Monday, April 30, 2012

the Battle

Many if not most of my best racing experiences have been on the mountain bike. I think that it is fair to say that my best racing performances have also been on the mountain bike. There have been many epic, for lack of a better term, battles both lost and won in mountain bike races. Some of these have been personal battles with fatigue or motivation. Others have been battles with weather or adverse conditions or mechanical difficulties. I say with certainty though that the best battles are those fought against a well matched opponent. The battle that comes down to the wire, the one where even the most confident and secure competitor has that bit of self doubt throughout the battle.

 Each has merit and each battle teaches us lessons about tactics and strategy and about oneself. They are an honest test of ones limits and you emerge at the end wiser and stronger in either victory or defeat. The unique thing about the mountain bike battles though is that the races tend to be fairly long. Because mountain bike racing usually breaks up quickly in to small groups, you often find yourself racing against the same one or two persons for the entire race, typically a couple of hours. A road race tends to stay together or if you are in a breakaway it is often shorter lived and is a larger group. There are exceptions of course. I was in a successful two man break in a road race last summer with Patrick R. for most of the race. I've also had numerous races within the race in cyclocross races over the years as well, but those tend to be much shorter given that the races are much shorter.

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to find myself in one of these battles at the Lung Buster MTB race at Massasoit State Park in Taunton, MA. Last year we did the race in a 40 degree driving rain. It was miserable. This year was warm, sunny, dry and dusty. The course is a mix of sandy access roads and tight, twisty singletrack sections. All of the climbs are short power climbs save the one nearly impossible rooted steep climb/run-up. Speaking of roots, there are lots of them. When dry they are an inconvenience but when wet, ugh, deadly.

The field in my category, the Cat1 40-49 was stacked with guys I've raced against in all disciplines over the years. Tough guys, all of who readily beat me in one event or another. Mountain bike racing is my strongest suit though so I knew where the strongest competition would likely lie. Unfortunately for me that competition would be from Alec P., a man I've race numerous times before and have had one of the toughest battles ever with for the state title. JB, another Corner Cycles racer, is the other person that I feel has brought out some of the best MTB racing ever in me but he was racing the Pro/Open race. Also unfortunate though, was the fact that Alec did have three other strong Corner Cycles teammates, Bill, Sam and Gray, in the field with him and I was alone, as always, but as you probably realize, that's how I like it. The other unknown was Paul R. from CCB, who is a very strong and smart racer and came on strong in cyclocross last year. Add to that a field of guys with tons of cred like Alby, Brian or Matt or who have been training really hard, like Robert or Scott, and have made huge improvements this year and the Cat1 40-49 field is the place to be in terms of depth and breadth.

The start of this race is crazy, a 100 yard slight uphill road sprint into a 90 degree left turn off on the grass and quickly into a 90 degree right into singletrack. The holeshot was going to be crucial and I knew that if Alec got ahead of me with teammates in between, he would be gone and I'd never catch him. The only option was to take chances and sprint like it was the finish and not the start, get to the front and then pin it.

At the whistle I bobbled the clip in. This always happens when it "can't happen". Fortunately I went left and came up the inside, making a dicey pass on the inside in the left hander and then another aggressive pass (sorry, I'm usually not that big a douche) and landed in second spot in the singletrack right behind Billy. This was good and I can't believe it worked out.

The singletrack was twisty and within a couple turns it opened to where I could cut by. I floored it and let the the world drift away in a blur of adrenaline and single minded focus. I hit the two initial bridge sections so fast that I literally flew over parts of them. This was the flight part of the race, the part you can pretty much count on me trying at the start. I'm not sure what it is about me that makes me do it, possibly testing the limits of myself and the field, possibly fear or maybe just stupidity, but I always seem to do it. This time it netted me a quick gap which looked promising at first but quickly started to diminish. As I saw progress from a chase group of what looked like three, I decided to back off so as not to get caught unprepared in a counter attack after the catch or worse, have them ride right through me.

The group of three, Alec, Paul and Scott, caught and sat for a while, letting me plug away on the front. Eventually I conceded the lead and let Alec come through. I settled in at second wheel, behind the his steady and smooth pace. He knows a thing or two about steady having raced RAAM before and planning it again for this year, as well as the Absa Cape Epic and numerous other mountain bike stage races. We took turns at the helm and kept the pace high but had trouble shaking the others, until that is, we hit the ride/run-up section near the end of the lap. On the first time through Scott detached and so coming through for one of three 7.6 mile laps, it was the three of us together.

On the second lap reality started to sink in and we decided that three was too many. We'd both raced with Paul enough to know that his strength is getting to and then dominating the finish. The only option was to make sure that he wasn't there for the finish. With that Alec and I started attacking. Nothing was working but on the first tricky rooted climb Paul bobbled where Alec and I cleaned it. There was a gap and Alec worked it hard. The gap grew and all looked well but then Paul somehow chased back on, an incredible feat given that Alec was drilling it in twisty singletrack. I knew then that the battle was over. I went to the front to provide some relief and set my normal scramble up the run-up pace, which I've come to learn is usually slightly faster than most. I heard Alec yell the words "gap, we've got a gap" and with that, lap two ended in a bleary eyed grimace coming through the road section at 24.5mph trying to open it up further and escape for good. I was dying but didn't dare stop so kept the pace as high as I could for the next couple of miles.

Alec came through and took over after I screwed a loose corner up that lead into a sandy climb for the third time in as many laps. He set an even tempo and was reluctant to let me do some work on the front. Compatriots now became competitors and seeing this, I made a number of faux attacks from behind to try and unravel him a bit. Three quarters through the lap and just before the steep rooties we came upon Dave D., another Corner Cycles racer from the 30-39 group that started ahead of us. I knew that these guys wouldn't do anything questionable but I also know that a pick setup was highly likely given that we were in and out of tight stuff that afforded no pass options. My only option was to counter early in the open to take Dave out of the picture. This worked and I ended up getting to the front in the perfect spot, just before the steep downhill chute before the run-up. I went as hard as possible, which was pretty feeble, but heard a spectator yell that I had a gap, so clenched and floundered forward as hard as I could. It worked and the gap held despite those anxious moments leading to the finish line.

That is the type of day that makes racing worthwhile.

Cathy had an awesome race. We never caught her which means she was moving really well. She also finished up on the podium. A very good day.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Never Again

Never again. That has come to be a recurring theme in our home, particularly after a bike race in foul conditions. It isn't enough that the race itself is spent in the cold wet and muddy misery but the post race effects linger on well after the race.

Despite being purpose built for all conditions using the best engineering and materials available, one simple fact holds as true today as it did half a century ago; mud and water destroys bikes. Fancy modern sealed bearings and other moving parts are almost never completely sealed but do work well enough to seal the contaminants into the bearings and parts rendering them in need of service. Gritty water is also the perfect cutting fluid for disc brake pads. In a muddy race you can easily chew through a set of pads for the rear and if it's really bad, front and rear. Pads are not all that cheap and add up. The shift cables and housings eventually get contaminated and need to at a minimum be torn off, flushed and lubed if not replaced all together. Enough said, you are left at the end with a bike that is in serious need of repair.

Did I forget to mention the clothing? Yes, dealing with completely muddy clothing is an excellent ritual. It starts by unpacking the heap of wet and mud crusted clothing from their ceremonial post race garbage bag and hanging them one by one in the back yard near the hose. You then commence the pre-wash cycle with the high pressure spray of the hose. Amazingly this gets most of the crud off the 100% unnatural fibers of most cycling kit. Wool is of course, another story, as is the chamois of the shorts. It seems that sand loves to pack into the fibers of the cloth on the outside seat between the chamois. Getting that out is, trying. Leaving it in means you essentially sit on a layer of sandpaper. Fortunately it isn't next to the skin but on the outside, however it will make a mess of your spiffy saddle.

So the reason I came here in the first place is that this past weekend was the annual Root66 Race Series Winding Trails XC MTB race. This race was the site of or re-entry into MTB racing what is now four years ago. We have done the race each year since and it is always a favorite. Cathy and I have both had excellent results there. Neither of us had ever finished off the podium at the event so what is not to like I guess.

This year the weather was a crap shoot. Steady rain was expected but the start point was forecast to be mid day. I'd bailed on a MTB race earlier this year due to weather concerns which turned out to be unfounded. I didn't want to make the same mistake again so we committed on Sunday AM. Of course as we were getting ready to leave it started to lightly rain at home. Fortunately as we drove south the weather got better and better. At the venue and on course for the pre-ride it was dry and near dusty. Conditions were perfect with no mud at all and a heaping helping of fresh new singletrack on course. The first races of the day were completely dry and the second wave of races was in progress to dry conditions as well. Good call.

And then the rain started.

By the time we were set to start for the Cat1 races it was a steady cold rain. We remained under cover as long as possible then crept to the lineup already amassing. My group, the Cat1 40-49 men had a strong showing with 25 guys taking part. I weaseled my way to a front row position knowing how crucial the new start would be. That start led up the same sandy access road as in past races but then shot off the road to the left on a sandy, side slope, rolling singletrack and then into a tight singletrack in the woods before dumping onto a short but steep access road climb and then onto the flat access road. This would be a bottleneck for sure.

Cathy finishes up an excellent race in the pouring rain, cold, wet and definitely muddy.
I remembered back to last year when Brian C. snagged the hole-shot and rode away while I battled up from a really poor start. This year we had a bunch of strong guys like Keith G. from Expo Wheelmen who constantly crushes me on the cyclocross courses, Alby/Don tag teaming for Bikeman and a bunch of new guys who looked really fit. Past performances get thrown out the door at that point. The start was clean and I managed 4th position into the hole, right behind Keith with a Team Edge racer I didn't know killing it at the helm. I clawed up to his wheel and there was a gap behind me. When we hit access road I passed and told him to let me take a turn, grab my wheel, ride calm and we'll work a gap. I then zoned out and settled to the task of getting some space. At this point conditions were still very good so making railing the course was pretty easy. Before long I was solo but could still see a pair of chasers not far back. The entire first lap was one of attempted flight but a gap was slowly, ever so slowly, growing. By the second lap I was out of sight and could settle into a groove. Right about then the conditions started to get bad. Unfortunately, they never improved but got steadily worse.

I've recently (early this year) switched to tubeless tires on the MTBs. I was one of the last holdouts but for the most part have liked the change. The one big downside I see is in tire choice. I'd been using really light and expensive Specialized tires which have paper thin sidewalls. With tubeless tires if you scuff a sidewall, especially a thin one, it leaks air. This sucks. Tire sealant may or may not fix the problem. In my case it did not on a cold, dark MTB ride in January, so I switched to tires with thinker sidewalls. Those tires are Kenda Slant Six, a semi-slick tire made for hardpack conditions, which I run at about 38psi. They have ramped treads which are fast but do not hook up worth a darn in mud, or leaves, or loose stuff. Pretty good on pavement though. I decided to leave those tires on rather than swap the Maxxis Ignitor tires from my SS MTB and get sealant everywhere or risk using the Specialized tires either with tubes or with the patch on the inner sidewall scuff.

Warning, use of these tires in muddy conditions may result in injury or death.
That was stupid. Fortunately, I wasn't the only dumb person there that day as everyone was slipping and sliding around. By lap three it was just about staying upright and making forward progress. I'm lucky to have pretty good bike handling skills and so was able to keep ahead and make steady progress. Keep ahead that is to all but one person. James from the single-speed race, you may recall James from another SS race a few months back, I certainly do, which started behind us, caught and passed me. For a time I tried to hang with him but given that he was not in my race, he clearly was making better progress than I forward and trying to stay with him was pushing way past the limits of my tires and self, I backed off and let him go. About then I caught Cathy who was doing great and cheered encouragement to her, secretly feeling sorry for her having to spend another lap in that misery. The finish finally came, without much event and I was very, very glad to be done. The race was hard the whole time and the competition in the 40-49 field is as always, among the stiffest. On any day there are a dozen guys who could easily win the field. That is what keeps it interesting and challenging. And then of course, you have the conditions that add a layer of challenge in and of themselves.

So with that I say, never again. I will never race a bicycle in foul conditions again. At least, not until the next time, that is.

Friday, April 20, 2012

2012 Tour of the Battenkill

This past weekend was the annual Tour of the Battenkill road race. I was a late comer to this race, swearing it off for years because it was too early in the season or too far away or because it was partially on dirt roads. It took me years to realize that road bikes and even standard road tires can survive just swell on dirt roads, something that  I blame on coming from the mountain bike side of cycling and having the misconception that road bikes were weak and feeble.

This year was the third time in as many years that I'd competed in the tour, each time ending up in the master's 30+ field. That has been due primarily to the fact that the 40+ field has been sold by the time I went to register for the race in the past couple of years. This year the field sold out in 15 minutes in fact. I guess we know where the highest concentration of racers is. I actually like the 30+ field just fine anyhow. It tends to have some ever so slightly faster guys in it and I get a built in excuse by racing with mostly younger guys. Feeble, I know.

I've been plagued to a degree, with issues in past races. Last year after making the separation and being in the front group of about 25 racers, I flatted. Then shortly thereafter, I flatted again. Unprepared for the 2nd flat, thus began a long stretch of walking and riding on the flat. In my first outing I felt great and actually finished OK but struggled with a maladjusted high limit on the rear derailleur that kept me from the smallest cog (high gear) and a Mavic Ksyrium rear wheel that refused to freewheel. It had a bad case of the death squeal, which results in the chain wrapping and causes no end of woes. The fix is to keep pedaling all the time, which did not always scale well. Nobody to blame but myself though.

My fitness this year has been pretty good, possibly on par with the best I've had ever but certainly better than the past couple of years. I also had a team-mate this year, Ben, who is also a normal ride partner as well. That in and of itself really went a long way. I had no misconceptions of grandeur but I was hopeful that I'd be able to finish well. The early part of the race saw personal struggles with nervousness riding in the pack an ineffectiveness in being able to gain positioning. As a result of this I was probably on of the last dozen through the covered bridge early in the race. From there it was flat out to get to the initial dirt section and start the climbing prelude to Juniper Swamp hill. I continued to struggle with position but eventually started making headway and moving forward. Cathy and I scoped the first part of the course the day before and knew that the dirt was firm all the way to the edge of the road. I made use of that whenever possible. By the time we hit Juniper Swamp I sat mid pack. Having been dropped from the front group on the climb last year and ten having to chase like mad the next few miles, I planned this year to kill myself to get over with the leaders. It's a good climb for me anyhow as it is short and steep. I got over the top with the first ten or so and stayed on the gas to retain.
Ben and I at the start, ready to go, with a plan; simply to survive.

The pace was high and when we finally hit some wider paved road after yet another fast dirt section a few miles later, I was amazed to see how big the group was. It literally felt like everything had come back together and everyone was there. The truth is, in almost any race you are constantly losing people off the back, whittling the group down in size. When int he group it is often hard to distinguish between 50 racers and 100 racers; it just factors out to be "lots of racers". We still were a group of lots of racers. And so we  were for some time in fact.

This year there were two new stretches of loose gravel added, just about at the 40 mile point in the race, Cheese Factory Rd. and Wright's Rd. Each was a few miles long, was bone dry, had lots of small crushed stone and had been graded not too long before. The type of roads that result in many, many chipped windshields. These stretches ended up playing a big part in shaping the race. We hit the first section hard but the pace quickly slowed as those on the front struggled with the surface and fatigue. I was riding up the left side comfortably with Sammy Morse and a few others. With no extra effort I found myself at the front and decided to have some fun, so hit the gas. A check of the speedo showed showed I'd soiled myself earlier, no wait, not that kind of Speedo, the speedometer/bike computer/GPS thingy. Anyhow it was saying 26.5mph and HUGE WATTS for which you will probably pay dearly later. Regardless of the consequences to come, it was fun and resulted in us catching the 3 man break that had been up the road for some time.

Once we hit the pavement again I was still near the front when a small break attempt was made. Without thinking I sprinter to join, caught and quickly realized it was a bad idea, so sat up and waited for the rest of the group. I hadn't ridden this part of the course and wasn't sure what lay ahead so tried to retain some caution. Solid plan as we shortly turned up Wright's Rd., a dirt climb leading into Meeting House Rd., the point where it all fell apart. Two years back that was where the group shattered and I splintered. This year was the same. Immediately we had a dozen guys gap up. I was struggling to stay with a dozen guys chasing them. We finally crested the last hill on Meeting House Rd. and I my group had again fractured, me being in the final wave. On the paved rolling section we fought hard and got into a good rotation to chase back up but didn't fully regroup the initial chase group until after Stage Rd..

On the run in to town there were some hesitations but a number of us kept a good hard rotation going. The kilometers to go markers started and by 2 to go, the games started. At 1 to go a guy took off. I chased, caught and went through him. Coming into town I hadn't ridding the finish so was unclear how we finished up. A guy opened a sprint and passed me just before we hit Main St.. He kept moving straight across Main St. so I assumed we were looping around and finishing like last year. Bad assumption. He braked, cursed and turned at the last minute which meant I turned at the last minute plus, making the turn and missing the curb narrowly. Unfortunately everyone in the group got by me on the inside. That's racing when you are not fully prepared or racing heads down. There were signs pointing the way after all.

Cathy raced later in the day so Ben and I did an easy spin which did nothing to unload the tired legs. I helped Cathy get ready for her race and tried to keep her calm, which I don't think worked very well. She had a solid race and finished strongly, but can tell that story. I spoke with most of our junior racers there and got their results and take on the day. Hard race for kids that have never done such a long tough race. Good for them and for everyone for taking up the challenge and competing and for finishing. It takes courage and strength to suffer that much and builds character. We even had the chance to see one of our ride group, Kyle, who is new to road racing solo in for a win in his field. Looking for an upgrade from him shortly so he can race with us in the masters events.

All in all I'm satisfied with the performance and am happy with the fact that my equipment all held together. I like the fact that this a hard race, one where you can't hide all day and then just sprint past at the finish. I really liked the new dirt sections as well. Fun stuff and I look forward to more in the future.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Welcome Spring

Though it feels as though spring greeted us long ago and that, in fact, we have moved into summer, the reality is that spring has only begun. We are slightly ahead, in fact, in terms of the trees and flowers budding and blooming and the grass beginning it's new cycle.

And with this new seasonal cycle begins the cycling race season. Another has officially started, though somewhat later than normal for us anyhow. The first race is in the books and all survived, going relatively unscathed.

More to come on that before long.

Our small weeping cherry in full bloom.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Happy Easter

Nothing says "Welcome back Jesus" like silly cat tricks on Easter Morning. Ellie was on a tear this AM, working off the sugar buzz from all of the Peeps, Easter Bunnies and Malted Milk Eggs she had liberated from the pantry.

Opie on the other hand, was really not all that impressed with her antics and showboating.

Ellie with some serious hang time.

It's basically a fly fishing technique that seems to work the best. Pretty impressive acrobatics, indeed and it certainly made for lots of fun and excitement for the adults.

Octopus firmly in her teeth she preps for a perfect landing.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

One Hundred

I hit the one hundred consecutive days of riding mark yesterday. No big deal or anything but surprised that I've been able to make it this long. Don't really feel like riding at the moment but that is more because I'm tired in general. The past few weeks have seen a solid increase in intensity and the pair of notch rides we did in the past few weeks coupled with the Tuesday Smackdown rides have me at a deficit for sure. Fortunately I've been tapering the second part of the week in prep for the race next Saturday.

Also, not working, ie. not sitting around on my rear for nine straight hours a day like a little veal calf is work, really. Just being active all day and standing and moving is tiring. I'm finding that I'm going through way more calories a day than before. Who would have guessed that one. I'm already down to my mid summer race weight though the work load in terms of riding isn't really any more than normal at this time of the year.

Good stuff. Now I need to get out there and take care of some business, get out on the bike and nail down one hundred and one.

100 consecutive days of rides in Calendar form.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Notchfest II - 2012

This past weekend shaped up to be another perfect storm in terms of the conditions being just right for taking a trip up north to do a ride. The local weather forecast was pretty grim with a chance of snow and rain and cool temperatures. The forecast for the Whites was for clearing and some slightly warmer temperatures. The roads were expected to be clear and dry from the mild storm they had on Thursday so we were optimistic. Neither Cathy nor I had any interest in racing, a theme that seems to becoming more and more prevalent as the time passes so we finalized the plan and the route.

I pulled together another route that started in Lincoln, since that is a very convenient place to begin a ride. Although this route shared the same initial section up Kinsman Notch on RT112 and over RT116 to Franconia, we decided to climb toward Franconia Notch and RT3 directly from town. We also veered off RT3 and headed to Bethlehem for a total change of scenery. This would net us some new roads like Trudeau Rd. and some new climbs on both RT302 and on RT142. Back in Franconia we would then take RT117 up into Sugar Hill and then down to RT302/10. This would likely be the worst of roads and traffic, from Woodsville down through Haverhill before we turned onto Mt. Moosilauke Highway (RT25). The final stretch would be the climb up Gonzo Pass on RT118. This is a tough one. We'd done it once before years ago, on the tandem, and it was brutal. We would have to see how that panned out. I often consult Doug J.'s climb central site for climbing info. That combined with personal knowledge and the route mapping software I use usually gives a pretty accurate window into what is in store.

For this adventure, we had one additional cohort take us up on the invitation. Our friend Scott made the trip up with us nestled snugly in the back of the van on the way to Lincoln. This was Scott's first notch ride with us and it was good to have the company and someone to share the time in the wind with. We were all on regular road bikes with normal gearing and 23c race tires. The roads were for the most part good on this route and the climbs are manageable if somewhat painful with normal gearing.

We arrived at the visitor center in Lincoln just before 10AM and got changed up and ready to ride. It was cool and cloudy but hopes were high that it would clear. Still, we all dressed for the chance of cooler weather. Once again, the start is a slight downhill for 1/2 mile into Woodstock and then you start up the approach to Kinsman Notch. The first 6 miles gains just about 1000' of elevation. Once we hit the actual climb the layers started to shed off as the body quickly came up to temperature. I was feeling better than a couple weeks back on the climb but still not terribly great. I found that it was hard to get into a rhythm so I was up and down and up and down. Near the top I quickly swung off to the rest area facilities, which wrecked my Strava score for the climb as the actual top is 50 yards up the road. Live and learn.

The view east from RT116 headed to Franconia.

We regrouped and descended the backside, then turning onto RT116 for the scenic but rough ride to Franconia. We saw no moose but were treated to some nice views of snow capped peaks in the distance and the sun broke free of the cloud cover and opened to a clear sky.

The climb up to RT3 from Franconia on RT18->RT141 isn't that long and isn't that steep but it can wear on you. I decided to hit it hard and steady and get it over with as quickly as possible. This worked well and the legs started to feel a little better. Again the reward was some scenic vistas looking back at Cannon Mountain, whose trails were all snow covered and shining in the bright sun against the blue sky. The run down RT3 was easy as it is downhill and we turned onto Trudeau Rd before the rollers started. The pavement was marginal but still easily passable and we quickly cut over to RT302 heading west just before the hill that brings you into town. This proved to be a small annoyance but Scott took it hard and I followed.

In Bethlehem we stopped at a coffee shop for some quick food, which wasn't so quick. Unbeknownst to us, the place had no meat products so Cathy and I had a grilled Nutella/banana sandwich. It was good but not exactly what I had in mind. All told we stopped for way too long and getting started again was tough, especially given the short, double digit percentage grade we immediately faced on RT142. My legs screamed at me and then cowered. Not a good sign given we were less than half way with the biggest climbs still to come. The ride down over the back side was spectacular. Incredible views, a nice winding road and really, not far from civilization. I'm guessing it is pretty sought after though and property is probably really expensive.

Back in Franconia there were a number of places we could have grabbed lunch, bad call on my part. The Sugar Hill section and all of RT117 was new to me. I'd never been through that area before. It was a definite climb to get to the top but the views were yet again spectacular. We took it all in as we ascended slowly and then regrouped in the sun at the top. From there an endless descent descent brought us down to the Connecticut River and RT302/10, a fairly well traveled main roadway. This was mainly good and gently rolling, taking us through Lisbon and Bath, past numerous covered bridges and small towns. Eventually we came to the junction of RT112 and we needed to make a decision.

The view east from the climb up to Sugar Hill on RT117.

This was only at 60 miles and it was 21 miles back to Woodstock from there. Initially, I'd intended to go up RT112 through Swiftwater, where my Aunt used to live, to RT116 south and take that back to RT10 in Haverhill, bypassing Woodsville all together. That was mapped as a 110 mile route, which although bypassing a busy section added more distance and more climbing. Cathy wanted to head back on RT112 alone, which I didn't care for given recent happenings in the not too distant area. Scott said that he didn't care either way but I could see he wanted more. I was secretly cooked and had been suffering for the past hour but hated to come all that way and not meet the goal. We compromised and continued south on RT302/10 through Woodsville and would check again at RT116, the last bail point before committing to the southern pass back.

We screamed past RT116 with Scott on the front and the cast was thrown. Cathy shook her head but kept going. I assumed that we had cut off 10 miles or so from the original route but wasn't exactly sure. One thing was certain, that was how we were going and we had better move along. One more stop at a small country store after we turned onto RT25 for drink and then we started the last leg. The route was more rolling than I remembered though it did have some good views. I kept expecting or rather hoping to see the junction of RT118 around every corner but it kept alluding me. Finally after what seemed an eternity, I saw the sign which stated North Woodstock was indeed, the next stop.

Scott on the way up to Sugar Hill with some nice views to the east.

The climb up and over Gonzo Pass on RT118 from Warren is miserable, at least that was how I remembered it. Long stretch of grinding away in the smallest gear possible. Of course, that was on the tandem. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad on the single bike. There was a little heated conflict at the start when the turn left onto RT118 was called into question despite my having checked the sign and common sense telling me that was the only possible way to go. This had me pedal back up the hill to re-check the sign, all the while cursing a blue streak. Of course it was the right way to go but I didn't want to be the one to make a wrong choice that lead to disaster so I measured twice and cut once. The rage carried me the first couple of miles up the gentle grade but then the real climb started and the wheels fell off the bus.

Soon after Scott caught and passed me so I used him as a gauge. He got as far as 50 yards up the road but I kept him at about that distance. After a while I started pulling him back and before long we were together, though not much conversation was taking place. We saw a town line marker in the distance and Scott said we must be near the top. I questioned his reasoning as I could see the road pitch back up shortly after the sign but once around that bend a caution steep grade sign marked the top. We stopped to bundle up and I put on everything I had for clothing for the mostly shaded descent back to RT112. It was frigid and my hands and feet froze. My back had long ago seized up and riding on the drops was miserable. Finally we made it to the intersection and I convinced Scott that we should just move on and finish up rather than hold for Cathy. I knew that a wait at that point would kill me so we rolled down RT112 back to Woodstock and then back into Lincoln to the van.

Cathy climbs up to the height of the land in Sugar Hill.

As we changed up Cathy rolled in, not that long after we had and well before I was able to change, load up and drive out to rescue her. She needed no rescue and in reality, was in better shape than I. A great day of riding but a tough one for sure and it certainly took a toll on me.

From there we once again stopped at the Woodstock Inn and Brewery for some food and drink. I had the Chef's Wreck sandwich, which was excellent. They are putting in an addition and renovation so the place is a bit of a mess, but still open. Another great end to a great day of riding.

Good route with some great views and a brutal climb to end the day.