Ride Report: Mass Bike Pike Tour - Day 3

08 Aug 2009.

This was the day everyone was dreading: the Mountain Stage. A quiet undercurrent of dread had been percolating within the peloton; everyone knew this day was going to test their legs.

I left with the "early" group, a group of 10 or so riders including Steve, Lee, and Howie. We started very easy; everyone trying to save as much of their legs as possible. In short order our group was whittled to 5: Steve, Lee, Howie, Sean (a club-mate of Lee), and myself.

Five miles in, Howie called out a warning - he didn't think we were on the right road (which would explain why, despite our soft pedaling, we hadn't seen any other riders). A consultation with a map, and conversation with a local repair shop confirmed his suspicion. We had added a few more miles to the route, ten to be exact.

In short order, we were back on the route, albeit far behind everyone else. Over the course of our "easy" riding to the base of Mount Wachusett, we reeled in a rider after rider.

And then, before we knew it, we were at the start of the climb and our little group splintered. I "launched" off the front very early. In a nutshell, it wasn't that bad a climb. Each section had a short flat recovery portion, so you could catch your breath between efforts and before I knew it, I was at the rest stop.

At the rest stop, when the group had reassembled, Four of us decided to climb to the summit and finish this mountain off.

Lee climbing Wachusett


Sean summitting

Steve summiting

The reward

After the conquering the mountain, we picked up a few other riders: Sara, David, Tia, and Maria. Together we cruised to the Lunch stop: Calico & Creme in Hubbardston.

A great lunch stop, Calico & Creme is perhaps best known for it's home made Ice Cream and Yogurt (made on the premises) and great lunch fair. Shortly after our arrival, the owner welcomed us, had us sign the guest book, took pictures, and even interviewed a few riders for the local paper.

If you are ever in the area, be it traveling to Quabbin from the East or to Mount Wachusett, this is the place to stop for lunch.

After lunch, our little peloton wasn't a very serious place. We were just cruising, enjoying the scenery - puntuated by the occasional riders sprinting up a hill or racing down descents. In general, we were just touring the Eastern side of Quabbin.

At some point, our collective decided to push home and we organized into a paceline. Not a word was spoken, the group just coalesced into a rotating paceline.

Tia, a very strong rider who obliterated every hill tossed her way, had just finished a long pull on the front. I was sitting second wheel to Howie, who was pacing us down Route 122 on our way to Orange. Out of no where a rider passed us like we were standing still. A rider dressed in work clothes.

Tia wasn't going to let this affront stand and she jumped to catch him, which she did in short order, and on the next hill, passed him. An insult, he was not going to let stand. For the next few hills, they battled, until she sat up, letting him go.

Another great day on the bike.

Distance: 76 miles
Climbing: 5769 ft
Ave Speed: 14.0 mph
Max Speed: 43.3 mph
Time: 5 hours 24 minutes 18 seconds

Ride Report: Mass Bike Pike Tour - Day 2

07 Aug 2009.

After leaving with the "early" group, I soon found myself off the front with a rider named Howie. We were cruising at a pretty decent clip; or so I thought. Thought, that was, until we were passed by a couple pacelining by. Up for a little early morning play, I turned to Howie, "You want to catch them?" "Sure," was the reply and we were off. I jumped (somewhat aggressively) and closed quickly closed the gap.

When the lead rider realized we were in tow, he pulled off and a rotating paceline was started; each of us taking our turn at the front.

On the front of our little paceline, Howie is a force: on the flats - he buried himself; on the descents - he set a blistering pace. His one weakness was hills. Throughout the ride, more often than not, Howie was "rewarded" for his pace setting efforts by a hill that ultimately resulted in him being dropped from the line. Never giving up, more times than not, he realed us back in on the descents.

Day 2's morning was not one of those occasions. Pacing us down the straights, Howie ran headlong into the first major hill of the day. Our paceline quickly splintered. The climber jumped pass around Howie (with me in close pursuit). The lead rider hung with Howie for a bit, before moving up. The hills were long and gradual, but enough to put non-climbers (like Howie and the "lead rider") in moderate difficulty.

I caught up with the climber after this little sequence of hills (some 3 or 4 miles later), and we were soon joined by the lead rider (I unfortunately can't recall this couple's names. Nice folk, good humored and very competitive). We chatted for a bit, while recovering, before returning to our race to the first rest stop.

If our goal was to beat the SAG wagon, we were 100% successful.

After the rest stop was set up, I switched riding partners. I didn't want to stick around to long, so I left with the first group to leave. Which just happened to consist of people I knew: Steve (whom I met at last year's ride) and Lee (whom I had met the previous day, having parked next to him).

Lee and Steve were great riding partners. Riding fast and serious can be fun, but stopping to explore creates far more interesting memories. One particulrly memorable moment occured somewhat early on in the ride. I was halfway up a somewhat gnarly hill, when Steve said, "Oh, a beach. Hey Fred want to stop?" My first though, honestly, was, "Are you kidding me, I'm halfway up this hill, you want me to go down and climb it again later?"

Lee, Steve, and Me

As the picture above attests, I opted for the beach.

The water was perfect bathwater warm, a surprising temperature for a body of water in Massachusetts. Sitting and relaxing our legs, we called out to the passing riders - tempting them with the cool waters.

Far later (after our lunch stop at Calico & Creme in Hubbardston, more on this great place in Day 3's report), Lee noticed a sign for a Mass Mass Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary and another adventure was had.

Sitting on 1200 acres, the Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary features 12 miles of trails and a summit that offers excellent hawk viewing in the fall.

Shortly down the road, in the center of Princeton, MA, we were treated to this view:

And these great buildings:

Distance: 70 miles
Climbing: 5627 ft
Ave Speed: 14.1 mph
Max Speed: 40.7 mph



Ride Report: Mass Bike Pike Tour - Day 1

06 Aug 2009.

Bruce Lederer (Tour Director) addressing the riders

In the Tour meeting (pictured above), the Tour director highlighted some of the changes from previous years: Harder climbs, out-and-back (i.e. Amherst to Amherst instead of Concord to Northampton), indoor camping options each night, and ride leaders on every ride.

In the 65 mile rider meeting, the ride leader (David, pictured above, to the left of Bruce, and in the Purple MassBike jersey) reiterated the safety items ("car back," "be curtious," etc.) and expressed his desire to keep the pace low (around 16 mph) and the group somewhat together. All in all, pretty standard first day anouncements.

As we set off, I was somewhat relieved by the pace. Last year I tore off with the fast riders and burned out. This year, we headed out at a leisurely 14-15 mph; a pace slow enough that it was obvious someone was either going to start pushing the pace or was going to go off the front.

That move came on the first "real" hill. One of the riders, Ellen (a volunteer who would be SAGing the next day) tore off up the hill, quickly gaping us.

When no one covered her move, I relaxed. Perhaps this was going to be an easy ride after all, no one seems to want to play those rider games. That thought lasted but a few seconds; it lasted until I surprisingly found myself passing the ride leader on the same hill.

To this year's tour, I brought my lightest bike, a Cervelo R3. The downside with this choice was the bike's gearing (53/39 by 12-25), very similar to the gearing Pros use on the Tour de France (I'm told 39-25 is the generally granniest gear you'll find in the TDF). Although I am fit, I am no where near a Pro's level of fitness, so I expected this choice to cause me some difficulty in certain climbs.

Practically speaking, these gears committed me to riding up hills at my own pace. I had to make sure my effort was carefully measured on each climb, spinning on the smaller grades and grinding the climb out on the steeper sections.

This was the problem I faced on the first hill. I could stay behind the leader by grinding and digging into my reserves, or I could spin pass him and stay in my comfort zone. I opted for the later, so less than 2 miles into the ride, I became part of a two person breakaway off the front.

To call our ride a breakaway is do severely overestimate our effort. Generally, we cruised at a snappy, but conversational, pace. I did the majority of the pace setting on the flats and in the wind, whereas Ellen took over primarily after the climbs.

After one particularly nasty climb, we came upon two slow vehicles descending the winding road. Not wanting to pass I pulled behind, until one of the drivers motioned for me to pass. Slowly I eased by, to hear the driver say, "No Brakes." Not sure we wanted to be in front of a vehicle without brakes, we sped away as fast as we could.

Besides that, all in all the ride was mostly uneventful - just a nice ride through Western Mass. A good easy start to the tour.

Distance: 66 miles
Climbing: 4922 ft
Ave Speed: 15.1 mph
Max Speed: 33.7 mph
Time: 4 hours 21 minutes 37 seconds



Mass Bike Pike Tour - Complete

The threat of rain really pushed the pace today, no last day "Champagne day" for us!

All in all a great tour, great riders, awesome organizers/support. (Hope to have ride reports up by next weekend).

Mass Bike Pike Tour - Day 4

Orange to Amherst
Today, we start the final leg by heading North towards the New Hampshire Border. In Warwick (MA) we'll finally turn South, towards Montague, before driving on towards Amherst.

Distance: 55.0 miles
Climbing: 3120 ft