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It’s 4:45 in the morning and I’m four stories above a well-stocked bodega in Park Slope, a neighborhood in Brooklyn. From my horizontal vantage on a couch in Richard Bravo’s living room, I see that every surface from floor to ceiling is covered in cyclist or cyclist thing. It’s like only the finest objects in a high-end cycling boutique have been collected, shaken and poured over a mid-thirties bachelor pad. It’s all coming back to me, I’m in a Rapha Continental nest with seven full-grown men. Jeremy Dunn, East Coast team leader, and riders; Pierre Von Borre, Pete Rubijono and Dan Langlois. Craig Roth, our driver and mechanic and friend. And Dan Sharp, who flew in from Portland a few days earlier with me. We are here because Richard, East Coast rider and member of the New York contingent, was gracious enough to offer his place as headquarters for ride number one: New Paltz. Named for the small town 2-hours outside New York City where the ride starts and finishes.
In 20 minutes we have completed ablutions, collected our kit and started the descent to the street below.
Outside, I find a large white passenger van double parked and still running. Craig is appearing and disappearing, in a time-lapse blur, into it’s many open doors with various wheels, bags, tools and coolers in hand. A loading-and-unloading zone forms as every three minutes one of us, having just survived the high-stakes downhill cyclocross course that is Richard’s five sets of painfully steep stairs, stumbles into the morning to deposit bike and bag.
It’s cool and damp and foggy and there’s nobody on the street, except for the presumably homeless man pushing a shopping cart overloaded with large inexpensive metallic objects of an unknown origin or use. He’s slowly squeaking and rolling his way up the wrong side of the street. Under the bright colors from myriad neon signs and traffic lights, reflecting and refracting in the mist, I make my way two blocks to purchase sundries from an open market. Five minutes later and back at the van things are looking good with both ride and rider fastened and ready to break camp. We head for Manhattan and Sam, Piers and Kansas.
Inside the van things are mostly quiet except for someone’s music oddly, or expertly, synced to our surroundings and mood. At one point, Pete, clever and quick and hysterical, launches into an imagined conversation between De Niro and a gay Colonel Klink, from Hogan’s Heroes. Something about “real” Italian food. Rolling over the bridge is cinematic, the music, the silence broken by random comments and the shrouded cityscape are indelible.
Pretty soon we’re docked to another New York curb with cyclists and their things loading slowly but surely into the van. This time in a notably nicer neighborhood evidenced by taller buildings and prettier dog-walkers. While Sam unsuccessfully cautions Piers, Craig and Kansas about the sketchy coffee shop adjacent to our van. Ten minutes later and we’re on a turn-pike.
We wanted our first East Coast Continental ride to be accessible from New York City, and if possible by train. Jeremy, with Sam’s help, led the search for the a ride rich with rural roads, mountains, climbs, vistas, distance and Americana. Something epic, even in early spring. They concluded, independently, a romp through Catskills State Park would graciously deliver but to be sure they got Pete and Pierre together and preformed a recce of the area, vetting a route which was a synthesis of several different opinions and local knowledge.
The two-hour drive to New Paltz is uneventful except for inadvertently timing our arrival with a surprisingly well-attended little league soft-ball parade. Which shuffles short and clumsy down main street like it has nowhere to go.
Jeremy directs Craig through town to our official start, the Muddy Cup. Inside it’s massive with tall ceilings and an eclectic collection of estate sale furniture; crushed velvets, golds and purples, tassels, ornately framed mirrors, dubious oil paintings and gilding. The place feels like a jazz club by night and a community center by day with an espresso machine. We are all reminded that Woodstock, the Woodstock, is only 10-miles up the road. In the back corner, next to the bathroom, 20 middle-aged artsy types are intently discussing the concept of ‘ego’. With their chairs arranged in a circle and facing each other, for the next 30-minutes their workshop is periodically interrupted by the sound of the bathroom door swinging open and banging shut. One after another, in go nine guys in normal enough street clothing and, several minutes later, out come Rapha Riders, like spandexed bike riding super heroes from a phone booth in a toilet.
Back outside, it’s now 9:30am, partly sunny and almost 75 degrees. And we are making what is hopefully our last curbside camp of the day. In the street behind the van, a work stand is up and occupied. Sunscreen is being generously applied, sunglasses prepped and piles of pumps, food bars and arm warmers are pocketed quickly. And then suddenly we’re all on our bikes and somehow facing the right direction. We collectively slow-roll thirty feet to the red light and our impromptu start line.
They park in front of this coffee shop by my house. The Lattes are made with a microwave and instant coffee in that place. I warned them to wait for New Paltz or at the very least drive around the corner. But did they listen?
- Hott Sam
Pierre, Pete and I walk to the corner to get a $45 bag of mixed bagels. New Yorkers are serious about their average, barely edible bagels.
- Daniel Pasley
When we get to New Paltz there's a little league parade in our way. From the van I ask a sketchy looking guy on the corner about it. He informs me that the town has a drinking problem and doesn't properly support it's youth. That's what I think about when I eat my espresso and carrot cake, both made to perfection, in the saloon gone coffee shop called the Muddy Cup.
The sofas in Muddy Cup remind me of porches in Portland, Oregon - that's a bad thing, right?
Nobodys talking about the ride, the 114-mile ride, we're theoretically embarking on any moment. I'm fresh but anxious so mind naturally wanders to this theory a friend and teammate introduced me to during a long distance cycling event. It's called: “The Leg Bank”. The idea is that your legs are like a bank—they have a set amount of funds (exertion being the currency in this metaphor) available. And every time you start to go into the red zone—bridging that gap, taking an extra-long pull on the front—you’re removing currency from your Leg Bank.
- Richard Bravo