Yesterday marked my long ride ever, coming in at approximately 139 miles as a part of the Rapha Gentlemen’s Race. We headed out to the beach (Lincoln City) on Friday evening and stayed in a suite at the Inn at Spanish Head thanks to team president Jim who served as sugar daddy for the evening. [...]
Going the Distance… Going for Speed.
Yesterday marked my long ride ever, coming in at approximately 139 miles as a part of the Rapha Gentlemen’s Race.
We headed out to the beach (Lincoln City) on Friday evening and stayed in a suite at the Inn at Spanish Head thanks to team president Jim who served as sugar daddy for the evening. We also dined on an expensive dinner with wine, and room service for breakfast, all for an unreasonably low cost. After all that pampering, leaving the comfort of the hotel for 140 miles of suffering loomed even larger.
About the Race
This was the 2nd annual Rapha Gentlemen’s Race, which is technically not a race, but it is anyway. The ride pits teams of 6 riders against each other in a test of endurance, mental strength, bike flat-resistance, and teamwork. The course covered 140 miles starting way out on the coast near Lincoln city and ending in Downtown Portland just across the east side of the river. Teams are seeded based upon racing category in order to (in theory) give everyone a chance at winning. The winner is simply the first team to reach the finish, and the first team was given over an hour head start on the last team. Two checkpoints along the way ensured racers were taking (approximately) the course that everyone else was. There is no support for the race, and teams observe the rules of the road as in any other non-race ride. But other than that, you go as hard and fast as you possibly can while trying to survive 140 miles.
About our Race
As one of the faster teams, we started at 10:03AM (the first team off was at 8:45AM) – we were the 20th of 23 teams to start, so we had a lot of catching to do. We rolled out and immediately started on a climb where we passed our first team of the day that was off to a slower start.
We rode hard for the first several hours and had a good pace going averaging over 23MPH including several small climbs. We stopped for a 60 second water-refill break and saw that the Nike team was right on our heels before we headed into the hardest part of the course – up and over the coast range on back-roads. This included the longest climb of the day, which probably lasted the better part of ten miles. Going up the climb, we caught a team that proceeded to latch onto the back of our paceline and sit there. We got a little concerned and ramped the pace up on the climb to try to drop one of their riders off the back knowing that if one of them dropped off all of them would have to. Unfortunately we ended up dropping one of our riders instead and had to slow up. We couldn’t shake the other team, and even though we got to the first checkpoint first and got to leave first, they caught us again and ended up passing us and heading up the road a bit. They finally got what was coming to them though. We passed them following the first long gravel section when they had to pull over to fix a flat tire.
We got over the top of the big climb, but we’d burned several of our riders probably harder than we should have. The entire pace of the ride so far had been fairly frantic, and there were definitely tensions running high within the team, myself included. We were eating and drinking constantly, knowing that if one of us blew up we would all drop off the pace. We hit the second gravel section at about mile 80, which consisted of a steep descent on gravel. Chris broke a spoke on the descent, which delayed us several minutes. Coming into Carlton, we made another quick stop for water and Snickers bars.
At about mile 100, I got the cramping, sick feeling in my stomach that I seem to get around the 4.5 to 5 hour mark in a long ride, but I fought through it. I should also mention that I lost a contact lens overnight and had to ride with my glasses with a slightly weaker prescription than would be ideal. This resulted in fighting a headache throughout parts of the ride from the sunlight and minor blurriness.
About mile 100, Rob really started to hurt and we had to slow our pace to make sure he didn’t blow up completely. We made an emergency stop at Ace hardware at mile 115 to get Rob more water and some soda for a sugar/caffeine boost. The carbonation in the soda also did wonders for my upset stomach. However, this stop allowed the Nike team to finally pass us, as well as several others we had recently passed. At this point we had no idea how many teams were in front of us or behind us.
We hit the final checkpoint at mile 120 and were able to do some serious passing by not stopping at the checkpoint where a number of other teams were stopped to rest or refuel.
About mile 125, Jim went from feeling okay to very not okay in a hurry. We slowed our pace further and tried to keep him in the group. About this time, the frustration that had been present at points throughout the ride gave way to all working towards getting to the finish. We got to the base of the final 3+ mile climb up into the west hills of Portland and had someone pushing Jim up the climb nearly the entire way, and much of the time someone pushing the pusher for the extra horsepower. I was feeling amazing given the distance we’d traveled and actually had the juice left in my legs to be doing some of the pushing. Jim was a trooper and made it over the top of the climb with much grunting and grimacing.
From there we descended into Portland and rolled down Burnside to the finish where we were met by a small cheering crowd, friends, and the welcome surprise of an open bar for the riders.
We finished in 7 hours 10 minutes, with 6:50 of that being riding time for an average speed of about 20.5MPH. We were the 5th team in and had the 2nd or 3rd fastest start to finish time on the day. Not to shabby considering how often it felt like things were going wrong along the way. Avoiding flats was definitely a key (some other teams reportedly had 3-4 flats or more). It was surely an experience to remember, and at the end of the day we all had a great time.
The team, from left to right:
Swan – Solid start to finish. 140 miles? Piece of cake.
Marcroft – He was perhaps the first of us to start suffering, but he pushed through amazingly well.
Me – Laughing at Rob. Rode strong, took some good pulls, felt better at 140 than at 80.
Rob – Being Rob. After suffering at 100, he found a second wind in the last 15 miles.
Kennettron – After pounding 2 beers on an empty stomach immediately following the ride, here he’s seen demonstrating his “sexy face” that he was trying on women at the bar, with little effect. Kennett gets the team anchor award for the day. Long pulls, hard work, and made it look easy.
Sparky (AKA Jimbo (AKA Jim)) – Demonstrating the face he was sporting while suffering up the final climb. He dug deep in the pain cave.