep as Centennial and it’s not letting up. It’s so steep my back tire starts to slip but if I stay in the saddle I won’t make it up. I end up standing for at least 10 minutes. It’s by far the hardest climb I’ve ever done. I imagine it’s similar to L’Angliru in Spain (the climb Contador attacked and won on last year widening the gap between him and Levi).
Near the top the thought comes that I may not make it. It’s that steep. I just keep cranking until I hear people at the aid station. I’ve made it.
After making it up Lincoln I have a lot more confidence. 150 miles is a long way but the hardest gap is over with, or so I think.
On the way down I see a sign at the general store welcoming us on the ride. I stop in and buy a few tuna sandwiches and chocolate milk. All the little towns in Vermont have general stores. Maybe all the little towns everywhere do.
The next gap is the second hardest so far but after doing Lincoln it’s bearable. I stock up on snacks at the top and head down.
The descents have been amazing so far. I go pretty slowly on them though because my wheels are way out of true. The front was dented when I flatted and the back was wobbly to begin with.
After descending I start running out of steam. I’m at about 95 miles and I’m considering jumping in the sag when it comes around. Soon after two guys pass me and tell me to get on. It’s just what I needed. I can still suck wheels…
We head through the town and then start climbing again. One of the guys drops off because he’s hurting. For some reason this gives me some renewed strength. I tell the kid I’m with, Jake, I was about to quit when he came up.
“I thought you were a road racer…?”
“I did too,” I reply.
The 5th gap turns out to be super difficult. It’s really steep and it’s gravel so I have to sit down most of the way. The rain doesn’t help any with traction. Jake drops me early on but waits at the top. He drops me again on the descent but I catch up again on the flat.
Jake pulls me for a long long way. I notice he has a pretty big ring in the back. He tells me he rocking a 33-11. Crazy big but it would definitely come in handy on these climbs.
We make it to the 6th climb together after he pulls most of the way. I tell him to go ahead as I work my way up the last gap. I keep waiting for an easy one but they’re all at least 2000 feet with some serious grade. This one doesn’t fail to excite.
Ahh, and it keeps going. The last half mile it really kicks up. As I crest the summit there are people there cheering for me. I try to unclip but there’s dirt in my cleat…
The last 15 miles or so are pretty nice. I’m stoked to be done with the climbing and looking forward to the maple milkshakes that lie ahead at the finish. The last five miles or so I start cranking. I don’t want Joe, the guy who I crewed for at the 508, to beat me.
I keep looking back and finally I make it to the finish. Whew, what a day. Someone takes this pic of Jake and me.
That night was amazing. I had a veggie burger and some fresh greens along with 3 servings of maple milkshake. I happen to meet a girl there from Berkeley who’s hiking the Appalachian Trail. She helps me make milkshakes for everyone and then I head back to the house.
Despite the joy that always comes at the end of a long ride, I still consider quitting. I gotta work on that.