April 11 ride report: 102 miles/167 km to Vermont and New Hampshire

Apr 17, 11:55 AM

Last weekend I did my final long ride before the April 24 brevet. This weekend (or the Monday holiday, Patriots’ Day), I’ll do a 40-50 mile ride to keep my legs in shape and then taper to the event day.

My first century: solo, 102.4 miles, 5300 feet of climbing

Having done a hilly 80-miler on April 4, I decided to aim for a relatively flat ride north along the Connecticut River for my first century. Since much of the ride was on familiar ground, I should have known better…it turned out to involve some 5300 feet of climbing. (Route map here. Again, MapMyRide.com underestimates the total climb.) But I survived.

The first 30 miles or so were fairly flat. Technically, my ride was not entirely solo: Jennifer came with me for the first 18 miles. We set out from home, climbed to the crest of Mount Warner Road, and then headed down Route 47 to the Norwottuck Rail Trail. We took that into Northampton, then followed Damon Road and Route 5 to Hatfield, where we headed to the historic town center and then north along the river. I grabbed a Snickers bar and some sports drink at a convenience store. In Whately we stopped at the town athletic fields to eat the bag lunch we had prepared; a baseball game was going on.

A couple miles further north, Jennifer headed across the bridge into Sunderland to make her way home (13 more miles, for 31 total), and I headed north along River Road in Deerfield. At this point I began to hit some of the rolling hills that would characterize the ride: with a few exceptions, most of the hills involved 50-200 feet of climbing, but do that often enough and you end up climbing a lot. I took the new bike bridge from East Deerfield to Montague and then the Canalside Trail into Turners Falls. From there, I crossed the river and encountered the first of three serious hills: a short but steep climb from the river. Then it was downhill into Gill, followed by rollers until I crossed Route 10 in Northfield. I went up a very steep but very short hill and then caught Route 142, which took me along flat and gently rolling terrain to Brattleboro, Vermont. There I picked up some more sports drink.

At Brattleboro I took Route 9 across the river into New Hampshire. Here I encountered the second steep hill, climbing from 250 feet to 800 feet above sea level, along a busy highway (fortunately, it had wide shoulders). I then coasted downhill a ways until turning south on Route 63 toward the center of Chesterfield, N.H. A slight climb through a forest brought me there. I stopped to eat a Clif bar and to call home and indicate that I’d be back a little later than planned. I was now 62 miles into the ride and I thought I had done all the hard climbing. I was wrong.

Half a mile later I began to climb again in earnest, from 750 feet to 1150 feet in three quarters of a mile: an average 10% grade. Having already completed a metric century, I was going VERY slowly up that hill. The road then dipped again and climbed back up to 1150 feet. After that, the reward: a four-mile descent next to Kilburn Brook, at an average 4% grade, that brought me to the Ashuelot River and the center of Hinsdale, N.H. From Hinsdale I followed Route 63 south as it rolled up and down toward the Massachusetts border. In Mass. I climbed up into Northfield and then continued south.

At Pine Meadow Road I left 63 and followed the river, and the new Franklin County bikeway, to French King Gorge. Pausing to admire the bridge and collect my forces, I crossed the Millers River on a bridge now restricted to foot and bicycle traffic and attacked the last hill, a 225-foot climb out of the valley. Then it was home free for the last 19 miles across Montague to Montague Center, then along Old Sunderland Road to Falls Road in Sunderland, back via Route 47, and finally a little loop around Mount Warner. I saw deer in the twilight in Montague and found that my dynohub and LED headlight provided more than sufficient lighting. Though I was tired, I found it easy to roll at 14-16 mph on flat, familiar roads, and I actually increased my average speed slightly.

The aftermath, and looking ahead

I was pretty worn out when I got home, but a shower refreshed me and I was able to have dinner (which Jennifer had kindly prepared) and relax for a bit. As usual after a long ride, I slept fitfully, but I wasn’t feeling too bad on Monday morning. For the first time in a couple months, I had delayed-onset muscle soreness after the ride, from Monday afternoon through Wednesday morning, but that didn’t keep me from cycle commuting Tuesday nor from a 19-mile ride to Leverett on Wednesday.

I think I have my eating and drinking plan figured out for the 200K. A decent but not too fatty breakfast, a light sandwich around lunch, Clif bars or the occasional candybar every hour and a half or so in between meals, and plenty of sports drink should do the trick. There’s no shortage of convenience stores on the 200K route. I might take a couple of packs of sports gel just in case.

Based on the century, I’m not going to do a fast 200K. I did 100 miles in 8:10 ride time, for an average speed of just over 12 mph (19.7 km/h). That did not include stops. I stopped for just over an hour, but 35 minutes of that was during the beginning part of the ride. If I can go 20 km/h during the brevet, and keep stops to 30 minutes, I’ll finish in 10:30; the event starts at 7 a.m. so I should wrap up by 5:30 p.m.

Right now the weather for next weekend promises to be cool, with lows in the 30s and highs in the low 60s. There may be some rain. We’ll see how things go!

Brian W. Ogilvie

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