One of the toughest, ever!
16 riders showed up for the 8th running of our version of the 100/200. The morning was perfect for riding, with the morning sun quickly burning off the mist. For the first time, a recumbent joined us at the 5:30 am start. There were also two additional riders who planned to ride with the group until Morrisville, where they would turn around and ride back to the border, then drive one of the sag vehicles to the Mass. state line. We really enjoyed the new pavement on VT 101, which had been a crazy quilt of cracks and asphalt patches.
The breeze didn't start kicking up in earnest until shortly before the first break in Waterbury. Once it started, though, it remained a gusty headwind for most of the day, letting up only a little before the end. The temperature quickly climbed under the bright sun until it reached the mid-80s, though the humidity stayed at reasonable levels. Hydration proved to be one of the biggest issues that riders faced.
A couple of riders dropped off after the Waterbury break. The riding conditions, combined with the proximity to home, conspired to make the thought of turning a hot, double-century into a shady ride on dirt roads too attractive. Another rider changed clothes and become a support person at the second break in Rochester, after 50 more miles of bucking the hot headwind. Two riders had planned to ride at their own pace, with their own sag vehicle, as had the recumbent rider, leaving 9 in the main group.
If you're doing the math, you may be wondering why there seems to be an unaccounted rider. This rider had actually started over an hour ahead of the main bunch, planning to ride at a steady pace and taking shorter breaks. We met up with him on the Killington climb, around mile 115. As the lead riders got him in sight, though, he dutifully followed a wrong turn programmed into his GPS, leaving the riders thinking he must have been a local, just out for a spin. He caught up with us at the top of Killington, though, and then proved the wisdom of keeping a slower, steady pace, with short breaks, as he caught up with the group at every stop, thereafter.
Aside from the section from Waitsfield to Warren, the road surface was good to excellent, with adequate shoulders. The group stayed largely together through most of the ride, at least to Ludlow, when Terrible Mountain, the second major climb of the day, put its screws to us. With the steady, hot, headwind, there was too much to be gained by staying in the bunch, gaining the benefit of shared effort. One rider cut the Ludlow break short, heading up the climb well before the rest of the group, never to be seen again. The rest dribbled out in twos and threes to start the long, hard climb.
Terrible Mountain lived up to its name, presenting its steep grades at the hottest time of the day. After riding 140 miles, the riders were content to grind slowly up the steepest grades. A false summit, and another climb and we were rewarded with a nice, long descent to Weston. The wind kept top speeds to the low 40 mph range. We had taken a sizeable break in Ludlow, and most riders had stopped to refill their bottles at the top of Terrible Mountain, but this year we all stopped for another long break in Weston, on the green. We had skipped that break last year, as it was raining at the time, but this year's conditions made the shady grass far too appealing to pass up.
Weston proved to be a time of decision for the exhausted riders. All were feeling the effects of their extended efforts. To apply an overused phrase, this is where the "epic" part of the 100/200 really sinks in, especially for those planning on riding over Mt. Snow. You've ridden 150 miles, including some climbs that most cyclists couldn't do under any conditions. Many riders have already broken their personal records at this point, yet there's still 60 miles to go, including the worse climb of the day. No one could be blamed for declaring victory and going home, especially on a day like this!
Luckily, the historic and beautiful Weston Opera House was open, providing access to clean bathrooms and a pretty view of a waterfall over an old mill dam. After an extended break on the green, along with refilling and refueling from our generous support folks, all climbed back on their bikes and continued on. The rolling hills to Rawsonville broke up the group, and the climbs and descents to Jamaica kept them strung out until we regrouped at the split of routes 100 and 30.
The ascent we've christened the Mt Snow Climb starts right after VT 100 crosses the West River. The first 8 1/2 miles are not bad; just a series of easy rises, interspersed with flat and almost flat sections as the road follows the Wardsboro Brook. It isn't until you get to West Wardsboro that the topo lines get close together and the real climbing starts. Still, all that climbing takes its toll, coming as it does after 170 miles of hard riding. You don't "dance on the pedals" up this climb, but you do reach deep down into whatever reserves you have left. The reward is that amazing feeling you have when you meet the support vehicles and other cheering riders at the top, all celebrating your accomplishment!
Once you've made it up Mt. Snow, you know the ride is in the bag. There's only 25 miles to go, and after what you've been through, you know you can make it. There are only two real climbs left, though the Wilmington Cross Rd. is the steepest of the day. Bad as it is, it's better than the nasty climb out of Jacksonville. We had a young, female racer in the group who insisted on putting the hurt to us, pushing the pace into the upper 40 kph range coming into Wilmington. Still, it was better to put in the effort to stay in the slipstream than to buck that headwind alone.
The real reward is the last couple of miles into Readsboro, with its winding 9% descent. With a clear lane, friends to play nip & tuck with, and the ride all but done, exhilaration and relief kicks in. Make the turn onto Tunnel St. and hammer for a couple more miles and you fly across the state line at 30 kph with shouts of joy.
The value in this ride is realized when people thank you for the experience, rather than grabbing a rope to string you up from an overhanging branch. With the number of repeat riders and the obvious satisfaction of the finishers and even the support folks, we're reminded again of why we put ourselves through this every year.
The 2010 stats:
- Starters: 16
- Finishers: 9
- End time (approx.): 9 pm
- Ride time (approx): 12:25
- Ave speed: 17.2 mph (27.6 kph)
- High temp: 85 F
- Total distance: 212 mi (340 km)
Photos of the 2010 ride are posted online at http://picasaweb.google.com/sbarner/2010100200 A video is also available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mQlEUdSHIM The ride comes early in the year, arriving before many cyclists are in condition for a hilly double-century. Start training now and plan to join us next year. You'll be rewarded by being in amazing shape for the rest of the season!
Click here for the 2009 Ride Report