2004 Boston 200K Brevet

"You know, Chip, this doesn't feel right at all. The weather's too perfect." The sun shone brightly from a cloudless blue sky as Chip and I cruised up Mass Ave around 6am on Saturday, May 1. We were on our way to Hanscom Field in Bedford for the start of the Boston 200Km brevet.

In our two years of riding brevets together, we had not had great luck with the weather: a rainy 300K, a somewhat chilly 400K, sweltering humidity during a late-summer double century, five hours of rain on our ride to the Westfield 200K. And of course the legendary 2003 200K, ridden almost entirely in an ice-storm---the ride we refer to as our lifetime distance-divided-by-temperature maximum. At last we were enjoying a splendid day.

About 100 riders milled around the start in the parking lot at Hanscom. Many I had never seen, but there were also several "regulars," including two-time PBP winner and BMB women's record-holder Melinda Lyon and her frequent riding companion, Ted Lapinski. Melinda mentioned that she felt tired of riding brevets, and that she would take this year mostly off. That is when I first got the idea that maybe, just maybe, this might be a good opportunity to try to hang on to her group through the ride.

A handful of very fast riders including Joe Marzot rode off the front immediately, but a large fast group including me and Chip stayed together. We alternated pulls, with Ted and Melinda at the front most of the time as we snaked our way north in a long double paceline at about 34Km/h. My legs felt strong and I wasn't breathing hard: I rode ahead on the short climb into Westford, and managed to hang just behind Ted on the much longer climb to Mount Vernon, even as the group broke up behind us. As I spun up the road in a low gear, I was impressed to see Melinda grinding along next to me in her big chainring. From the top of Mount Vernon it's all downhill into New Boston, and we flew: I almost spun out of my 50x12 high gear as we hit 79Km/h. We arrived at the first checkpoint at 9.32, having covered the 80Km distance at an average speed just under 32Km/h.

The real lead group, with Joe Marzot in it, was leaving the checkpoint as we arrived. They had reach it before the official opening time of 9.21, and had had to wait...

People took their time at the checkpoint, and much of the group that had fractured on the climb to Mount Vernon departed the checkpoint together. But after about a mile, as we left Route 13 for Lyndeboro Rd, the group was strung out again. I looked back at Chip, who signaled that I should go ahead without him. I thought for a few seconds, and decided that I would, indeed, try to hang on to the fast group.

Francestown Pike featured some fairly large rollers as we climbed back towards Mount Vernon. But things only started to get painful for me after Amherst, as we faced a series of stiff climbs on Mason Road. As a group of faster riders slowly pulled away from me, I noticed that Ted and Melinda were nowhere to be seen---they had fallen back. I rode on alone and relished the fast, scenic descent through open farmland to Route 31. But Route 31 was a bit of a bear, 5 1/2 miles of deceptively shallow grade with a strong constant headwind. I felt slow.

At this point the brevet route takes riders over the same hill several times from different directions, alternating steep climbs with short, fast descents. It was on one of these climbs that Ted and Melinda caught up with me, and on the following one, near Route 123, that I was ignominiously dropped.

I was still filling up on watermelon and sugar cookies at the second checkpoint in Brookline, NH, when the fast group took off on the last leg of the ride. So I headed south alone, riding low in the drops into a blustery headwind. Before the Massachusetts line I caught up with another lone cyclist, Mike Ferraresso, and we decided to ride on together for a while. We rode well together: I set the pace on most climbs, and he made some heroic pulls on the flats into the headwind. It was good to talk with someone after hours of riding, too; I learned that Mike is of Italian descent, and that, like me, he enjoys touring.

The day was hot by now---I almost melted down on the climb into Westford, and we were both out of water. Rarely have I enjoyed Gatorade as much as I did when we stopped at the first gas station after Westford. Refreshed, we realized that we had been making decent time. It was about 2pm: the goal became to finish within 8 hours. We pushed hard, alternating pulls frequently as we rode through the lush fields and woods of Carlisle and Concord. Fast around the green in Concord Center, hard push along Rt 62, and out of the saddle on the last little climb on Virginia Road: at 2.55pm, Mike and I rode together into the Hanscom Field parking lot. I was happy with our ride overall: 7h55m for 200Km and about 1900m of climbing.

I sat in the parking lot for a long time, enjoying fruit and potato chips and relaxing with Tracey Ingle, the ride's co-organizer, and several riders. Chip arrived about an hour later. I relished the warm afternoon breeze as we rode leisurely back to Cambridge together.