Andy's making us nervous. "Hey guys, let's start out easy but we should be able to average 16-17 mph. Do you want to try these Hammer Anti-Fatigue Caps? What, you only want to average 15? You can do better than that. Just take it easy to the first rest stop then we'll pick up the pace..." Hey, Steve, Jim and I are out for a fun ride today. The sun is out, the temperature will rise from 62 to 82 during the day - it's a glorious day to ride with friends. We're not looking to push ourselves to the limit - this the first 100 miles ride any of us has done in years. Maybe Andy will pull us for the entire ride...
One hundred and fifty of us are lined up for a group photo under the JDRF banner behind the Sheraton in Burlington, Vermont, next to the University of Vermont campus. We're in the first of three self-seeded groups to leave at 7:00am. The police have blocked off the main drag to downtown Burlington so we can start our ride unimpeded on our 100 mile "Ride to Cure Diabetes".
The roads are damp from overnight rain, but the pavement is awesome as we mainly descend for the first 10 miles. The paced shoulder ranges from about 3 feet wide to about 14 feet. There's little traffic and there are a couple fast drops where we reached over 45 mph in a full tuck.
A lead group of about eight riders goes off the front, but we have a nice easy riding pack going. But no Andy. We drop back to another group of riders. No Andy. We drop further back. Looks like Andy needs more time to warm up.
It's worse: Andy's rear tire is soft. It's not flat, but it obviously has a leak. At 8 miles, we stop and pump it up. We originally had planned to skip the first food stop at 12 miles, but we'll stop to repair it while I recycle some of the coffee from breakfast.
We roll into the first stop to...cheering? Yes, the volunteers cheer every rider! "May I hold your bike for you? Would you like me to fill your water bottles?" Oh ya! There are more volunteers than bikers at this stop, and the pampering begins. The stop is full equipped, including a bike mechanic and Park repair stand. Andy buys a brand new tire ("I'm not taking any chances") and the bike mechanic replaces his old tire.
The next section of road is relatively flat. We plan to skip the second food stop, but I guess I drank way too much coffee this morning and force our group to stop. Much of the route has followed sections of the Champlain Bikeway, "...over 1,100 miles of breathtaking routes - through two states and two countries!" The roads are uniformly beautiful. We're doing an easy pace, everyone climbing the short hills in this section relatively easily, some of us hitting the downhills a bit harder than others, but we maintain a nice little group.
We have to do a short section on Highway 7. The police block the traffic as we turn right onto the 14-foot wide shoulder - we get to roll right through the stop sign. We roll off the highway onto the back roads with police again holding up traffic.
Vergennes, Vermont is the third stop, but we've been warned about the approach. "This is the steepest hill on the route. If it looks too steep for you, it's much better to get off your bike at the beginning than part way up. No one will care - you've each raised at least $2,000 for the fight against juvenile diabetes - you have nothing else to prove."
We start up a short hill, then turn left at an intersection - and the road gets steeper. A sharp curve to the right, and road gets REALLY STEEP (where's the tow rope???). A turn to the left and we roll over the top to wild cheers from the volunteers. Half a block later, we're at the food stop and volunteers swarm us as we hear cheers for other riders making the hill. We bask in the adoration.
The ride out of Vergennes started with a fast downhill. Once at the bottom, it was a mile-plus climb and the start of the hilly portion of the course. The long climb was moderate, with a few shorter steeper sections thrown in to keep everyone honest. I wished for a couple lower gears. The next 15 miles were up and down all the way into Middlebury, our half way point and fourth stop.
Each stop has three port-a-johns, bike mechanic, medical personal, masseuse, and a food tent with nuts, fruit, sandwiches, water, plus various gels and electrolyte drinks. I'm fully loaded with Hammer Nutrition HEED, Endurolytes, Hammer Gel, and Perpetuem Solids and simply fill up my water bottles.
It's an out and back course, so we hit the hills riding back to Vergennes. It also means we get to tuck the long downhill to town, and descend the really steep ascent at the food stop.
We pick up the pace the last quarter of the ride, regrouping at the foods stops. I take advantage of the masseuse at the next to last stop to get some of the knots out of my shoulders.
At the final stop before the finish, the volunteers (after cheering us in) hand out towels soaked in ice water. Aahhhhhhhh!
A large group reached the stop before us. One of the bikes has a solar powered speaker hooked up an iPod and the group rocks out of the food stop to the sound of the Rolling Stones. A few minutes later, we roll out, and push to catch them. It's great to roll behind a nice draft! We find out, however, that this group is going as fast as it's slowest rider, and the line slows to a crawl at the first steepish hill. We roll around and head on forward. It's very cool how the riders in the group support each other, but we're eager to get to the finish.
If you remember, we mainly descended out of Burlington. That means we're ending the ride with 10 miles of mostly climbing, and climbing some pretty steep and some pretty long hills. In fact, we pass a several riders walking up the harder hills, and a volunteer handing out water at the top of the steep "Irish Hill".
We have fun with the hills, keeping a steady but strong pace, with a short downhill to the finish banner.
A medal, volunteers with watermelon, a required check in with the medical tent, and it's time for a beer!
More about the ride
The 150 riders at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF) "Burlington Ride to Cure Diabetes" raised half a million dollars to fund research for better treatments and a cure for diabetes.
Ride related activities cover 3 nights and four days, starting with travel and a reception on Thursday, and ending with breakfast and travel on Sunday. We stayed at the Sheraton Inn in Burlington, a very nice hotel with indoor pool, fitness room, etc. only minutes away from downtown.
Most of your costs are covered by JDRF when you raise a certain amount of money (you MUST raise at least $2,000):
Three nights stay at host hotel for the event
I was totally surprised by the generosity of my donors, several of whom had family or friends with juvenile diabetes. I expected to struggle to make the $2,000 minimum, but ended up raising $5,445!
We're planning on doing it again next year. Want to join us? Contact Mike Muha or JDRF. Because it's an out-and-back course, you don't actually have to do a 100 mile ride - you can go as long or as short as you want. Although there were some tough hills, it was no where near as bad as I thought it would be. And the route is AWESOME!