Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Skip’s Summer Solstice Ride

Once a year, on or about June 21st, We in the Northern Hemishere Experience the Summer Solstice and enjoy the maximum amount of daylight. And every year to celebrate the event, MHCC President Skip Holmes organizes his Summer Solstice Ride to take advantage of the extra daylight with a 50 mile ride in Southern Albany County. The ride is always a Tuesday night so this year the ride took place on June 23rd. Skip advertises the ride on the club web site and makes it a special ride with pizzas delivered right to the parking lot where the ride starts and finishes. Very cool.

More than 50 riders showed up on that beautiful warm summer night. I got delayed a bit at work so i missed the official 5:30 pm start time but i was able to snare a map and then i connected with a fellow CBRC'er hoping to chase down the pack. This of course was a futile effort, even though we worked well together and made a good pace into a light headwind from the west. There were hoards of very fast and fit riders that i saw exit the parking lot as i was changing into my riding gear, so i knew we would never catch the "A" group, but maybe the "B" group?

The route was mostly flat all the way to Altamont, so it was not likely we would catch anyone, but we did catch some folks off the main group as we climbed up the Altamont hill to Thompson Lake Road. From there we passed a few more riders and enjoyed the view along Warners Lake. We were again chasing but i knew we would never catch too many more riders. We dropped down into Thatcher Park via Beaver Dam Road and then along the park road before climbing up the Helderberg Escarpment for a second time on Indian Ledge Road.

It was here that we caught our ride leader Skip and some fellow Masters riders. Skip was stopped on the side of the road with a flat rear tire. We all pitched in to fix that and then proceeded up the hill. Indian Ledge connects with Wolf Hill and then NYS Rt. 443. Here the ride gradually descends for several miles and a pace line can cover this stretch all the way to Rt. 9W easily averaging 30+ mph. It's a blast. By now my group had dwindled to just me and Gary G. as Skip needed to cut his ride short to order the pizzas and a few others needed to bail for various reasons. Gary and I were determined to get the whole 53 miles in so we pressed on. We caught two more riders and we four stayed together to finish up in the dark. The reward at the end was finally connecting with all the familiar faces and having some pizza and cold drinks. Thanks Skip for a great Club tradition. And thanks Art for the beer... and yes, its pronounced "smid-icks". Who knew?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Black Fly Challenge

Yikes, its been a while since i last posted here... well i've got a good reason to post now, the Black Fly Challenge Race, held last Saturday, June 13th. This is a point to point 'mountain bike race' that has really grown in popularity. I put the mtb race in quotes because there is a fair amount of pavement and mostly dirt roads and a tiny smattering of single track. No matter...this race is a blast. Its extremely fast race on a CX bike and that's what i rode. In fact, the numbers of CX racers has grown so much that the organizers created a CX category this year and i think it was the largest field. Anyone with a 700c wheel was in the CX category. So we all raced against each other, men and women, Cyclocross dudes and dudettes, young and old, beginner or Pro. That was cool.

It’s a 40 + mile point to point race that for this year started in Indian Lake, NY and finished up in Inlet, NY. Each year the direction of the race alternates. Last year was my inaugural ride and we started in Inlet ending up in Indian Lake. In that race I had no clue how hard, how fast, how hilly, how difficult, or how long it would take me to complete the course. Last year I was quite surprised to finish in 2 hrs and 15 minutes. I was expecting a more MTB pace and more like 3+ hours, but I certainly did not complain and I made a mental note for next year not to ride so conservatively. This year I had a much better idea of what to expect, although this year brought some surprises.

This year the field of racers was huge… 300 riders, a record. And its a mass start! Oh boy, the start was frightening. They lined up all CX riders that considered themselves expert, then they asked for MTB experts, CX intermediate or something like that and proceeded to try to line up people based on expected finish time. A noble attempt. Anyway, its a mess as soon as we left the Parking lot with folks jockeying for position and trying to move up. I was terrified. Mountain bike dudes are riding on the left over the yellow line and on the grass on the right. I was about 50 or so riders back for the first few miles of pavement and it was all white-knuckles for me. At maybe three quarters of the way thru the pavement section (i had no time piece or computer, so i'm just riding and trying to avoid elbows and rear tires) three guys tangle up in front of me and i am able to go around the screaming and scraping and body carnage unscathed. Whew!

Now i reconnect to the front group of about 30 - 40 riders. Into the first dirt section, i accelerate and get down to some racing. Up over the first few punchy little hills, i'm having a blast. I have to dig a bit to stay with these fast guys, but i still feel that i can. Maybe on the fourth small hill i notice that the tail end of that front group of 30 or so is farther up the dirt road....buh bye! Now its racing with whoever i can connect with. Its still pretty crowded. I still feel strong and i eventually catch Chris McBurnie from Team Battenkill United. He and i rode most of the race together picking up a few riders here and there but for many miles we rode hard together, taking turns and catching no one. I could not understand it because we were flying! it seemed like we were flying to me, but why were we not catching anyone? Anyway, Chris McB was crushing the downhills... i mean i could not keep up. He would sometimes get 50 meters on me and i would reconnect on the uphill... i think i was stronger on the up-hills but i'm not so sure that he wasn't waiting for me so he could thrill me on the next downhill. I had a couple of OMG moments trying to negotiate some of the 35 mph downhill sweepers, not to mention bunny hopping culverts, drainage ditches, and orange colored bowling ball sized rocks. It was fun indeed.

Anyway, i did manage to finish with a decent time, just few minutes behind last year's time and a minute behind McB. Our own Chuck Q bagged a third place overall with a blistering time of 2:01 and change right behind my CX buddy Phil McC from Ommegang in second place .... Others from the CBRC tribe that had excellent rides were Rob Dadekian who lost a bit of time at the end by riding in with a flat tire, and Steve W who had to stop and repair a flat. All had a great time, with minimal blood spilt. Rob somehow went off course a bit and came home with a cut on his nose but other than that, no crashes for the Team. Other notable rides were Tierry Blanchet, (Cannondale MTB) 5th overall, the Young brothers, Brad and Brett, 9th and 10th respectively riding under new Team Tinney's colors. Hey Brad, how come i'm not on your team? Congrats also to first time participant, Jen Clunie, Executive Director of the NY Bicycling Coalition for her first place finish in the beginner Master's Women's race. Spectators reported that Jen blasted by a number of others in the muddy single track all the while hooting and hollering. Way to go Jen!

Thanks to CBRC team manager for the day, Connie Beals for the food, logistical support (driving) and team support... cheers.