Gran Fondo NYC 2012

So, I’m still fat, still slow, and, relative to most folks who’ll set out to ride 110 miles in a day, out of shape. But, I’ve got a couple of great riding friends, Steve and Tracy, both of whom are disciplined and freaks of nature who wanted to give the Gran Fondo NYC a try this spring. Figured there’s worse things to do than to spend a spring weekend in NYC, and a spring day on the bike.

Plus, you never know who you’re going to run into in NYC. Not sure if the D-O-Double G has moved north, or if this was CSIS:

GFNYC 2012 - Snoop

Course is good – 110 miles, 4 timed climbs, one Cat 1 climb, four Cat 3’s, 12 Cat 5’s. Traffic management is pretty much awesome while the route’s open, rest stops were good, and, as far as epic rides go, this fits pretty well. The Hudson Valley is georgous.”

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Start was at the George Washington Bridge, 7AM sharp. With the caveat that there was a staging area that closed at 6:15. We stayed on the Lower East Side, 11 miles from the start, so were on the road about 5 freaking AM, riding up Broadway. This may have been my favorite part of the ride – every corner, there were more riders joining us as we headed towards the start. Nice, relaxed pace. Pretty organized getting onto the bridge for the actual start. Kind of freaky hanging up in mid-air over the Hudson. Steve and Tracy are the skinny guys. For the record, I did pee off the bridge.

GFNYC 2012

GFNYC 2012

Pretty much by design, this was the last time I saw Steve and Tracy – they were much fitter, and I knew I was going to be slogging over the course. Not often I get to spend a day alone with my thoughts. So, I clicked it into cruising mode, as the climbs were the only timed part of the course. Until about an hour into the ride, when I felt my pedal tug back, then start spinning, and – another cycling first, the popped chain!

GFNYC 2012 - broken chain

And, for the rest of the day, I was kind of in catch-up mode. Had to wait about 45 minutes for a SAG, then a ride about a mile up the course to someone with a chain tool and a pin. I was carrying Two spare tubes, CO2, hex wrenches, a couple of zip ties, but had never popped a chain before, so wasn’t prepared for this. Last time I buy a Shimano chain (replaced it this winter) – the link that busted was where the broken pin went in, so it’s possibly mechanic (me) error on the installation. But why fool with breaking pins when SRAM or Wipperman or a couple others have groovy sliding links that avoid these troubles?

The ride was georgous, I was fat and slow. Felt pretty good heading up Bear Mountain, the biggest climb of the day, but when I got to the third and final climbs, I was popped. Part of it was poor training, for which I was compensating by soft pedaling along most of the flat portions of the course, part of it was the heat – I think the temperature topped out about 85 degrees, and don’t think I’d finished a training ride over 60 degrees all year. Climbing in the shade was pretty OK, climbing in the sun just killed me.

In the end, I met my goal of finishing an epic for the first time since I rode the Houston-Austin MS150 in 2002. It wasn’t pretty, but I did get to spend the whole day on the bike, covered 123 miles between the 110 miles of the Fondo, the 11 miles to get to the start, and the 2 miles across Manhattan to get back to the hotel. All in all, a good day on the bike.

GFNYC 2012 Finished

The good:

  • Course support was awesome – cops at almost every turn, much of the course was closed to traffic, great rest stops spaced about 10 miles apart
  • The day was awesome. Gripe about being hot aside, there was little wind, lots of sun, and pretty good roads
  • Ride up the Hudson River Road may be the prettiest road I’ve ridden in a while, and I live in coastal Connecticut
  • The Meh:

  • Lines at the rest stops – the volunteers rocked, but the logistics of distributing water and sports drink to 8K people hadn’t been well thought through. There were huge water bowsers at all the rest stops, and huge lines as there was a single (massive) tap off of each.
  • The GFNYC Jersey. It’s a very nice jersey; however, with every freaking rider wearing the same thing, as soon as you separated from your riding partners, every freaking rider looked identical. Made it tough to regroup
  • No beer at the finish.
  • The Ugly:

  • The last 5 miles of the ride were on an open New Jersey 5 lane (two traffic lanes each way and a suicide lane in the middle) that was backed up due to the traffic control at the ride finish. Most of the trouble was due to idiot cyclists who had been riding closed roads all day weaving in and out of the traffic and running lights instead of being vehicular cyclists
  • Would I ride it again? Probably not – too early in the season, pretty expensive (register today for next year and it’s ONLY $220), and involves a weekend in NYC that doesn’t involve museums and fine dining. But, like running the NYC marathon, I’m thrilled that I did it.