Rosey, Chip and Matt have been doing this thing the last few years. Usually, it conflicts with Battenkill (or work), so Ive never had a chance to attend. I heard it was awesome, so I scraped some of the dirt from Ice Weasels off my cross bike, put things on it to make it actually ride-able, and got psyched.
At 830am on Sunday, there were 150 bikes piled outside the Washington Square Tavern (many thanks to Gerry), coffee and adequate (!) facilities inside, and several dozen teams chomping at the bit to check out the "secret" route that Rosey and co. had prepared.
You see, The Rhonde de Rosey is a bandit race. There is no sanctioning body, no closed roads, and (perhaps most importantly) no support. You sign up, you roll out, you are on your own. Kind of cool, huh? Yeah, I thought so too.
The event was to be 75 miles - 30% paved, 70% dirt. So far, so good. The guys had gone out in the days before the race and marked the course with pink ribbons, about 30% of which got taken down (we were unaware at the time, but this will become very important later). We also had this spiffy GPS file to tell us where to go, and technology is completely reliable, right?
We rolled out with some good friends, and set a decent pace out of town. The first dirt section was a bit trafficky, but once we got to Cutler things opened up substantially. Well, that and someone on Matt and Daves team got a flat (which might hold Matt Roy up for 10, perhaps even 11 seconds) so it was obviously TIME TO ATTACK.
We pushed the pace significantly on the road, with our Wattage Mule (Ryan Kelly, from The Internet) doling out the hurt up front. Everything was going well.
Then the lights went out.
I was 4th wheel in the line when the guys ahead rolled through a little patch of twigs and bracken on the side of the road. Only, it wasnt a patch of twigs and bracken. It was a sewer grate.
And it ate my front wheel.
Im still not totally sure how I went down. One second I was riding hard in a paceline, the next, a crumpled heap on the side of the road. I was able to protect my head and face (to the detriment of my arms, sadly), and crash on the shoulder - away from oncoming traffic and all the guys behind me. We were going well above 25 miles an hour when I went down. It could have been really, really bad.
Luckily, a telephone pole was there to stop me.
Everything shut down for a second. I couldnt hear, and saw only white. Then it all ground into focus, like a record spinning up to speed. I tried to get back on my bike. Chain was dropped. Ok, put chain back on. Get back on bike. Hand wont close. Why? Check arm: Blood on arm. Shit. There was a lot of yelling, I think Chip was trying to tell me to sit down. I managed to remount with one hand, took a few pedalstrokes, flat tire. Damn. We pulled over in a driveway, and the race rode away from us.
Chip said I hit the pole so hard I knocked a sign off of it.
Evaluation time: How bad was my bike, and my body? I avoided hitting my head, but heavily impacted my shoulder. Both arms and both hips were bloody, and there was a perfectly round welt on the back of my knee from my handlebar. I ground down the buckle of my shoe, and with it part of my ankle. My right knee was bloody, but not too painful. The arms were the worst, though.
Well, the worst if you didnt count my rear wheel.
Which was bent so bad it was rubbing my frame.
Kevin and Ian changed my tire while I cleaned up as best as I could. They unhitched my back brake, I dumped some of the blood out of and fixed my shoe, and we started trying to make up ground. We were less than 20 miles in.
At first, it was pretty bad. The next dirt section was absolute, world-destroying agony: my body jangling loosely over roots and waterbars, my right hand limply grabbing the bar. Because I had no back brake (and like 55psi in my tires) every turn required a good deal more effort to navigate. The alternative to this unpleasant situation was to bounce off a tree, and the result of that little experiment was a mouthful of blood when I bit through part of my cheek to keep from screaming.
At this point, we were hopelessly lost.
Kevins GPS was clearly in league with the storm drain that had taken me out. We would follow the directions only to end up where we had started. If we bushwacked through a half mile of undergrowth to find the right trail, it would spit us onto a road that was not part of the course. There were no ribbons, pink or otherwise, anywhere at all.
Then Ian got his first flat.
We somehow managed to extricate ourselves from the Forest of 1000 Wrong Turns and took to the road. Surely that would be a safer bet, right? If you answered yes, you clearly do not understand the arcane, incomprehensible way that street signs are apportioned in New England. We rode for another half hour in seemingly all directions trying to get back on track; Kevins malevolent GPS mocked our every attempt to get back on course.
It may have been around now that Ryans bars came loose the first time.
Somewhere near the end of the second hour we managed to stumble upon a bit of pink ribbon. It was also about this time that I began to suspect my collarbone was broken. The adrenaline had long since worn off, and the dull ache in my shoulder was sharpening up nicely. Combined with my inability to put much pressure on my bar, I started to get worried. It wasnt spongy, though - and we were still more or less lost in the middle of Camp Nowhere.
More pink ribbons, more sweet rail trail. We started to get into more familiar territory, and between Kevin and Ryan, we managed to stay on target.
Then Ian got his second flat.
Ryan (or maybe Kevin) made a good observation:
He said "This is how you know you have a good team - when you have gone through this much shit, and no one has killed anyone else - thats how you know".
Unfortunately, it would take more than wisdom to get us home. It would take a cue sheet. And a Wizard Phone. And a combined 10 years between us riding near this area. We made it back to pink, 3ish hours in. AND WE CAUGHT A TEAM. Well, for a second.
Then we went the wrong way again.
Yes, with more computing power between the three of us than all of NASA in 1969, we still took a wrong turn. Why?
I cant even tell you.
Literally everything we had done to this point was wrong, so we decided to get to a reference point to pick up the trail again. We decided on Concord Center, which was "just over there somewhere". This was important because Ian was starting to get a little sad. And by a little sad, I mean he looked worse than me.
We asked if he was ok, and he dreamily replied "Im a little bit hungry". Our answer was to jam Hammer Gel into his skull until we were satisfied he would not actually die on us. We limped our way over to Concord Center, at the crap out of some food, and got our bearings.
Ryan continued to sagely point out that we had given the guy from New Hampshire the cue sheet.
Route newly acquired and another team just up the road, we attacked the race with renewed vigor. Ryan and I traded pulls and Kevin rode point through the woods. We caught a few more teams, traded some hi fives, and kept the pressure on.
Then Kevin flatted in the woods.
And Ryans bars slipped again.
All the teams we had passed rolled by. We were tired, hot, frustrated, and the blood filling my right shoe started weeping up through the vents. Our bikes were beginning to get more and more fussy (my tire was starting to eat away at my frame), and every time we got a foot up, Lady Luck bashed in our toes with a five pound hammer. I started to feel like I hanging off the ledge of a building while someone slowly, deliberately peeled my fingers back one by one.
Tire fixed, bars adjusted, piss taken: we were underway. Kevin knew the roads out here, and Ryan just called out cue sheet directions (which were a damn sight better than that damnable GPS file) and sprayed the road with watts. It took four hours, but we were actually on track.
Which was good, because I was starting to feel a little... bad.
The next 45 minutes were mostly me and Ryan pulling, Kevin directing and Ian dying. We rolled into the outskirts of Boston and Sweeney decided to navigate traffic at race pace. Merciless dropping occurred, both of our team and others. We caught back on, clawed our way halfway up Summit Ave (really, Rosey?) and back down to Washington Square.
1. This event is awesome. Big thanks to Rosey, Chip and Matt. If I hadnt crashed us off the map, it would have been a blast.
2. Never, EVER rely on a GPS file for a route that takes you on, off and over roads.
3. Gerry and The Washington Square Tavern are great, and any place that supports cycling the way they do deserves your business.
4. Reading this, you may get the impression that I hated this race. I did. But not because it sucked. Mostly because I was a broken, hateful shell of a man. Next time, I promise to have more fun.
The good news: collarbone = not broken!
The bad news: there is road rash everywhere. And my god, the swelling.
Casualty list: 1 shoe, 1 sock, 1 kit, a rear wheel, gloves, and a brake barrel adjuster.
Next up: I decide to get up at 5 am to put in another 50+ miles for the Boston/ Cambridge ECCC Championships of the Earth. Yeah, Im a smart guy.