Ryan (friend of TEW), Joe B., PC, KU, Rain, JP
Yesterday's Gran Fondo New York ride was epic. Not because of the 100 miles, nor the 8,000 feet of climbing. We'd been there and done that last year. What was missing from yesterday's journey was the spring time temps and the sun and blue skies, which would have felt like the "Second Coming" had either appeared, if only for a second, during yesterday's ride.
After waking at 4:45AM on Sunday, I dressed for the forecast: 10-20% chance of rain with high temps reaching 64 degrees–in shorts and thin base layers with a light spring vest. When I stepped outside my door it was already raining, but I/we expected that it would stop. Riding up the West Side, there were scores of other crazies in their official lemon-green Gran Fondo jerseys. And our Team TEW of five found each other near the ramp leading up to the George Washington Bridge, where we then made our way to the first coral to wait for the 7:00AM start.
Roads wet. Rain falling. A chill in the air made colder with the constant 15mph "breeze". We started at the end of Lidia's countdown and regrouped at the first stop in Piermont, when I wanted nothing more than to go home to a warm, dry bed. But home turned out to not be an option; all of my teammates were in: Joe, JP, Rain, and after a moment's thought, PC was also wholly committed. Not wanting to be the lone quitter, I had no choice. And so in that moment, I too was in 'til the end, but clearly, I wasn't the only one with second thoughts. With over 5,500 participants registered, only 2,230 started and/or finished.
PC, wide-eyed, at the start
Following the pit stop at Piermont, we splintered until we met again at the top of Bear Mountain (Montagna dell'Orso), a 4.68 mile climb. We've only one photo from the top, as only Joe had the mind to shoot a self-portrait (see below), one that doesn't quite capture the soupy fog, nor the nonstop rain. But the fact that we haven't any other photos of us there, is enough to illustrate exactly how terrible the conditions were. And when we write that we much preferred the climb to the decent, we really mean it! To say that the decent was hell is a huge understatement. The cold was so unbearable (PC's computer generated an average temperature of 48degrees for the entire ride!!!), and the road surface so dangerously wet. One had to maintain enough frozen finger pressure on the breaks to manage a safe decent, and each and everyone of us would have preferred to go back up and climb again, in lieu of going down.
Joe B at the top of Bear Mountain
The remaining 50+ miles demonstrated the capacity of the body's potential and the human spirit. That decent undid us all, chilled raw to the bone, but there was no where to ride but upward and on. No way to get home, other than on two wheels. No way to avoid the remaining miles. Sure, we could have bypassed the remaining two timed climbs: Colle Andrea Pinarello and Col Formaggio, and perhaps found an easier route, but that's not how we ride....
KU at the start on the George Washington Bridge
We continued on, up the remaining hills, along the half-mile of torn up road, on the shoulder of 9W from Piermont to River Road, while cars and trucks sped by, spraying from puddles and adding to the pools of water that'd collected in our shoes, and straight to the finish on River Road, joining the other HCMF-ers who'd finished.
Congrats to everyone who weathered the storm, battled the elements and beat the mental dips that whispered–I can't go on– each and every time the wind gust through our thin, wet kits. We hope that you all feel the calm after yesterday's surge, knowing that if you can get through yesterday's Gran Fondo NY, then you can accomplish anything you wish.