When planning our weeks together in Boston, Chris convinced me that we should do the Vermont Gran Fondo. At the time when he described how hard the “gaps” (passes) were I didn’t think it seemed so tough – little did I know what we had in store…
The area where the Gran Fondo is held in Vermont is spectacular. The ride started with a long descent and even as we started, it was a warm day. The rolling hills through beautiful little towns and farms made for a quick initial 20 miles.
Right off the start, Chris had an unfortunate incident where his wind vest tried to snuggle with his front tire as he took it off and Chris ended up getting a bit too comfortable with the pavement. He ended up having to stop and fix his handle bars that got a bit disoriented in his wipe out. By the time he caught up to me, I was so surprised to see him back there (I thought perhaps he had passed me miles before) and we ended up riding almost my full route together – which was such a treat!
I knew we had some big hills ahead of us but I mistakenly thought our first big set of rollers was the Appalachian Gap (the first of our big climbs). When we actually hit the gap (our first of the gaps for the day – 3 for me on my 115km ride (7,300 ft) and 4 for Chris on his 170km ride (10,600 ft)) I knew we were in for a long day. The Appalachian Gap was rideable but it was out of the saddle pain for about 300m. It was worth it for the fun descent off the back of the gap. The roads were in great condition and there wasn’t a car in sight.
By the time we hit the second (and most challenging) gap (Lincoln Gap), I knew I was in trouble. Looking ahead all you could see was hill. A very steep paved hill. Lots of the guys around me were doing the “mail boy route” by riding zig zag up the hill, trying to maintain any momentum they could. Chris had no problem and rode the whole gap but myself (and thankfully most of the others around me) walked for about 300-400m (which is a long way to walk in bike shoes). By the top, I was exhausted. Coming down off the Lincoln Gap, we took our time as there was loose gravel and some bumpy sections which then led to our next section of about 20 miles of packed dirt road. I was getting tired. Luckily Chris was there to keep my spirits up and sing the occasional song. By the time Chris and I parted ways (he headed on to do the remainder of his ride (including the Brandon and Middlebury Gaps)) and I headed back to finish my ride via the Middlebury Gap, I was sure ready to be off my bike.
Having stuck with me for the majority of the ride, Chris had a long day and lucked out by being offered beer by some locals driving by during one of his climbs (typical Hahn luck). The event photographers captured it too…pretty awesome and I know it was exactly what he needed to get him up that hill :).
All in all, there was a lot of suffering and a lot of sweat but also some exquisite scenery, beautiful roads and as always, such nice folks along the way.
I have to admit, my ego was a bit less bruised when I learned that the guy who came in second overall had to walk part of the Lincoln Gap too ;).