The big race is over and I'm already trying to work out the logistics of going in 2011. I knew this would be a good trip, but it exceeded all expectations and having this much fun should be illegal. The riding was incredible, everything you could ask for; great weather, beautiful views along the course and a race atmosphere that was like a music festival for cycling. Off the bike was a nonstop good time in the surprisingly beautiful Saratoga Springs.
Lets start with the important things first:
Most Beer Consumed: Brian and I staked out an early lead in this one with first pints consumed within three minutes of departing the death plane (more on that later). Soon overtaken by the quartet of Phil, Greg, Sarah and Helen who were leading a brash charge to the line. Obviously taking the competition seriously, Phil sniffed out the only bar in the otherwise civilized town of Saratoga that resembled The Beach. Cheap beer served in plastic cups? Check. Smells like a urinal? Check. Full of underage drinkers? Check.
While the lead being generated was commanding, they may have proved themselves the hare, to Brian's tortoise, and while all counts are unofficial I have to conclude that Dr Drea's slow and steady won this one. (Editors note, I was running neck and neck with the man from Goslings right up until the fourth afternoon when I just had to pack it in. I simply could not compete.).
Song Permanently Etched Into My Memory: Chis Isaak's Wicked Game. The moment our plane came to a stop on the runway, we all heaved a sigh of relief that we weren't going to be the headline story on that evening's CNN and then over the speakers comes Isaak's song at exactly this moment. His slow drawl made the moment seem almost surreal.
In the 40 minutes leading up to that moment the Captain had informed us all that he couldn't get the wheels down, assume the brace position and the moment the plane comes to a halt jump out the emergency exits. It may have been more comforting if the stewardess on the intercom wasn't obviously distressed, her words stumbling out over the fear in her voice.
Amazingly, while within sight of the airport wheels went down, but when we landed we were surrounded by police and fire trucks - or as Liz noted, "there were a lot of fire trucks, and zero ambulances. They were expecting the worst."
Best Traumatic Situation Reckoning For a couple of hours afterwards we all excitedly exchanged stories of what was running through our minds. There was the utterly banal; the Colonel deciding it was as good a time as any to go to the bathroom. The expected; glad the Mrs. is safe at home, when was the last time I phoned my mother. To the brilliant; "I really need to branch out and drink more than just Pinot Noir, life's too short to just stick to Pinot." (Don't worry Mel, that zinger came after being glad that you weren't there).
Best Part of the Race: I'm usually the world's most conservative rider, more likely to get dropped on down hills and hairy corners than anywhere else. This race was the first time I can remember where I threw all caution to the wind. I had to, my own team mate was driving the pace so hard on a five mile downhill, winding dirt track section it was all I could do to hang on. Tires skidding around corners, bottles flying I remember thinking only two things: 1) if I crash right now I am so F@#$ed, 2) I am sprinting, down hill out of the saddle in a 52x12 and Brian is still pulling away. I'm glad I didn't have a computer on, seeing it inch north of seventy would have scared me to slow down.
Best Thing I Saw all Week: Possibly no one had a better time than Spike. Of all the Bermuda lot, he put in the best ride and progressed the most over the last four months from a religious adherence to the training schedule. To remember the event, he inked himself up with the race logo.
Now You're Looking PRO: After months of sitting on the fence Podge decided it was time to shave the legs. Phil's next.
Biggest Cheer: Bonnet came screaming into the bar after her race and the whole place just erupted. It's great to be part of a team, just for moments like these.
I don't think the bar quite knew what hit them. Our lot essentially commandeered the place, turning it's upscale dining room into a cycling frat house.
Best Restaurant: I went to MAX London's for breakfast, lunch and dinner one day. The coffee and pastries were perfect, the lunch and dinner just what I wanted. My idea of heaven is to ride after a quick breakfast and then have a great lunch. I did that here for two days.
Worst Omission of Guilt: Brian manages to befriend the only Frenchman in the race who follows us to the bar. They're instant friends, jabbering away in French. The guy seems all right, but I'm talking to Phil and Greg so I'm ignoring him. I get up and go to the bathroom, and when I come back fingers are pointed and accusations are hurled, 'It was him, that guy right there who kept messing up the pace line.' I turn around looking for the person who must be standing behind me. No one there, then Brian jumps on the train, 'yeah, he never does any work.' This goes on for five minutes, I'm the reason the break got away, this guy was thinking of riding me into the gutter etc. Helen is thinking of taking this outside, restoring Madison dignity with some fisticuffs. I start believing him, apologizing for my sins, but he won't accept my apology.
In the van on the way back, out of no where, Greg pipes up, "Adam, you know that French guy in the bar? He was confusing you for me. But I thought you could handle the abuse." Thanks, Greg.
Local Brew Endorsement: The pleasant surprise of Saratoga was the choice of locally brewed beers. Coming from Bermuda where every bars stocks the same five, it was great have a new world of opportunities at every restaurant. I tasted a lot, but not all, and the winner for me was a Belgian style white beer called Blue Moon. Refreshing and light, this stuff should be served in every bar in Bermuda as it's perfect for warm summer days.
Best One Liner: Chelsea rolls into our finishing area and complains that he was right up there until he dropped his chain. Twice. In brilliant deadpan delivery, Greg, "You should take it down to Winner's Edge, they do good work there." One of many from the Irishman, but that one stole the show.
Best Bottle of Wine: By unanimous consent, David Bruce Pinot Noir. Apparently it's also the last one I'll enjoy until next year as it's not exported.
Competition was stiff:
What It's all about: As fun as the race was and as good as the food was, for me the best part was the ride on Sunday morning. So much of the riding I do here is mapped out months in advance. Intervals planned and executed mostly in the dark make you fast, but they never leave you thinking, 'this feeling is the reason I started cycling in the first place.' Instead, on this morning, we got wonderfully lost, taking turns when it felt right, riding roads whose names we didn't know and would never ride again. Descents were electrifying because you never knew what was around the next corner. We rode past mansions and then past wood oven burning shacks. It was zen for a mind that it is normally so busy with the demands of work and home. A state of mind that rationalizes the more lost you get the better the experience will be.
Some parting shots of that ride: