2005 Westfield 200K Brevet

Chip and I cycled from Cambridge to Westfield on Friday, April 29, the day before the 200K brevet. We fought a steady headwind the whole way, but otherwise it could hardly have been a better day for cycling: warm sun, clear blue sky, and everywhere the brilliant greens of Massachusetts spring, punctuated by bright yellow forsythia.

When we woke up the next day, however, things didn't look so good. The forecast called for rain for most of the day, and the pavement was wet as we cycled from the Elm Motel to the start at Don Podolski's bike shop. There were a few familiar faces at the start, including Don himself, of course, Sandy Whittlesey, whom we'd last seen just two weeks earlier at the end of the Flèche NE, and Mike Kerrigan, whom we hadn't seen since BMB 2004.

Chip's knees were still sore from the Flèche, so we took it easy from the start. The sky was overcast and the temperature chilly, but fortunately it wasn't raining yet. Until Conway we rode in a group of four: Chip, me, Mike, and Bill Dix. Unfortunately the condition of Chip's knees gradually deteriorated, and he slowed down further. I stayed back with him while Mike and Bill rode ahead at their own pace. But Chip had more and more trouble, and I was getting cold, so eventually I also took off at my own speed.

I waited for Chip at the Shelburne Falls checkpoint, and there we decided to split up. I felt bad, but Chip was clearly having a bad day, and I felt some time pressure because after the ride I needed to pick up a rental car and head to New York City.

So I left Shelburne Falls with a small group that included Mike, Bill, and a tall cyclist on a carbon fiber Trek bike with garish Spinergy wheels. I tend to be skeptical when I see this kind of equipment---rarely do Lance-bikes carry Lance-riders. But Rick Gowen definitely walked the walk to match his bike's talk. He moved to the front of our little paceline and made a heroic 17-mile pull, all the way into Vermont. Occasionally he'd spontaneously exlaim, "This is awesome!" or "What a great day!" I found it a little odd at first, but it became hard not to smile. Rick is quite an amazing bundle of energy and enthusiasm. I would have liked to give him a break at the front, but doubt I could have kept up the same pace.

I turned around at one point to find that there were now just three of us: Rick, myself, and Rick's friend Pete. Pete and I had ridden together once before, on the 2004 Boston 600K, when we were part of a little group that climbed over Mount Grace and down to the Bullard Farm checkpoint in the middle of the night.

Pete dropped back as I toughed it out next to Rick on the stiff climb up route 8A in Vermont. But before the summit I couldn't hold Rick's pace either. I eased up, ate a bagel, and began the long descent to the Deerfield River together with Pete. It was raining by now, and there was sand on the road, so we broke no speed records. Rick was waiting for us at the bottom, and we resumed our paceline. The eight remaining miles to Shelburne Falls flew by.

At McCusker's Store in Shelburne Falls we picked up our lunch and gained a fourth cycling companion, Tom, who was riding his first brevet. We set off in a hurry under a chilly drizzle, keen on finishing the ride and being warm again. I navigated, Rick continued his heroic pulls, and overall we made good time, despite the worsening weather and a stop to allow Rick to fix a flat tire.

We finally made it back to Westfield at 3:02pm, after 8 hours and 2 minutes, not too bad considering the slow start and the weather conditions. I was soaked and freezing; what joy to change into dry clothes at the finish! I owe many thanks to Rick for giving me and my bike a ride to Hartford Airport to pick up my rental car. His generosity spared me several more miles of cold and wet cycling.