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Team HUP United
The body lies. It really does. It will tell you things you don’t want to hear. If you listen to it you will miss the chance to find out who you really are and who you can be. This was my second year doing the Rapha East Coast Gentleman’s Race and my body was protesting. It remembered the suffering from last year even if my brain did not.
My teammate Mike Golay flashed me his Garmin with 5 minutes to go before our start. It said take a U-turn. I had no idea what foreshadowing that was. We made one correct turn. Well two correct turns then I proceeded to lead us out onto an onramp to the highway. You can't make this up. We got back on course and got onto a really nice gravel road across a huge field. I had Wagner's Ride of The Valkyries in my head…and choppers. You can't pretend you are in Paris-Roubaix without the choppers.
The first 40 miles were probably the most brutal 40 miles I have ever done. Between my body just not being right, to the course profile it just made for a sufferfest. But we got some great words of advice from the Godfather the night before we left. ZD (Zac Daab) said to use the word "less" as a mantra. We really embraced it as it was brilliant in its simplicity. I took it easy. Which was no simple task considering the 4 "bumps" on the elevation in that first 40. One hill called Goat Hill was brutal. It was dirt/gravel and possibly the steepest thing I have ever seen. I got about 3/4 up and thought - "what am I doing?" I have a 100 more miles and I am about to rip my knees out of my sockets trying to hump my bike up this wall. So I got off. Yes I did.
Quick hike-a-bike and I remounted to join my mates. After that the good sensations came around. We made it to the first (and last until mile 90) stop for water and refueling. This is where things came apart. There were a ton of teams at a Quikie Mart. We socialized a bit. Grabbed some food and water. Then, we did a quick head count and realized we were missing a rider. What happens on the road stays on the road. It was just a communication mix up and a necessary search for a suitable nature break gone bad but we watched all the other teams leave us behind while we waited… And waited… And waited.
Shortly after that our not so trusty Garmin decided it would crap out. Luckily we had cue sheets and super phones and the Amish. Along with really, really nice farmers. We got lost so many times that it actually became part of the adventure.
But, that being said, if we had never gotten lost we never would have seen cows playing on an offcamber ridge line. We were tearing across the ridge at about 40 mph when we came across a ranch. The cows were freeranging all over the place and they were enjoying themselves. How could they not be?
Each time we got lost we were rewarded by amazing road after amazing road. What struck me more than anything this year was that I finally think I get what Rapha has been trying to show us with these events. That riding for the sake of riding can be its own reward. That by making it a team event it fosters camaraderie on a level that doesn’t exits in almost any other pursuit. Narcissism is left at the door. You take care of each other. You share food, water, a kind gesture or encouraging word. My teammates sang hardcore rap songs A Capella to help me through some of my darker moments on the ride.
I came away this year a changed man. A changed cyclist. I love the ride now more than ever. I hope I can keep a piece of what I felt on this ride with me every time if push the pedals over on my bike.