After placing my sleeping bag in the Nest, I walk out onto our porch with a pizza sub that I bought from the Duchess Convenience Mart. I gaze across the algae-puddle in front of the cabin. A rusty pipe that's supposed to be a fountain spurts sadly in the middle of the pond. There's a port-potty behind the cabin. This is a good spot. I take a bite of pepperoni and bread. We change into riding clothes and head out to do a quick 12 mile warm up.
We follow Rob on the way up the first switchbacks. The trails are perfect. They're dry, fast, and smooth. Last year at this time we were riding through the rain, wondering how muddy it would be on race day (the answer was very.) At the six mile mark we turn around and ride back. I get out front.
I hear yelling from behind me. "Dahn Pahers! Pahrs Pahrs Pahrs!" (like a pikachu, Don Powers can only communicate by shouting his own name.) Aaron rolls up next to Don to translate. "You took the wrong turn. We didn't go this way," he says.
"What are you talking about?" I say.
"This is wrong," Aaron says.
"Dahn Pahrs!" Don Powers says.
I'm confused by all the yelling, but I keep heading down the trail. It turns out to be the right way. As I'm feeling smug and directionally gifted, I rip around a tight corner. Without warning, both my tires let go. My bike slides into the woods and I skid down the trail on my right hip. I roll over and groan. I ripped a hole in my shorts. I pick my stuff up and start riding again.
Down the last hill. I'm going way too fast again. I duck around a low hanging branch, make a quick right, and bam. I'm detached from my bike, flying forward over the bars. "Fuck me!" I yell from the sky. I hit the dirt in a heap and tumble into the woods. I look back up the trail at the little stump that's hanging out. I slammed into it with a pedal. Rob looks down at me rolling around in the leaves, "Well, I don't think we'll have to worry about Montana tomorrow," he says.
My elbow skin is scraped. I pick up my bike and spin the front wheel. It's way bent. Dammit. The other three go check out the new trail to the finish line. I ride back to the cabin and start turning spokes to get my wheel back in line. That was so stupid. I have to ride a hundred miles on this wheel tomorrow morning, and I just crashed the shit out of it.
Brad the Birdman pulls his wife's Subaru into the gravel. A few minutes later Tim De La Garcon dismounts his carbon super bike and swaggers up to the cabin. Now everybody is here.
"Lets go find some good meats," I say. Hungry for a t-bone, De La Garcon agrees.
"There's a good tavern in town, but I can't remember its name," he says.
We drive to Loudenville and walk the two-block-long main drag.
"Is that the one Tim? The Mohican Tavern? You couldn't remember Mohican? You know, that Native American sounding word, the one that might have something to do with that race we're doing tomorrow?" the Birdman says. Tim pushes him and scampers out into the road in front of a pick-up truck.
The tavern is dimly lit and taverney. I order a blue cheese burger twice, from two separate waitresses, but am only brought one burger. I am glad. We discuss long bike races. Tim leaves the table to talk to some girl. We leave him at the bar with her and walk down to the gas station. Four Lokos are purchased.
Phones start buzzing and ringing and singing at 5:30 in the morning. I roll over on the plastic mattress.
"I didn't sleep at all," Don Powers groans. I'm stunned that he can speak without shouting his name. The others agree to general discomfort over the night. I slept better than I had in weeks. While the crappy mattresses were crappy to all those house folk, they were a few steps up from my thermarest in Ohiopyle. That's a win for tent dwellers.
The start is at 8:00 am in Loudenville. Everybody heads out at 7:35, but I'm not even close to ready to go. By the time I re-set my front brake, make a peanut butter sandwich, check my tire pressure, grab my food, and use the port-a-potty (not the one behind our cabin, some asshole pooped on the seat of that one,) it's 7:50. I sprint into town and sneak into the front line on the sidewalk. There's a $200 prize for reaching the city limits again this year. I stupidly think I have a chance at it.
The siren blasts. We start spinning. I take the lead, but slow down a little. I don't want to blow up. The preme is at the top of a huge hill. Still going to fast. We hit the hill, and the geared riders start whizzing by. No chance at it. I slow down, but it's too late. I already dug a little hole for myself by sprinting. JPok, Matt Ferrari, The Pflug, and Little Dylan Johnson pass me as we turn onto a gravel road. The air is thick with the fragrance of cow dung.
We dive into the first single track. I make some quick passes. The Pflug is only a few places ahead. That's perfect. My plan is to stay with him until I detonate. Hopefully there won't be too many miles left when I blow and I'll be able to score a decent finish.
We ride into the Mohican State Forest loop and I jump right onto the Pflug's wheel. He's holding a nice steady pace. Nothing too serious, but we're still passing a groups of geared guys. There's almost no traffic up here. It's great.
20 miles of beautiful flowing trails and little dust plumes. We roll through the first aid without stopping. I haven't seen the Pflug drink water yet. I look behind me. Little Dylan is sticking on my wheel like a leech on flypaper.
We leave the state forest and hike up a loose rocky climb. "So are just JPok and Ferrari ahead of us?" I ask the Pflug.
"Just JPok. Ferrari flatted," he says.
I see JPok in his yellow argyle jersey at the top of the hill. We ride through some pine trees and onto a gravel road. I look behind. Little Dylan is falling off as we pull down the road. In a few minutes we catch up to the group with JPok, Ernesto, and some other dudes. Guys start making little attacks to get into the Aid Station 2 first.
The Pflug rides in first, grabs a bottle, and sneaks away from JPok and I. I'm the last of the three to leave. As soon as I have JPok in sight I hear a snap. He jumps off his bike and starts working on his chain. I pass him and duck behind Ernesto as we pull across a long windy section of road.
Meanwhile, somewhere behind me, Don Powers is heaving like a wounded rhinoceros and spraying the vegetation with a lethal stream of Dr. Peppery vomit.
To be continued tomorrow. (Bumper cars included)