Rapha Gentleman’s Race: the Ladies’ Take on Things

This is a guest post by Veloforma teammate (and general ass-kicker) Stephanie Chase. Thanks, Stephanie – this is brilliant. Thanks also for the photo by Jose Sandoval. (There are many more sweet photographs of the day if you follow that link.)
PS: Veloforma team website and blog is getting a big, fat facelift in the coming month. Keep yer peepers on alert!

*****

You can tell a lot about what type of person someone is by the following situation. Imagine you’re in a restaurant in a foreign country (say, a ‘stan or something eastern European or Asian). Your traveling partner takes a bold step and orders something off the menu that they haven’t been able to translate. When the food arrives, they take one bite and pronounce it one of the foulest, most disgusting things they’ve ever eaten and then ask you if you want a taste. Do you: a.) say you are satisfied with their empirical research about the nastiness of the foreign food and using common sense, refuse to put whatever glob of animal parts it is in your mouth? Or, b.) say “I’ve got to try to this for myself.” If you said b.), then you should definitely sign up for the Rapha ride next year!

It started out so well. On the way to the coast, the girls saw a dead chicken (good sign – one of sacrifice), I saw the Embrocation team (good sign – one of hotness). And then, well, things went array like the best laid plans of mice and men.  Here’s my in-eloquent, scatological-themed take on the day:

Mile 0/parking lot: Parking lot contains a coffee stand, two outhouses and a lot of cyclists. These are all good signs. I put my directional tyres on the wrong way but this bad sign is mitigated by our good moods and constant referrals to “Die Hard.”

Mile 1: We have ridden one mile when McGraw makes note of how far we have gone. Someone says that McGraw is not allowed to give us any more mile markings until we have one mile to go. We started going uphill. The pitch is mild. This is a good sign.

Mile 6: We had made it uphill. No one has exploded, bonked or thrown up during the climb (as opposed to my performance on a recent team ride up Newberry). Good signs.

Mile 7: Heading down hill, I veer directly into a pot hole and pinch flat. Though this race is unsupported, I still put my hand up hoping for a wheel car. We change the tyre like a NASCAR team who has just taken hits of meth followed by shots of Red Bull. Despite the speed, the Rapha Continental team that started three minutes behind us comes by. Bad sign.

Mile 9: We pull out onto Hwy 101 and see the Rapha team up the road. The camera crew comes up and Susan puts in some good quality PPT (Peithman Pain Train) time on the front. She smiles for the camera and we try not to blow snot rockets or spit while they’re filming. Rapha team is getting closer. Good sign.

Mile 10: Heading up hill, a chain gets dropped. We slow to get it back on. Kind of a bad sign, but shit happens.

Mile 11: With the Rapha team in sight, I hear the voice of God/Laura McGraw: DRILL IT, STEPH. So I do, and after a little while I noticed that no one is behind me. My initial reaction is that the massiveness of power generated by my thighs has destroyed my team in all of thirty seconds. Then reality sets in and it becomes apparent that something has happened and they’ve all slowed down while I’ve done a Cofidis-trying-to-get-my-face-on-camera-move. Bad signs beginning to write something on the wall but I can’t make it out yet.

Mile 12: We have a situation and we’re not sure what it is. Allergic reaction? Asthma? As we turn off 101 onto some farmer’s road, Schweitzer flats and I continue my quest to hit every pothole between Otis and Portland and knock my wheel out of tru. The assessment is we will keep riding and hope that whatever is happening will improve.

Mile 30: No improvement. We have a very sick person but are in the middle of Deliverance-nowhere, Oregon. The Rapha ride is now being referred to as a “shit vortex” and “the perfect shit storm.” The bad signs have clearly written “you are screwed, ladies.”  Our sick person does a great Charlton Heston impression when we asked her if she wants to get off her bike to rest or abandon. We are told we will have to pry her bike from her cold, dead hands before she quits.

Mile 64: First check point. Coca-Cola is the greatest contribution to mankind. Sick person is still sick. Almost every team has passed us on the road. But who cares about the laterne rouge when your only goal is to get someone home and make sure they are ok?

Mile 74: We joke about how the climbers (Gunderson :) would not enjoy these 3-4% graded climbs.

Mile 76: The Rapha Conti team gets one of the four flats that we see. There is a ridiculous descent down a gravel round, though to call the size of those rocks “gravel” is inaccurate. They are little knife balls of death waiting to shred my tyres.

Mile 77ish?: I flat. Again. We flag down Dave Roth and take his Gatorade and a tube.

Mile 80ish: Peithman and I get sno cones in Carlton. Snickers are the greatest contribution to mankind.

Mile 92ish?: Forest Grove area?

Mile 110: North Plains. I could have kissed the ground. We can see the West Hills.

Miles 125 – 135: McGraw leads us to the Hwy 26 bike path on a route that involves cutting through fields and carrying our bike across a construction zone.  This is interesting.

Mile 137ish? Going up through the zoo, a bum offers us some wine out of his brown bag. I almost get off the bike and have a drink with him. Screw Ron Toms! We then see a tranvestite photo shoot on the Burnside bridge. Good sign!

Mile 139: Jesus H. Christ, we lived through it.

It was a bittersweet expirience and somewhat emblematic of the season (or, at least my season); great expectations mitigated by bad luck. But it’s easy to love your team when things are going well. It’s when the shit hits the fan and things get tough (like riding 130 when you’re ill), when finding the bonds of solidarity and support are difficult. But we rode those last 130 miles, when things were going to utter scheisse, like a team, supporting, pushing/pulling, feeding and doing breathing exercises with each other. And Heather brought us roses at the end.

Gentlemen’s Race, we’ll get you next year!

~Stephanie Chase

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5 comments

  1. For the record, since one of the guidelines for this ride was no outside support, I did not offer Gatorade and a tube to these lovely ladies. If those items just sort of fell out of the car right when we passed by, well I can’t be held responsible for that.

    Congrats ladies! While you may have had some struggles on the road, you kept your cool and looked great every time we saw you out there. You should be proud of yourselves for surviving and finishing in true Gentleman fashion.

  2. Great mile-by-mile recount. I pinch-flatted 7mi in too – damnit!

  3. Love the Blogs here…been re-posting them on our Social Media sites!! Thanks for the great stories.

    Vitalyte Team
    http://www.twitter.com/vitalyte

  4. Hey Dave R,

    THANKS FOR LOSING A TUBE AND COLD GATORADE!! That was awesome, I was so happy at that moment!

    XOXO

  5. Ladies
    For the record, the team three minutes behind you that passed when you had your first flat was not Rapha Conti, but Il indesderati. We thought about stopping to help, but it was early, we mostly ride in Oklahoma, and were generally terrified about the whole thing. Glad to read that you ultimately made it to RonToms (shit vortex; that’s GREAT) as I don’t recall seeing you there. Hope we’re back there with you next year…

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