The last time I blogged I was patting myself on the back for submitting to the reality of hypoxia, infirmity, bad form, and the daunting nature of a 102-mile slugfest at 8,000 feet as I made the brave decision to do the shortest ride on the menu.
This time I would pat myself even harder but I’m too oxygen-deprived to reach around.
Saturday morning I got up and went down to the start of the gran fondo. More than a thousand riders were queued up and they rolled out at 7:00 AM, pointy-sharp. Some of them I saw a mere 4.5 hours later as I was finishing my own baby kitten 4055 mile ride. But the great, overwhelming, vast majority of those faces I never saw again.
This is because seven, eight, nine or more hours is how long it took most to complete this beast, by which time I was well into my fifth bottle of Pelligrino and even deeper into my third nap.
Running with the baby kittens
The reduced-calorie, low-fat, baby kitten sub-fondo of 4055 miles started at the same time as the 75-mile ride. I was at the very back of more than five hundred people, and we started at 8:30.
Whereas the tension at the full fondo start was so thick you could cause angsty Old Masters Bicycle Racers to fall over by saying “Boo!” the baby kitten fondo had all the tension of a joke from Reader’s Digest.
Compare and contrast:
- Full fondue: Rictuses galore
- Baby kitten fondo: Smiles galore
- Full fondue: Stravver, Wahoo, timing chip, Garmin, Deep Blue data
- Baby kitten fondo: Let me push the stopwatch function on my Timex. Okay, go!
- Full fondue: Hell on a brass rivet
- Baby kitten fondo: Two fully-stocked sag stations on a 40-mile course. With bacon.
Naturally, the baby kitten fondo had a down side, which was having all of the full fondo people sniff in disgust when you said you weren’t doing the big ride, but that all got paid back in spades when you wandered in a couple of hours later to no buffet line, full servings of everything, plenty of seating, and a noontime nap.
Dad’s in charge
The only real problem of the 40-mile baby kitten fondo happened when I turned right instead of going straight, taking my companions on a 15-mile detour.
“Are you sure this is the right way, Dad?”
“But isn’t that Mammoth over there?”
“This road will take us there.”
“But it’s going the opposite direction in a straight line as far as the eye can see.”
“Look, kid, this is your first fondo, right? Just follow Dad. Plus, it’s a whipping tailwind and crazy fun downhill!”
Eventually I noticed that all of the riders we were passing had green number plates, whereas we baby kitten fondo-ers had blue number plates. So we slowed down and asked some dude, “Hey, is this the 40-mile route?”
“No, it’s the 75-mile route.”
“Where’s the 40-mile route?”
“About eight miles back that way.”
“Into that headwind and up those mountains?”
“That’d be the one.”
With the additional fifteen miles we ended up with a 55-mile ride instead of a 40-mile ride, but the timing chip in our number didn’t give me a lick of extra credit for being a bonehead.
The best fondo ever
Despite the ignominy of having done a 4055-mile baby kitten fondo at just under 11.9 mph, nothing could erase the joy of getting passed by the leaders of the big fondue, who knocked out 102 miles in under 4.5 hours. Rudy Napolitano got second, coming in behind Brandon Baker, twenty years his junior.
The main chase pack blew by us as well, 23 riders with salt on their jerseys and pain on their faces as they jostled for position with ten miles to go. Greg Leibert, James Cowan, and several of the usual suspects made up the group as they waited to pounce on each other at the bottom of the 4-mile climb leading up to the finish.
We baby kittens were only waiting to pounce on the pulled pork.
And nothing was as cool as crossing the finish line mostly un-tired, ambling over to the food line, and critically gazing at the stained faces of the riders who had wrung every last watt out of their legs to do the entire behemoth in five hours and less. After taking in the wreckage, we walked back to our bikes, where a complimentary donut tent had been erected by the Westin Hotel.
“How about a donut?” the nice person asked.
“Why, thank you. Don’t mind if I do.” I plucked out a chocolate-glazed donut dusted with sprinkles, and chewed it lovingly as more broken riders trickled in. I licked the frosting off my fingers. “May I have another?” I asked as a warrior practically fell off his bike, staggered to the grass, and collapsed.
“By all means!” said the nice person.
So I did.
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