Submitted by Peter Jantzen
Words by Philip vanderWilden (to my knowledge)
As I slept somewhat fitfully on Friday night, with the
sounds of Dan Holin gently snoring in the next bed, I
could hear the gentle pitter patter of the rain growing into a steady fall at
4am in the morning. At roughly 6:30am, we all stood on the porch watching
the water cascade from the roof, shook our heads, and got on the bikes in the
darkness none the less. By the time we hit the pavement and descended a
1/2 mile, we were thoroughly soaked to the bone and the rain wasn’t about to
On to App Gap. From the beginning, the LSD kicked in and
Sitting in the shelter, trying to change clothes, dry off, get warm, refuel – guess what happened? Yup, it started pouring again. Did I mention that it was 50 degrees tops all morning? By now I had peed about six times, claiming that it was osmosis pee, rain going straight through my clothes, into my skin, into my bladder, and out.
At the shelter, Steve, Bill and Paul, showing their clear good sense, decided they would retire with honor back to the house. Had Eric not joked that, “that’s fine if your gay,” I am sure the remaining 11 of us (including Eric himself) would have gladly joined them. The retiring riders were a god send as they actually met us in Rochester later in the day so we could attempt to get less wet one more time (impossible to dry off if you have run out of changes of clothes as we all had by then), wipe down the bikes, and oil chains in need of relube.
Off from the shelter and up Roxbury Gap, 2/3 of the climb in the mud and rain. I went left, right and center trying to find the least mushy part, but this proved elusive. On our way up, we were joined by the Moto Giro Rally – 1950’s motorbikes- racing up the gap, filling the air with clouds of fumes and the high buzz of their engines. By the crest, despite the rain, we were sweating, and then zip up for another chilly, white knuckled descent (half on the dirt road). Finally back down in valley, the rain stopped. We started on a nice hammer train through the rolling fields and farms for the next 20 miles or so. At this point, Don started his claim for the brown jersey, as his emissions occasionally fragmented the peleton out of necessity! It was also at this point I could already tell that the weather was really taking it’s toll. While we held a nice 20 mph pace, my body was fighting what was to be my theme for the remaining 80 miles – radiator malfunction! At one moment I would be sweating, the next moment chilled- I guess that’s because I was wet from head to toe.
Well, we soldiered on after a brief stop at the mini mart at
Thankfully, the Brandon Gap after lunch is the easiest of all 6 gaps but still a steady slog. The pattern repeated itself and I think PJ took the honors over Dan on this one. After a brief stop at the bottom for drinks, our peleton of now 10 reformed as an efficient train for the next 15 or so miles (Don again scoring some brown shirt points along the way), past Lake Dunmore and on up to the Middlebury gap. As the road tilted upward, PJ launched again, and, yet again, I made the futile attempt to catch him. With encouragement from Dan H. I got close as I could and then left the rest up to Dan, as I settled into my personal drama – the Shakira look-alike angel in my head urging me to lay down in the lovely, freshly clipped grass for a nap while my internal Johan Bruneel yelled ALLEZ, ALLEZ, ALLEZ YOU SLUG! While I kept PJ and Dan in my sites, and even harbored illusions of a glorious attack to reconnect, it was not to be, as it was they who launched out of view in what was an epic duel. Rumour has it that down in the valleys, locals could hear on the whisper of the winds some of the following: “Is that all you got, bitch/ talk less, pedal harder/ we’re not gonna take it, no, we’re not gonna take it, chatzie, chatzie, chatzie.” Word has it, that after giving each other their best with no resolution, they agreed to crest together. When I finally got up and over the top, I didn’t stop peddling and just headed down the long valley chanting, “free at last, free at last, thank god almighty, I’m free at last.” At the Hancock store at the bottom of the gap, Dan kindly told me that they had only just arrived – for all I know, they might have been there for 1/2 hour. Inside, I saw a remarkable site, sitting on a stool, sipping a diet coke, was a semi-shattered Jantzen! As many of you know, this is a site none of us has even glimpsed this year. He was slurring something like, “chatzie, I’m just cooked.”
Back out on the porch, getting ready to remount for the last 13 miles, guess what, it started to rain again! So we launched once again with Dan H., PJ, Peter F., Jan and John Dalton (all the while riding his circa 1970 road bike which is 8 pounds heavier than our bikes and hanging with everyone with no problem). Eric, Don, Jon, and John F. in a pack just few minutes behind but being rained on during their descent from Middlebury Gap. Off up Rte. 100 and the mini gap. Working together we all moved along – when Peter F. announced he was bonking and all of us being in a stupor made him repeat himself five times until he had to shout it. Then the Holinator put the hammer down one last time (with a little help from me, but just a little) and another first for the year, we actually got separation from PJ! Personally, after PJ kicked my ass up all of the gaps, it was nice to have a tiny consolation at the end of the day! So finally to Plunkton and that last little nasty dirt climb. At this point, Peter F. had fallen back a bit and Dan stopped to make a sign in the dirt. Unfortunately, Peter missed the sign and continued merrily on his way to Warren (more on this in a minute). Finally, the road evened out, tilted slightly downward and we coasted the last half mile, into the driveway and, blessedly, got off our bikes for the last time at roughly 7 pm. Just for comparison sake to gauge the effect of the weather, last year we had roughly 8 hours 15 minutes of seat time at 16.5 mph average in nice weather, this year was 9 hours and 3 minutes of seat time at 14.7 mph average. Ouch! Total trip time was about 12 hours
Sitting on the porch for a few moments and not seeing Peter F. roll in, Dan started to get worried and grabbed my keys to go search for him. Eventually, he found Peter cycling up hill out of
With us all safely and triumphantly home, we enjoyed a few ales in the hot tub (Eric seizing with a double leg cramp in the middle of enjoying his soak), and a heaping plateful of spaghetti – real food- which went down beautifully. Up the 10 stairs (which felt like a 7th gap) and then thankfully into bed.
Verdict: I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!
P.S. What were the hardest miles? The 4 mile round trip I had to walk with my son last night between my car and Gillette stadium at the Patriots game (all parking lots were full and I had to ditch my car behind a used car lot). Each step echoing the six gaps and my struggle for survival.
Final rider list:
1 Eric Brandhorst
2 Donald Ryder
3 Dan Holin
4 Jon Kelley
5 Peter Fandel
8 John Forelli
9 Jan Newhouse
10 Philip vanderWilden
11 Vaughn Harring
12 Steve Sawyer
13 Bill Page
14 Paul Brakke