It was only a day before this ride that Peter Ozolins shed some light on the origin of the acronym. Two D's and two R's. That simple. I was seeking for some connection to a droid from Naboo. I disagree with the first of the letters. Yes, it starts in Deerfield. However, a "D" for devilish would be more fitting. If you are in seek of a one-day challenge, this is quite the ride. It was a hot sunny day and buckets of sweat poured down our legs. In the end, most of us were happy. Unfortunately one of our local riders, Brian Lawney, suffered a broken collarbone. I suspect he will be back next year.
It was Brian Lawney who posted information about D2R2 a few months ago on our local cycling club list. At the time I had just finished the Shenandoah 1200K and was getting ready for the PA 1000K, so I put a little asterisk next to the e-mail and visited the link. It seemed like a great ride. The summer came and I finally was able to order the parts for my new bike, the Sam Hillborne. Glenn and his dexterous assistant David built the bike and Ben helped me with the fenders and rack. D2R2 was the perfect occasion for a maiden voyage. Every component of this bike was selected with thought, the tires even more so. I chose the beautiful Grand Bois "Cyprès" 30mm tires for comfort and their excellent cornering adhesion. I was eager to ride.
Ithaca was well represented at the start by Brian Lawney, Laura Kozlowski, Peter Ozolins, Ben Kraft, Jake Bolewski and me. I also met several fellow randonneurs from the PA series, including Bill Fischer and Jack Brace. Just before 6am most of us were occupied with breakfast and registration. Brian was still in his street clothes and taking pictures of the riders and bikes. The organizers allowed riders to start anytime between 6am and 7am.
Stage 1: Deerfield to Heath (35.7 miles, 5750' total climbing)
Peter, Ben, Laura and I started together at about 6:30am. There was thick fog everywhere and I remember thinking it was a cloudy day. Soon the pavement was replaced by dirt and the sun was visible and shining bright. Often we were under heavy tree cover, and it became quite dark all of a sudden. Just a few miles into the ride we were passed by a large group with matching cycling jerseys. They furiously speed by us and Ben was tempted to chase. He did so for a bit, but eased off. This was no race. A couple of miles down the road we passed the same group, which had now stopped to fix a flat. I did not resist and said "30 mm" as I road by, crossing my fingers at the same time. Eventually we were catching up to riders that had started before us. Of note was a hog in the middle of the road. I had to dismount and take a picture. A perfect mascot for such a ride. As we rode on it was interesting to see how different the riders and their bikes were. At the first water stop I was amazed to see a rider with Zipp aero wheels. That is just nuts. We were told that the climbing was about to start. What? Oh, so true.
Before the ride I had commented how I rarely took pictures of climbs. Most of the time I am suffering and taking pictures is not the first thing that crosses my mind. I do regret it later, however, as I have no evidence of the hills that were conquered. D2R2 would be no different. You can believe me, but I encourage you to experience it. The climbing was unrelenting. Just before the end of Stage 1 we started a very steep climb on asphalt. I got a bit cocky and went to the front passing all the carbon people. I miscalculated the length of the climb and soon I was being passed by everyone else. That effort would have dire consequences for many miles.
Atop of the hill was the control. There we found water and food. I was already exhausted and we had only ridden a little over a quarter of the total mileage. I was enjoying my ride on the Sam, but at times I was longing for a lighter bike. How mean of me. I seized the opportunity to wash my face and hands with cold water, proceeding to refuel with a PB&J sandwich. Brian and his team caught up to us at the control. We exchanged our impressions of the ride so far and all agreed it was living up to the promise.
Stage 2: Heath to Green River Covered Bridge (28.7 miles, 3550' total climbing)
Archambo Rd. Hillman Rd. Archambo, Hillman. Those names will be remembered in every cell of my body. Generations to come (in the event of a successful lineage) will prick their ears up to these words. First Archambo, a 27% grade beast with loose gravel. Most of the riders dismounted. Few were lucky enough to make it to the top without unclipping. I am proud to be one. The 30 mm tires had a greater role to play than my legs. The heavier frame also helped retain traction. In the end I was glad not to be beaten by the hill. Hillman was waiting. Hillman is deceptive. It starts out at a moderate grade and rolls into a false flat. "Ha ha! You are nothing," I thought. Well, Hillman had the better of me. I did reach its summit, but not much was left. My smile had been replaced by grimace. The ride was still far from over.
Eventually we began to descend. Is this possible? Am I dreaming? It is on the descent where the Sam shines. I felt confidence in each corner, cruising down the hill. My only worry was the rattling of the stainless steel water bottles. Had they not been there I would have gone faster. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise. On our way to the lunch control an ambulance passed us. It was evident that one of the riders was injured. Further up the road we passed the ambulance and I recognized the rider's jersey. It was the same as Brian's. I commented to Peter that the rider was probably in Brian's group. Ben joined us and told us that it WAS Brian. We continued, knowing that he was being taken care of. At the lunch stop I asked one of his team members about Brian. I was told he broke his collarbone. I felt for him, since I knew he was very enthusiastic about this ride, and to have it end like that is a bummer. His love for dirt roads will surely bring him back next year.
The lunch stop was sprawling with cyclists. It was conveniently located next to a covered bridge and we had access to the river. It didn't take long before I was barefoot walking into the river. I dipped my head in the water and washed my face and arms. How refreshing. A huge line of hungry cyclists had assembled. After my turn in the line I was content to eat a baked potato, chips, a hard-boiled egg and a PB&J sandwich. We also caught up with Jake of the Cornell Cycling Team. He decided to join us for the rest of the ride. At the control I spoke with Jack Brace. He was not feeling well at all and decided to call it quits. I have no idea how many riders quit along the way, but I am sure that the heat had a large role to play. Drinking enough and replenishing electrolytes in the right amount is not always easy. I guess the body has very complex mechanisms to ensure the proper balance, but we must provide it with the ingredients in manageable amounts.
Stage 3: Green River Covered Bridge to Patten Hill (32.8 miles, 4970' total climbing)
"This section has three hard climbs and then a monster, but there are flat stretches in between."
The words above were displayed on the ride cue-sheet. I deleted them on my own version. I did not want to know. Each turn was for me just a name. Just one more mile, up or down did not matter. I would take the pain and the pleasure of the ride. That being said, I did suffer quite a lot. Soon after we left the lunch control I was dropped. I had been here before and I knew it was important to take it easy as the route allows. Probably the hardest moment of the ride occurred when I rejoined the group at an impromptu water station. Everyone was holding a Gatorade in their hand. I was offered one and I gladly accepted. Only to find out a few seconds later that none were left. The disappointment I felt was so large and was exacerbated by the joy every other rider felt as they swallowed their Gatorade. As a consolation prize I took a bottle of water. Not all was lost. I noticed that one of my water bottles still had a rather concentrated lemonade mix in it. That together with the fresh water would make for a Gatorade-like drink. The little pleasures of life are so meaningful.
The struggle continued. On the climb I would get dropped, on the descent I would make time and on the flat I would keep up. At some point during the ride Peter's GPS began to disagree with the cue-sheet. The GPS nor Peter were at fault. He had downloaded the route from somebody else that had made it available on the internet. The person who mapped the route did not check thoroughly enough and some turns were missed. I didn't miss the turns because I was following the cue-sheet. These slight deviations allowed me to catch up with the group. At one point I was even ahead. I had seen how they missed a turn, but in my state I was not about to chase anyone. The heat was punishing. My legs did not feel sore, I was just lethargic. In that lethargic pace I began to climb the so called monster named Patten Hill. When I looked at the cue-sheet it seems the climb was only 2 miles long. It felt like a lot more. They were agonizing miles. Along the way I passed several victims of this climb that were slowly walking up with their bikes. I breathed heavily. Each pedal stroke brought me closer to the summit. In the end I made it, tired and in need of refreshment. I was at the control. I found a garden hose that I used to wash my head, arms and legs, once more. There was also watermelon. I ate lots. The control was located at the "Little Big House Gallery", a home that looks like a one-room cottage but is actually a three floor house with 3,000 sq ft. It is home of artist, builder, inventor and humorist Glen Ridler. Here we were told that the climbing was over. That was a lie. But a welcomed one. Interesting it is to know you are being lied to and still can be quite happy about it.
Stage 4: Patten Hill to Deeerfield (13.9 miles, 1400' total climbing)
I don't know if it was the watermelon, the proximity to the finish or the sight of the Little Big House, but I was feeling much better. Of course there was climbing involved. It was not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but in comparison to what we had just ridden, it certainly felt less punishing. Everyone in the group was happy, especially Ben. He was really excited about completing a tough and long ride in great condition. Earlier in the year we had ridden a 150 miler during which he injured his knee. I felt a bit responsible for leading him into that scenario. On this ride I did not see one moment of distress in him. He looked and climbed strong all the way. Peter was also impressive. Riding with his lowest 39x25 gear was no small feat. And Laura, well, amazing. She rode strong the whole way.
We all rolled in at 6:46pm, just in time for dinner offered by the event organizers. There we met Brian, who was in good spirits in spite of his misfortune. I ate a lot and didn't have trouble sleeping. Lights out!