When Chip Baker asked me if I was interested in riding in the Rhonde de Rosey, a 70+ mile unofficial team race, I said that there was no way he could convince me to do the ride. After all, the Rhonde is primarily off-road with bits of road to piece the dirt sections together, so 70 miles could take upward of five hours to finish. While that wouldn’t normally be too bad, I was racing Battenkill the day before (62 miles of hills!) and I had every intention of spending Sunday feeling sorry for myself and eating whatever food I could possibly find. I’d done Battenkill before, I knew how it worked.
But then, Chip said the magic words: “I’ll put you on a team with Mo Bruno Roy, I think you’d do really well with her.” Suddenly, I was not only excited to race in the Rhonde, I was going to have to attempt to not slow down a team of elite cyclocrossers while doing it. Even now, I’m not sure how Chip possibly managed to convince me that it was a good idea, but the idea of hanging out (and hanging on) to Mo for the day sounded like too much fun to pass up. Plus, the educational benefits were enormous: I could attempt to hold her line in the off-road sections and see what makes her go so freaking fast!
Easier said than done, as it turns out, but it was a blast trying. The Rhonde de Rosey started at the Washington Square Tavern in Boston early Sunday morning, with discombobulated teams rolling in and signing waivers in an impressively relaxed manner as everyone attempted to make sure they had flat-fixing supplies, working Garmin GPS’s (the only way to follow the “course”) and plenty of food. It was 8 a.m., but already over 75 degrees, so it was going to be a long day.
Despite having spent most of the night picking gravel out of the road rash acquired during Battenkill, while alternately trying to eat pretty much anything I could get my hands on, I was psyched. Maybe part of that was from the ridiculous amounts of coffee I was drinking, but whatever the reason, I couldn’t wait to get going. This was going to be a fun day.
Famous last words. Our all-girl team started with two men’s teams and immediately, the goal became to hang on to them as long as possible, since we weren’t totally sure of the route for the first few miles. So much for a leisurely ride with the girls, we pace-lined down the streets of Boston and smashed into the first park and incredibly root-y, hill-y off-road section. I hadn’t realized Boston had any mountain biking, but was quickly dispelled of that notion as I found myself off and walking as Mo flew over some of the roots and rocks. Despite being nicknamed “Little Mo” for the day, I was feeling decidedly un-pro. Back on the road, more hammering, and then back into the woods. I hate to admit it, but when I heard the whoosh of air that comes from a flat tire emanate from one of my teammate’s bike, I breathed a sigh of relief. We were forced to let the other teams ride away as we changed the flat, which allowed us to start riding again at a slightly more tolerable pace for my burning legs.
And on, and on, and on. I love my teammates and am forever grateful that they put up with me, and I like to think that once I calmed down, I was a bit more competent on the off-road stuff. That said, when a certain team rode up and tried to pass us in one wooded section and one of them shouted something to the effect of, “Let off the brakes, Hurford!” on a descent (he meant to be encouraging, I think), I was maybe less than graceful.
We rolled back to the bar slightly worse for wear (OK, I was entirely worse for wear), and fell on veggie burgers and sweet potato fries, my weekend of ridiculous racing finally at an end.
I do love the race/non-race format: it brings out the competitive side in people while not detracting from the fun. There were no freak-out moments when teammates flatted, and though we were going hard, at no point did I feel like I wasn’t having fun. To that end, I’m already excited about “racing” at the Berkshire Cycling Classic on May 6th, since as a sportif event, it’s the same deal, a race/ride with plenty of good food and good people at the end of the 85 miles. I like events like these for the off-season: they’re great motivators, great base-mile-builders, and they’re a cool, non-serious way of testing your racing without the pressure (and nerves) associated with a normal race.
Of course, I’ve been doing “real” racing as well, from Battenkill on the road to Winding Trails on the mountain bike. And even though a lot of the stuff I’ve been doing has been unofficial (like the Rhonde), I’ve noticed that it tends to be those races that bring out the competitiveness in racers. I’m guilty of that as well, and in some ways, it’s almost more competitive than regular racing, on a mental and emotional level.
I meant to interview fellow cyclocrossers after the Rhonde. Really, I did. But after 130 miles of racing in one weekend, to say that I was exhausted would have been an understatement, and it’s a miracle they didn’t find me snuggled in some corner of the bar, taking a nap as the festivities raged on around me.
If you want to read more about my training, racing and editing exploits, check out mollyhurford.com.