Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bear Mountain 200k - A New York State of mind!

The view from the top of Bear Mountain
Todd enjoys a late breakfast at the deli in Stony Point

This ride always has me singing the “I Love New York ” theme. The challenge of the route and the great scenery gives this 200k just the right mix of everything. This being my fourth time taking the start at the foot of the GW Bridge on the New York City side. My friend Todd, also a loyal customer of this New York offering, rode with me in the car from Somerset County . We parked on Hudson Terrace in Fort Lee , which is the New Jersey side of the bridge, then rode our bikes to the start. The George Washington Bus Station serves as the start/finish point. It is just a couple of blocks from the entrance to the bridge bike path. Leroy Varga (RBA) and Laurent Chambard (Ride Organizer) handle the check-in details smoothly. At 7am sharp Laurent sends the group of 34 riders on our way.

New York City to Stony Point :38 miles

We head for the south side bike path of the GW to work our way across the massive span into New Jersey, Navigating the tight turns on the bridge network is no easy task on the recumbent. I’d gotten a preview of this on my way in struggling to get Mellow Yellow around the tight turns at the block houses and the ramp down to the city streets. Imagining it being much worse in a large pack of riders I decided to hang back and let the bulk of the group go ahead of me. Todd not knowing what I was doing got across way in front of me. I found him waiting on Hudson Terrace for me to arrive. Now at the very back of the pack we start off casually through the quiet streets of Bergen County . This section is perhaps the easiest of the ride with only minor gradients and short steep hills. It gives one the opportunity to warm up, settle in, and establish a rhythm before the heavy climbing begins. We follow county route 505 to Tenafly, then 501 up to Piermont , New York . We pass under the Tappan Zee Bridge , all the while enjoying pleasant views of the Hudson River to our right. We go through Haverstraw after which we pick up the popular Route 9W. We work a little harder on the rolling terrain as we pass the Indian Point Nuclear facility, which is emitting gentle puffs of steam from its cooling towers. Soon we arrive at the first control in Stony Point , which is a quaint Italian Deli. Laurent and Leroy are there to greet everyone and handle paperwork. The day has warmed up pleasantly. We get coffee and muffins and sit outside to enjoy the break.We make quick work of the stop leaving a few riders behind as we set out.

Stony Point to Monroe : 17 miles

We leave the control and continue north on 9W. Just a few miles beyond the control we hit the first substantial climb of the day. A sizeable bump with switchback turns. I manage it in the middle chain ring grinding my way up. High speed traffic zooms by on my left making my slowness more obvious. Normally, the descent on the other side is a real screamer, but today it is somewhat hampered by an increasing head wind. I work the down hill by pedaling hard to try and catch up to Todd who put some distance on me during the climb. It takes a long time before I see him ahead. We re-group at the turn off to Bear Mountain State Park which begins a five mile climb fest to the top of Perkins Drive . Todd again starts gapping me on the first part of the climb.I come across John and have a short conversation with him about recumbent riding, the sixties, Vietnam , etc. I’ve seen John on all of the New York rides I’ve done. I’m climbing a bit faster than him, for the moment, so soon our conversation ends and I continue the grind up. The turn off for Perkins Drive arrives beginning the 2 mile final segment to the top. It seems to take forever this time. Each switchback I come to feels like it should be the last one, only to be followed by another. The disappointment each time is becoming unbearable. I start to imagine I have arrived in some type of cycling hell where this will go on for all eternity. The thought gives me the creeps, but when I snap back to reality I realize this will end. I just can’t tell when. I suppose it would have been smart to check my odometer when starting the climb. Then I would have a pretty good gauge on how much distance to go before the top. I am relieved when the end finally shows itself. The tower at the top of the drive looms into view with just a couple hundred feet to go. There is an information control at the tower itself so I dismount and walk Mellow Yellow up the gravelly path to seek the information needed. Todd is waiting there for me and provides me with the answer to save me the trouble. We decide to walk over to the scenic overlook which is just the other side of the road. The view is quite breathtaking. We can actually see the skyline of New York City way off in the distance. It is hard to believe that we started off there just a few hours earlier. I can’t resist getting the digital camera out, Todd and I take each others photo with the view in the background. The descent down Perkins goes a lot quicker than the ride up. The fun is moderately hampered by rough pavement here and there, but it is still enjoyable. After the descent we continue traversing the park. The climbing keeps up as we head up to the Tiorati Circle and the turn off on Arden Valley Road . Arden Valley is a series of ups and downs including one nasty little uphill that catches me off guard. I thought I could climb it without engaging the small triple chain ring, but halfway up I realized it was too steep. With no way to shift down while on the hill I am forced to dismount and walk up a bit until the grade lessens, then start again. Meanwhile, Todd is putting quite a gap on me.I try to make up some ground on the downhill sections, but the road surface is poor battering me and the bike if I descend to quickly. I find Todd waiting at the end of the road where we turn onto Route 17. We pass by the train station in the small town of Harriman , we then continue on to the control in Monroe . The control is manned by Janice who signs us in and offers us water to refill our bottles. After which we head into the cafĂ© for a lunch break. The place is busy with riders from our group, as well as some local folks. We place our order and are quickly served. We waste no time getting back on the road for the next section.

Monroe to Congers: 36 miles

Upon leaving the control it is less than two miles before we encounter the first lump on this section. Pine Tree Road shoots up rather abruptly from Route 17. This hill has been a tough one for me every time as I am always tight from the time off the bike at the control when it is encountered. As has happened in the past my leg muscles threaten to cramp as I am climbing. I ease off a bit so as not to aggravate things further. After successfully cresting the top there is another short reprieve and then climbing resumes on East Mombasha Road . There is a good bit of up and down in the miles that follow as we cut through Harriman State Park . Shortly thereafter we enjoy a fast descent on Route 98 which features some of the smoothest pavement of the day. I find the descent somewhat rejuvenating and don’t seem to mind the remaining hills to the control. We arrive at the Dunkin Donuts in Congers, New York with organizer Laurent waiting for us in the parking area. Brevet cards updated we head in for a coffee and bagel. A few other riders are milling about the place and words of encouragement are exchanged. This is the last control before the finish so our day is close to done. Food and beverages consumed we head out to undertake the final 25 miles back to the city.

Congers to NYC: 25 miles

On this final leg we get a chance to warm up a bit. We re-connect with Route 94 for a few miles and then turn off to go through the quaint town of Nyack . They are having a street bazaar today so traversing Main Street is a bit of an adventure. The road is blocked to car traffic but they let us pass by the barricades on our bikes. Dodging the throngs of people milling about the many vendor stalls is the challenge. Fortunately we soon turn off and within a few blocks we pick up Piermont Avenue for another run along the Hudson River. After several miles of fairly pleasant riding, the only negative being the head wind, we turn again to climb our way up to Route 94 for the final time. This ten mile section of the highway features some substantial climbing early on. The most notable is the last section of pavement in New York State . The climb culminates with a large sign welcoming all to New Jersey. The terrain becomes less severe, although a few good size rollers still remain. In the past this section has always been a fast dash to the GW Bridge. Today is somewhat of a struggle as the wind is not in our favor. I mention to Todd that we haven’t caught a break with the wind all day. No matter what our direction of travel we faced head winds throughout. I mentally prepare myself to grind out the remaining miles. While undertaking one the larger rolling hills a cyclist with full racing kit passes me while going up.He also passes Todd who is just a bit up ahead of me. After I crest the top I’m motivated to work hard on the down side to try and pass him back. I catch up to Todd. He jumps on my rear wheel and together we start reeling in the rider. We use our momentum to fly over a smaller roller and scream down the other side. The racer seems surprised to see Mellow Yellow go by with a very classic looking LeMond in tow. Despite the wind we are managing to range between 20-25mph. I am loving this section. We keep the pace up until the turn onto Sage Road which wends us around to Englewood Cliffs and Hudson Terrace. Any suffering over the course of the day is erased from my mind. I am feeling great as we turn onto the bike path traversing the huge span to the end. Leroy is waiting for us at the bus station to sign us in. Job done! We quickly head out to ride across the river one final time.

This ride delivers on all its promises. There is plenty of challenge and a lot that is pleasant. Our finish time of 11:32 is a bit slower than the 10:20 I posted back in 2007, but that was a different time, and done on a 17lb carbon fiber upright. Mellow Yellow hits the scale at a solid 30lbs without an ounce of gear. Call me silly but I’m really beginning to love it. The completion of this ride puts me half way to the R12 with the toughest months of the year ahead. What will October bring?

Stay tuned.