A single day can feel like a month. Processing a massive ride afterwards is like staring at a Salvador Dali painting. Fifty miles dissolves into a blurry moment.
Turns out it took a village to bring such a stupid idea to fruition. This may sound trite, but riding this thing proved not much harder than supporting it I realize dozens of people spent Sunday morning looking at trashed cars, wet towels, overflowing recycling bins, slightly lighter checking accounts, burned skin, wet clothing that may not belong to them, and coolers that reek of rotting food.
And some husbands are struggling to explain how the women’s knee high stockings got into their baggage. (See below.)
This idea bloomed just four weeks prior. Without any other events on our calendars and our restrictions lifted to allow modest outdoor gatherings, I posed the idea of crossing Massachusetts by bike in a single day. Seemed simple enough, eh?
I invited some of our Domestiques, those pink jersey riders who make the Best Buddies Challenge the safest, smoothest and most enjoyable ride on the planet, to join me. Surprisingly a few of them said yes. The Best Riders Do Best Buddies.
Below is the ride report with some pretty geek-worthy numbers that even blew me away.
So here are those numbers, some for just myself and some for the entire team of six riders who did the entire route. For folks unfamiliar with Strava a “segment” is a section of any route that is monitored by GPS. A “KOM/QOM” (King of the Mountain/Queen of the Mountain) is the fastest time ever recorded a segment. A “Trophy” is given for setting one of the 10 fastest times ever.
Miles Ridden: 255
Avg. Moving Speed: 19 mph
Max Speed: 48 mph
Calories Burned: 7,563
Strava Relative Effort: 2,948
My Strava Trophies: 6
Team Strava Trophies: 134
Team Strava KOM/QOMs: 33
Caitlin Braun’s Strava QOMs: 31
My Trainingpeaks TSS Score: 753
My Normalized Average Power: 190
Estimated Water Consumption: 2.5 gallons/rider
My Punctures: 1
Team Mechanicals: 6
Funds Raised to Date: $7,000
Team Wyatt Fund Raising Rank: 15
Expenses Incurred by Best Buddies International: $0
HOW IT WENT DOWN
With the cancellation of nearly every event, Best Buddies is struggling to survive. I needed to do something. As at Dunkirk, survival for this important charity may mean a reliance on many people doing a lot of small things in small boats. In short, if it floats get on it.
With all events cancelled and social distancing guidelines limiting numbers to fewer than 25 for outdoor activities, I simply looked for a goal. As I fancy becoming more of an adventure racer/rider, I sought something big. The longest I had ridden in a day had been 240 miles. But that had been 25 years ago.
While many beginner cyclists in New England will set a goal of riding a charity event that finishes on Cape Cod, I wanted to light a beacon of intent to serve not just for myself but the dozens of Best Buddies supporters whom I guide through their first few events. So I chose to ride from Pittsfield to Provincetown in a single day. I then put out an invite to the Domestiques, those carefully selected veteran riders who nurture Best Buddies riders from start to finish.
Although Best Buddies had to lay me off, I retained the charge as the leader of the Domestique program, of which I am proud.
Having witnessed how these guys ride I’m a lot prouder today.
But even the sturdiest of riders took pause to reflect on such an undertaking….The route would be about 250 miles with 10,000 feet of climbing and a two- to three-day commitment that required coordination of transportation, food, logistics, etc.
Needless to say the response proved, well, tepid. But one guy, Michael Serpa, a restaurateur focused on riding the 2023 Paris-Brest-Paris brevet signed on and required zero support. He booked the room, made all his arrangements, and committed.
He Just Did It.
His only comment? “Why don’t we just go from the state line. I mean, what the hell, it’s right there.”
Like d’uh. So we mapped it from there.
The next big push of support came NOT from a rider but a driver. Eric Carlson, a popular Best Buddies Domestique, could not ride given his fitness but pledged his car and services. With just that, I posted the mission and proposed map on Facebook and started to train, ramping up my mileage and intensity, labeling my Strava files as a countdown to “P2P4BB.”
Thereafter Caitlin Braun, a world class triathlete and MIT grad student (I know, if she weren’t so nice I’d hate her) not only agreed to do it, but also took the reins of coordinating all the info. Again, she managed all of her own logistics with her dad’s help and zero whining. Her support proved vital.
We got some buzz and even more support. Several friends contributed local knowledge to the route development. This included the best possible involvement: Shaun and Alissa Weigand of Pittsfield, two international caliber USA Cycling officials.
Out of nowhere a note emerged from Team Fatima Best Buddies rider Pat McIntyre offering to drive me and my bike to Pittsfield This would prove mission critical.
Other riders came on, dropped off, wavered, returned … it’s kind of a big commitment. And then a few jumped in at the last minute just like Michael had done: they simply committed without asking for anything.
No celebrities. No sponsors. No mayors. No cops. Just six bad-ass riders on a smack-down mission.
The list settled by Thursday, July 16. There would be six “long range bombers” making the entire journey from the state line at Canaan, NY, to Provincetown, MA. Six is a lean but efficient number. To lose a single rider to a mechanical or a crash would be like an engine losing a cylinder. Most arrived Friday night. As the sun set over the Berkshires, we gathered for Mexican food at the sidewalk seating offered by Pancho’s and reviewed some details. And get this: Eric Carlson picked up the tab!
Then off to bed for a 3:15 crew call and 4:00 ETD.
The riders would include:
MASSIMILIANO “MASSI” ACCAPUTO, Connecticut
CHRIS BRITS, Connecticut
CAITLIN BRAUN, Ohio (by way of Cambridge)
MICHAEL SERPA, Boston
BART LIPINSKI, Kingston
RICHARD FRIES, Lexington
While much would be written and celebrated about the riders, the secret sauce would be in the composition of the caravan. Shaun Weigand has driven moto at the UCI Road World Championships. Equipped with a BMW festooned with all sorts of officialdom, he rode point, ahead of the riders, to guide us through intersections in a courteous fashion.
Behind the riders drove Carlson with his daughter, Leah, herself an accomplished junior racer, working the coolers and boxes and bags. Clothing, bottles, food, batteries and even those knee high stockings filled with crushed ice were handed up on the fly as needed by the riders.
Carlson not only has superb driving skills around packs of riders, he’s a journeyman mechanic able to fix things. And he understands the job at hand with an even and cheerful temperament. He knows when to insert himself and when to stay the hell out of the way.
After a few miles in support behind the riders—which proved vital—Alissa pressed forward to provide route recon back to her husband on the moto. The riders then knew the presence of every hazard, construction zone, clean toilet, detour and traffic jam that lay ahead. Then she would get to each of the three assigned aid stations in advance to set the food, water, supplies, tables and chairs arranged in a shady location.
And this ballet depended heavily on Bill Braun, Pam and Chris Miller, John and Michelle Mosher and Mary Ellen McIntyre. Having been well-hydrated on the fly, riders did not need the rest stops for eating and drinking and high-fiving like beer riders. Every person went to their chair like a boxer goes to a corner: changing clothes, reapplying assorted creams and ointments, and downing whatever analgesics, anti-inflammatories, and supplements to ward off the painful demons associated with a 13+ hour bike ride. The biggest contribution of the caravan would be the clean up of these stations as riders would need to dismount, take care of themselves, remount and roll. Without the caravan these riders would be finishing well after dark.
With little sleep we made the pre-dawn transfer from Pittsfield to the state line in Canaan, NY. These riders and drivers knew the drill. Little fanfare was required. This writer, however, managed to forget to bring up the course that he designed! Fortunately others had it on their computers.
We set off in temperatures of 54 degrees beneath a pudding-bowl moon. With my Garmin set to my customized “Explore” mode I did not show heart rate, power or cadence. The lone performance metric would be my percentage of functional threshold power.
After rolling through Pittsfield we set up to scale the Berkshires. With just six riders we rode from the start with the efficiency of a breakaway. Immediately, Bart “Bartacus” Lipinski put his business card on the table. The first climb would be about a steady five-mile, step affair. Early on I saw my power at 150 percent. We were rolling uphill at 18 mph! But I felt fine and all were able to climb together comfortably. We crested the high point of the ride, about 2100 feet, near Peru roughly 45 minutes ahead of schedule.
Bartacus also noted his Garmin’s inventory listed 12 sizable climbs. He would count them down for us during the day.
In Peru we started to roll downhill only to encounter a road completely stripped down to the gravel bed awaiting fresh pavement. With all of us aboard road bikes we faced about a three mile loose gravel descent. Brits, a native of South Africa, went first and fast and I followed. Braun went rigid and cautious.
A half mile in the gravel sliced open Brits’ tire. Our mechanical protocol called for the ride to roll on with Carlson making the repairs. I kept rolling. Near the bottom my rear tire went flat. Alissa arrived and I made the repair given the complexity of the problem uphill. We rolled forward, but without Brits or the car we stalled … losing precious time. Braun wisely rolled ahead solo and slow.
Finally Brits arrived. We started back up and encountered the second climb, gathered up Braun, and pressed ahead steadily to a ridge that looked out over a spectacular carpet of fog beneath us punctuated by the peaks of the Berkshires. And then we descended into that wet mist at 48+ mph, our teeth chattering and hands shivering.
When Serpa’s chain dropped and jammed, we had a third mechanical but Carlson turned around the repair—a reset of a Shimano Di2 derailleur—promptly.
After a few more climbs and descents we reached the Norwottuck Trail and the first rest stop 90 minutes ahead of schedule. There we were greeted by Kim and Matt Kisiel. Kim’s completed several Best Buddies Challenge rides and her brother, Matt, a Best Buddies participant, has dominated the Friendship Criterium for several years, including a stint as stoker behind Olympian Carl Lewis as pilot on a tandem. I adore them both.
Joined there by long time Best Buddies Domestique and course coordinator Paul Curley, also a winner of more than 30 national championships, we rolled. Just south of the Quabbin Reservoir we gathered up Chris DeHahn, who has been involved in New England cycling as both a racer and official for more than 30 years. We were hitting the pace exceedingly hard right then. I have to compliment Chris. He dug in and held on employing every racing tactic he had to survive some of the fastest riding of the entire day before turning back home.
We reached Webster two hours ahead of schedule, having checked off six of the major climbs on the Bartacus inventory. This early arrival denied us the support of several who planned to join the ride to keep us fresh. After another perfect transition due to the support team, we were back up and rolling within 20 minutes.
But then we faced the 90:90 challenge: riding 90 miles in 90 degree temps to reach Sandwich. Here, we pressed a very hard pace, punctuated only by a single stop after being alerted to a clean portable toilet. We reached the Blackstone River Bike Path and enjoyed the cool shade and soft pace before grinding through Pawtucket’s industrial grit.
Back in Massachusetts, we were joined by the son of Bartacus, Jaymz Lipinksi. A member of the junior national team, Jaymz gave us some fresh legs on the front (although at times they were TOO fresh!).
Amid this heat, Leah continually handed up water, ice stockings, water, food, water, and cold little cans of Pepsi as we rolled at speed. Bartacus’ hill count clicked down. A minor tire problem, our fifth mechanical, turned into a hydration stop before we hit back out. Scanning the horizon for any sign of the Bourne Bridge, I noted the computer turned over 300 km. We were rolling smooth as we approached the 200-mile mark in our legs.
The auto traffic thickened behind us and we could feel the impatience of drivers who charged past us. And then the traffic jammed up our own caravan and we went into suburban rush hour mode ripping up the right shoulder, passing all of those same impatient motorists.
Like distant thunder, my right leg gave indication of a coming electrical storm. I suffered a brief cramping episode on one of the final climbs we checked off but I pushed through with a nudge from Accaputo and a push from Caitlin (to all those Best Buddies riders whom I’ve pushed over the years, know that I too need a shove now and again!). But on the Bourne Bridge lightning struck. I ate what I had, drank the last of my water, and turned the cranks as if they were made of crystal. On the descent off the bridge the cramp cleared. We reached the final rest stop but the follow car with critical supplies remained stalled in traffic.
But the rest stop had been set up perfectly with water, food and chairs. We were greeted there by Pam and Chris Miller of Best Buddies and John Mosher, a regional badass master racer. Mosher had pickles, fruit and M&Ms and just a general sense of our need for service. And we were greeted by Pat McIntyre, his wife, Mary Ellen McIntyre, and David Fitzgibbons. Pat and Dave were kitted up to ride the final 50 miles to P-town.
The car showed up. The final prep began. Shaun and Alissa then returned home. They had originally offered to support us to Webster only to continue on to Sandwich, which we found vital. Mary Ellen, John Mosher and the Millers would become our second support staff.
Refreshed by this support, we rolled. The speed went right up to 22+ and cruised up Route 6A at steady speed. As traffic gummed up in both directions we found Andrew Maker, who lives in Barnstable, on the road ready to take some pulls. Then we suffered yet another tire problem; the group rolled and Jaymz and Bart Lipinski stopped with Serpa hanging back to assist the pursuit. We stayed in Barnstable for a few minutes. They surged back to the group and we rolled to the head of the rail trail, took bottles, and then hit out for the final push. In the cool canopy of the path we cruised through wetlands and forests as if we were on a Tuesday night commute, full of chatter and cheer with no indication we had 230 miles in our legs. The Millers had set up a mini stop for us with John’s wife, Michelle Mosher, joining. We rolled.
At the end of the path Carlson had some more bottles. There we encountered Billy Starr, founder of the Pan Mass Challenge, having just completed his own ride to celebrate the PMC “Re-imagined,” who gave us his compliments. The PMC is an important charity ride that gets thousands of beginners into cycling.
Upon reaching Route 6 the group surged and lightning struck in my right leg again. I waved Eric by but he insisted on sticking with me. After taking a banana and some water, I found my legs again in about two minutes. Then I dropped in behind Eric’s car. Sticking to the bumper he drew me up to about 28 mph and closed in on the leaders. I drew close and jumped across the final gap; but just as I drew up to the back, the group fractured and shed two riders, whom I passed, but was unable to go with the new surge. Fortunately the group shut down the pace for a left turn.
We re-gathered and rolled some dune roads with spectacular descents and punchy climbs. I took a few nudges again from Accaputo. After a brief return to Route 6 we then turned left towards P-town with a stiff tailwind and roared towards the town line at 26+ mph, gleeful to find such speed after 245 miles. The junior took the town line but this Corps of Discovery rolled into Commercial Street’s bounty of humanity, not one of which understood the full depth of our journey. We simply glowed as we reached Town Hall, the marker of any cycling record, at 8 p.m. well before the sun set in the west, from where we had ridden, over Cape Cod Bay
Thanks to these amazing volunteers and sterling riders, we had not only managed to survive this ride but also posted an average speed of 19+ mph.
Thanks for reading. And special thanks to these fantastic humans:
The financial support proved phenomenal. Team Wyatt and the Domestiques have drawn support from our racing buddies, our hometown high school friends, our logistics partners, our family members and even Team Ineos pro and Kona legend Cam Wurf. A full roster of donors is on the Team Wyatt page. The donations ranged from $5 to $1,000. Donations are still coming in and dearly appreciated. To see who gave or make a donation yourself, click here.
Others gave in ways hard to measure but so critical to the success of the foolish endeavor. The boots on the ground included: Pat McIntyre, Mary Ellen McIntyre, Michelle Mosher, John Mosher, Bill Braun, Pam Miller and Chris Miller provided superb support.
The rolling expertise made us feel like we were in a Tour de France breakaway. The drivers included Eric Carlson, Leah Carlson, Shaun Weigand and Alissa Weigand.
The ROUTE DEVELOPERS
Thanks to these guides we had amazing local knowledge for our routes: Shaun Weigand, Sean Condon, Mark Gunsalus, Steve Segenchuck, John Rohland, Bart Lipinski and Andrew Maker.
In order of appearance: Bart Lipinski, Massimiliano Accaputo, Chris Brits, Michael Sherpa, Caitlin Braun, Paul Curley, Chris DeHahn, Jaymz Lipinski, Patrick McIntyre, David Fitzgibbons and Andrew Maker.
The MEDIA TEAM
Without turning a pedal three folks collaborated to push out the news of this event, both informational and inspirational. Our gratitude goes to Leah Carlson, Ben Giust and Eddie Medina.
I derived considerable inspiration for this endeavor from a number of people. Those include: Ted King, John Rohland, Lori Cooke, Dan Manning and Michael Serpa. But central to this all were Robby Ketchell, Marya Ketchell and most of all Wyatt Ketchell, the toughest two year old we know, and who has so much to teach us all.
Long time fan of Richard, and I am not surprised to see him put himself out there for charity.
Decades ago, I was treasurer of NEMBA, a local mtb advocacy group and Richard was running The Ride, a local bike advocacy magazine. Every once in awhile, I would get a check from The Ride for some oddball amount and have no idea the origin of said check. What happened was that The Ride was at some event – mtb race, cross race, mtb festival, whatever – and he would organize some type of fundraising effort for bike advocacy. This may have involved a pancake breakfast, a raffle, or – well, I really don’t know. All I know is that I got a check from a guy selflessly working his butt off for bike advocacy. And he’s still doing it.
Thanks Richard, that’s a fantastic story.