This was hard. It may have been the hardest thing I've done in my life, if not, it definitely makes the top 5.
Saturday night, I drive up to Killington VT to meet up with Cary, Blazar, Pat Dean, and Tim Lancaster. With the exception of Blazar, these guys are all pretty serious racers. We got up early and headed to the nearest diner, which ended up being the most overpriced diner I've ever eaten at. $8.95 for your typical eggs/meat/toast? wtf? Anyway, it was pretty good, and we all kind of stuffed ourselves thinking we would need it. In retrospect, that wasn't such a great idea, because we started riding like 30 min later, and I had a giant lump of breakfast sitting heavy in my stomach for the first gap, inducing a lot of burping and not much comfort...
"Thats as tight as I can get it. By hand" --me, at the top of Lincoln gap tightening my cassette...
So the ride started in Rochester VT. We parked at a school, and after much switching of cassettes so that everyone had a 27 (Blazar had bought one yesterday, to the tune of $170, because he didn't have one), we start off. I didn't realize it, but mine was loose. oops. We headed south on 100 and took and immediate right to go west over Brandon Gap on rt 73. This was was pretty mellow the whole way over, although it did get steeper near the top. Blazar basically pulled me the whole way up, after we had dropped back from the climbers. Apparently Dean won that one, but that was all he was going to get as Cary put the hammer down on the rest. Luckily, they waited at the top of each gap.
The descent from Brandon gap was definitely my favorite descent, although App Gap was pretty sweet too. I hit 50mph, which is fast in my book, on sweeping turns that didn't require any braking. Got to the bottom and we tootled along to Middlebury Gap, which started out pretty steep, and then mellowed out for a couple miles. This flat part was really windy- the wind was coming out of the East all day- and Blazar did a lot of pulling. We were quickly becoming climbing buddies. Midd gap got steep again at the snow bowl, and stayed relatively steep until the top. Tim and Cary said they hadn't been waiting too long, but I bet they were lying. Breakfast had finally decided to get digested by the top of midd gap, but I was still feeling pretty crummy. For a moment or two while climbing I considered going back to the cars, I mean, a 50mi ride over two gaps is nothing to be ashamed about. But, by the time I hit the bottom I was ready for the next torture.
We stocked up on gatorade/food at a country store, and then headed north on 100 over the Granville Gulch. I kept trying to get dropped but they wouldn't let me. We were moving at a pretty good pace (for me) -- at the start of midd gap, our average had been 18.7, and after granville gulch our average was 16.9. Of course, 35 minutes at 3 mph zigzaggin up lincoln gap kind of killed that average thing... At the base of Lincoln, Cary Pat and Tim stopped to pee/eat/shed a layer, so Blazar and I started up without stopping to get a head start. Lincoln started relatively stee pfor a short period, and then it flattened out and the road became dirt. This was pretty, and very nice dirt to ride on, no washboarding or big stones. Then the dirt section ended, and the road started to go uphill with a vengeance.
Going up the first section I was convinced it would level out soon. Then Blazar started walking. I did NOT want to get off my bike, because I knew I wouldn't get back on, plus, Colin had said he couldn't bike it, so I had to prove that I could ride it. The hill went up for a long time, and the grade didn't get any easier. I'm not sure my car could have made it up that hill. Actually, I'm sure it wouldn't have made it. Eventually I just started zig zagging, trying to not fall over. Cary passed me at some point looking like he was out for a sunday afternoon ride, just peacefully spinning circles, and soon after Pat went by, wheezing and slobbering but determined not to let Cary out of sight. Eventually I turned a corner, and I saw a long, straight, very steep section of road. Determined not to walk, I started setting little goals, and eventually got to the top of that section where the road turned. And kept going up. I could see Tim behind me, but he was also zig zagging, so not making up that much time. What really sucked is when a car was coming, because you had to stop zigzagging, and that was when I was most worried that I would fall over. But I stayed upright, and eventually got to the top, ahead of Tim (barely, even with my head start), and we proceeded to wait for Blazar, who was back on his bike when he crested the hill.
The descent from Lincoln was dirt for the first part, and somewhat sandy. Gotta love the 23's in deep sand! We got down to the first country store and stopped to buy food and drink, and there was a lady there who was utterly amazed that we were not only doing 130 miles, we were doing it over all of these gaps. Got back on our bikes and headed toward App gap.
Blazar and I quickly decided to just take things slow going up baby gap, or whatever its called--that little gap before the real thing-- and we lost sight of Cary and Tim pretty quickly. Went over baby gap, and hit the real thing. It wasn't nearly as steep as Lincoln, but I know my legs were utterly fried. Blazar had been pulling a lot on the flatter stretches of baby gap, and the wind had picked up again. There were a lot of low-lying clouds, and occasionally you got hit by mist that was being whipped down from the mountains. Going up, that was nice and refreshing, but many of the descents were pretty chilly. I went ahead on one of the steeper stretches to give Blazar a break, and he dropped off a little. There were a ton of switchbacks that seemed pretty steep, and then finally it leveled out and you could see the top. Of course, in seeing the top, you also go smacked by a nice little headwind. You also knew that the road was going to get damn steep. Which it did, although nothing like Lincoln. Got to the top and let out a "F*&%!", which caused some people on motorcycles to laugh at the pain we were putting ourselves through. Cary had been up top for about 10 minutes already, and was freezing, so the second Blazar got there we headed down, on the second sweetest descent of the day.
Another brief stop at a gas station, and we headed south on 100 to hit up the Roxbury gap. This was probably my least favorite. It was steep, and about half of it was dirt, making switchbacks slightly more difficult since the edges of the road were really sandy and I was too tired to hang on to my handlebars, which meant I almost tipped over once or twice. Followed Tim, who was pooped, I think, after Blazar had started walking. He said he really hit the wall on that gap. This one was also the least enjoyable descent--you couldn't really see anything because of the mist, and the dirt road was washboarded in places and had some really big rocks. Eventually we got down to rt 12, where we pacelined it for 20 miles to the start of Rochester gap.
At this point, my legs were absolutely toasted. I was really appreciating the fact that Cary and co were waiting at the tops of these gaps, because otherwise I might have given up at times. We started the final gap, and it was pretty mellow at first. Blaze and I were just taking it easy, trying to drag our wrecked sorry asses over the top of this last hill. After a while the mellowness stopped, and it got steep. Probably no steeper than middlebury gap, but still, we had already ridden 128 miles over the last 7-8 hours or so, with five other gaps, and it felt like hell. Neither of us walked, and Blazar got that gap first. We stopped for a bit, ate something, put on a jacket (the mist was acting more like a light rain now), and headed down. Turns out we were actually on a false top, and the guys were waiting on the real top, shivering... oops. That was a fun, fast descent, with our cars at the bottom, which makes anything better.
So, I think some time off the road bike right now is well deserved, and I'll get my running legs back under me. That was a tough ride, and the fact that we averaged 14.1 mph really impressed me, given that each gap was between 30-50 minutes of 2.5-10mph... I'm glad I didn't walk. And I'm really glad that Blazar was doing this ride too, because it might have been miserable if I had had to ride alone each gap. Pictures are coming, once I figure out how to get them off of Dobie's camera...