|Gary workin' the Daisy Dukes ...|
Saturday morning, I woke up early and got some breakfast at the hotel so I could watch some of the Olympic road race before heading out to the starting area at the polo fields. My hotel was perfectly situated about a mile from the start and maybe four miles down the hill from the finish, so it was a no-brainer to ride to the start. At around 9:00, I headed over to the fields and met up with a few other riders, including my old neighbor Gary who was ready to ride in his Daisy Duke get-up riding his General Lee. Check out those tans lines above ...
The lineup at the starting area was memorable. We had drag queens, pirates, a banana, Captain Underpants, and just about anything else you can imagine. I can only guess the horror of the parents who were dropping their kids off for the lacrosse tournament at the polo fields at the same time. After a brief explanation of the course layout and the organization of the event (or lack thereof), George simply said, "Go!" and we were off.
We left the polo fields and turned right to go up the mountain. And up we went. The first climb on the road was awful - straight up the mountain and seemingly endless. I was surprised at how many people were actually wearing monitors in this event -- I could hear lots of beeping as HRs hit their high ends. But we eventually reached the woods, but it seems that the climb wasn't quite finished with us just yet. A few rolling steeps on technical terrain was mixed in with some tight singletrack. It was awesome. Less than a mile into the trail, it was apparent that George and the other folks from VT has given us one hell of a course to ride.
|Jay (l) and Mark, ready to go|
Early on, I was hanging with Mark and Jay enjoying the ride. We cruised through the first singletrack section and popped out on a dirt road. One turn later and we reached the first beer stop, where Alchemist Brewing was handing out IPA samples. I love a good IPA, so I grabbed one right away and drank it down. That might have been a mistake - I have no issue drinking cheap or light beer and riding (in fact, PBR was my only hydration during lap 1 of SSAP this year after I lost both my bottles), but good beer doesn't usually go down quite as easily, especially when you have to climb right after the stop. I got about half way up the climb and started to feel like all I wanted to do was puke, but I couldn't. I told Mark and Jay to roll on, and I slowed down. Eventually, the pressure in my chest subsided and I was back to riding. I caught Mark and Jay on the downhill (for some reason, this weekend, I was descending like a falling stone and pulling away from anyone around me on each downhill section.) A few moments later, though, I tripped up on some roots and had to hop off the bike and a train of about nine riders rolled by me. I jumped on the back of the group and figured I'd just sit in on this group since I guessed that Mark and Jay would be long gone but he time I picked my way through. So I kept a steady pace through some really technical bench-cut ridge singletrack and ultimately popped out on the same dirt road I'd climbed after the beer stop. I was about halfway down the descent when I noticed a whole bunch of riders heading toward me. I figured I must have gotten turned around somehow and was in the wrong place. But the lead rider of the group said he thought all of them missed a turn and asked if I had seen anything. I hadn't so I turned around with them and re-climbed the hill. As we reached the top, another rider popped out of the woods and told us that we weren't off course at all. He was a local and told us were were supposed to head back that way. So once again, we all turned around and bombed back down the hill. And a moment or two later, you could probably hear the sound of two dozen brakes squeaking as we all locked them up to hit another round at the Alchemist stop.
The beer went down much smoother this time and we were off again back down the hill. I was once again riding with Mark and Jay and we flew down the hill to the road and then really picked up speed as we descended toward Route 108. I didn't have my Garmin on, but I'm pretty sure were were well over 40 mph on that descent. Jay and I whipped by a group of riders who were themselves flying down the hill and then led the whole group on to the bike path heading to Aid Station #2. Just before the aid station, we had to crash through the woods to access the stop. This was the zero track section George had warned us about. Basically, I took the turn first and rode through a thick bundle of thorns. As we popped out, I looked down and saw blood and scrapes all over my arms and legs.
But nothing cures the sting of a few scrapes quite like a well-stocked rest stop, and that's exactly what we rolled up to. As I arrived, I was handed a Dixie cup of something and as I turned it up, I heard the guy who handed it to me yell, "Whiskey shots!" Awesome. I slammed that one and went to look for some food. This was the stop where you could do the forty challenge, but looking at the O.E. they had, I decided that the mix of hot sun, technical climbs and malt liquor wouldn't make for a great day in the long run, so I decided to forgo that plan. I did grab half a cold beer and a second whiskey shot, though. And then we took off again to head toward the town loops, the one section we actually did ride the day before.
|The DrunkCyclist-sponsored Aid-Station #2|
As we climbed, I got separated off the front from Mark and Jay. Jay had gone over the bars on a log, but was fine and the I think he and Mark got hung up behind some other riders because when I looked back later, they were both gone. I traded pace with another rider from Massachusetts for a while as we went up and down the town loops trails. We were one of the few groups who didn't go off course in that section. Actually, we would have, but I got lucky and saved our group of four -- I just happened to look to my right and saw the connector trail we were supposed to take. It was a pure dumb luck -- not sure how I happened to see the one marker, but I called ahead to the two in front of me and all four of us ended up taking the correct turn. From what I hear, a lot of other riders got lost at that point.
We continued along the trail and eventually popped out at a school, from which we'd cross the street and start the big climb up the mountain heading toward the last rest stop. The climb looked worse than it was -- after one initial steep section, it basically winded back and forth across the mountain until you eventually found yourself high above the road. The one complaint I'd have about it was that totally burned me up -- the sun was brutal on that hill and I was really looking forward to the last rest stop -- the sun seemed to burn away the nice buzz I felt earlier from the whiskey and beers.
I started to go off course once more after the crest, but was saved by Captain Underpants, who along with two 29nsingl guys, led me back to the trail and eventually the rest stop. The last little climb before the stop, I was burning up a bit so I slowed down and as I did, I finally heard Jay behind me -- he was leading the lead woman home and I waited for them on the climb.
As we pulled up to the stop, I asked for water and had a Miller Lite thrust at me. I said I needed water actually and the guy who gave it to me said, "Basically, it IS water!" Couldn't argue with that. So I took it and popped it open. It certainly was cold, which was awesome. Another guy did offer to get me some water while I had my beer, so I handed him my bottle. Once he filled it and handed it back to me, I started to hand back what was left of the beer and the other guy said, "Come on! Finish it!" I decided he was right, so I did. During that time Jay took off and I followed a few minutes later.
The last climb of the day was about a mile and a half long, and that kind of sucked - I guessed we'd already done about 5000 feet of climbing in less than 30 miles, so I was really looking forward to going down, especially since I knew it was going to be the Kimmer's trail, which had been a lot of fun to ride the day before.
I finally reached the Kimmer's Trail and was treated to a nice surprise -- apparently, we had only ridden about half of it the day before. It was much longer and much more fun than what we'd done. I had a ball rolling down the trail - it defines "flow" - and as I popped out on the dirt road to the finish area, I let loose and started to fly and it wasn't until I reached the bridge itself that I realized the finish line was exactly at the bottom of the hill. I had to lock up the brakes to avoid running into someone in the finish area (and also to grab my bottle opener form George!)
|George welcomed the riders at the finish line|
|I basically hung out at the cooler for about 10 minutes after finishing just re-hydrating myself SSUSA-style|
After the festivities, it was time to head back to the hotel for a quick nap before the post-party at the Rusty Nail. I was feeling pretty burned up from the sun, so I was only too happy to get back to the hotel. It was an awesome ride - George wasn't kidding when he said that the trails in Stowe are the best. It had a little bit of everything, and lots and lots of roots on top of all of it. It was a super fun ride, and that was the point. No one took it too seriously, and even though there was a board for the finishing order, that board itself is a testament to how unimportant the whole finishing order was to anyone:
I loved this event and I'm really going to do all I can to make it to Minnesota for 2013! Just too much fun to miss! (I will, however, try to fly out next time.)
The after party was fun, but I didn't stay too long -- I had one more thing on my to-do list for the next day: a trip to Kingdom Trails!
To be cont'd ...