My best ride

My name is Kevin, and I am a cyclist...

  • Kevin
    Kevin and his buddy tackled the Granfondo Niagara faster than expected

My best ride and a new love affair

My name is Kevin, and I am a cyclist.

Well, I like to say that when I am not working at my full time job in New York City, or when anyone asks me what I am doing for the upcoming weekend. I sort of grew up on a bike. I owned a Shogun Selectra that was hot pink (thanks to the 1980s and the neon-everything style) and rode all over Long Island where I grew up. For almost 6 years while I was in my mid-twenties, I didn’t ride at all. I traded my road bike for a more conventional “hybrid” bike so I could ride the local trails in my neighborhood. Several months after purchasing the bike I brought it back to the store for a tune-up (cables, adjustments, etc.) and unfortunately it was stolen from the bike shop. The store owner was very apologetic and gave me full credit, and a good deal on the previous year’s Specialized Tarmac. Now owning a real road bike, I started riding more and more over the next 3 years loving the feeling of being on the bike.

Last year I rode my first century ride and felt very proud of myself for the accomplishment. But like all things, accomplishments are meant to be built upon. It wasn’t long before I decided to enter in to my first Gran Fondo put on by Bicycling Magazine. It was very cold, a little damp and the hardest ride I have ever done. After 9 hours, I rolled over the finish line just as they were closing down the event and packing up. I felt discouraged that I finished last and vowed to train harder.

This year I rode in the Harpoon B2B from Boston, MA to Windsor, VT. I also completed the Montauk ride from Manhattan over 150 miles in a single day and completed the New York Gran Fondo. I finally felt that all of the training over the cold winter months had paid off. My training rides were faster and covered more hills, and I felt that I had become a serious cyclist.

As a reward to myself, I registered for the Niagara Gran Fondo. I figured it would be my first official event outside of my home country, and quite the treat to see Niagara Falls and ride on the roads there. From the moment I registered until the morning of the event, I could hardly think of anything else. I spent hours poring over the course. I examined and scrutinized the hills and how far apart the rest stops would be. I researched weather data for that time of the year in Niagara Falls, and I spent every weekend training.

Finally, after months of preparation, I felt ready. I drove up there, knowing that Cervélo would be at the expo, and I considered taking one of the bikes for a demo ride on the Gran Fondo. Over the eight hour drive, I convinced myself it was a good idea.

At the expo, I talked to the Cervélo staff, and they were friendly, helpful and courteous. They told me that they happened to have one S5 left in just my size. I took that as a good omen and signed up. I was nervous about the bike. This S5 was far superior to my bike, and I had never ridden an aero bike before. I thought it might be uncomfortable and I would regret this decision by the end of the 125KM ride. I had spent over $125 and several hours to have my bike fitted, and now this S5 was all new.

The morning of the Gran Fondo was very chilly (only 45 degrees F) but the forecast called for a warm sunny day. I was nervous about the ride, about the bike and about doing well. Once we started going in the dawn twilight, my fears began to dissipate.

My buddy and I self-seeded in the 5+ hour start corral, figuring that we would finish in about 5.5 hours with rest stops. We weren’t trying to race, just finish well above last place and enjoy the ride. It is rare that everything goes as well as this ride went. The roads were near perfect, freshly paved and closed to traffic. There was almost no wind, and not a cloud in the sky. We rode out to Niagara on the Lake at a fast pace, keeping with other cyclists, watching the main racing peloton come blazing past us on their way back. I was so comfortable on the S5 I almost forgot it was there.

After a while, we started our approach to the KOM climb. I knew it was coming. I knew it was called “Effingham Hill”. Once we entered the town of Effingham, I knew we were close. Before I knew it, we rounded a corner and rolled over the start marker for the KOM. The race was on; this was the section that really mattered. We climbed a bit and the road leveled out. I thought perhaps I was wrong, and we were over the worst of it. Then I saw rising in the distance, a section called “the wall” rising impossibly at the horizon. As we approached, I was hoping it would appear more realistic, but by the bottom of the climb, I knew I was in trouble. I dropped to the lowest gear and began to struggle. The S5 and I sweated, swore, and ground up this 17% hill. I almost believed that I wouldn’t make it, watching virtually everyone around me dismount and walk up the remainder of the hill. I dug in and made it to the top of the wall, trying to keep from passing out before rolling over the second timer.

The remainder of the ride was spent at a time-trial pace, stopping only for champagne or to slowly roll though the Thorold tunnel in a surreal sense of amazement. Here I was, on a flagship bike, riding down a closed highway in Canada!

Every mile that passed by made me realize more and more that I was having the ride of my life, and it was a culmination of my training, the incredibly well organized ride and the bike I was falling fast in love with. After I passed the finish line, I was beaming, and sad the ride was over. I felt sad to turn the bike back in, like saying goodbye to my new crush. It was only two days later that I contacted my favorite bike shop and Cervélo dealer and put in an order for my very own S5.  

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