The Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnee (D2R2) is a ride I’ve know about for about 3 years now, but hadn’t taken part of before. The first year, it just seemed to far and beyond my level, and after hearing of someone locally breaking their collarbone, I felt I would want some preparation on dirt descents first. I considered it last year, but on the old aluminum cross bike, parts kept breaking off, and I just wasn’t confident to take it on a rough ride that long.
Last fall, I finally pieced out a new bike, and built it up from a box of parts with dirt road rides like D2R2 in mind. Steel frame, long fenders, and wide tires should keep things comfortable all day. Kathy and I set out on our vacation, which started rather dreary with a night camping in sporadic rain in a cornfield at the starting point of the ride. 5:30am came up quick, and I was ready to roll by 6:30. The racing crowd leaves at 6am, so they were long gone, but others linger on for an hour or so.
Not long after starting, I reached the rest of the Ithaca crowd. I thought I would try to ride with them for a while, but after a lengthy stop only 20 miles in, I decided to go my own pace and keep on moving. I talked to people as we passed by, and found a few others going the same pace with some nice randonneuring bikes, so I stuck near them for a good portion of the day. I was generally doing great on the hills, though I was amazed by how well some others could descend – probably hitting 35-40mph on curvy dirt roads which is not a speed I’m confident with on dirt!
Other riders came and went, some leapfrogged several times because of the differences in climbing and descending paces. I left the randos after I came down a long descent and didn’t see them after waiting a few minutes. At the next water station, I caught up with a small crowd form Portland, ME that were riding very consistently.
The hills only seemed to get tougher as the day went on. With a 110 mile route, and over 12,000ft of climbing, I was expecting this to happen. The final major climb fortunately had a checkpoint stop at the top. There was also a wedding nearby, which unfortunately meant a long line of cars coming down the hill I was climbing. I nearly had to get off and walk near the top, as the hill was long and steep enough at nearly a century in to really kick my butt. But a guy rode next to me with some encouraging words, and we crested the top for a much needed break. Watching others come in and flop on the ground made me feel better about being so beat myself.
15 miles from the finish, and mostly descents remaining and I sped up a bit trying to get back as soon as reasonably possible. There was little passing at the final stretch, as the faster riders were far ahead (or done) and the slower riders were all behind at this point. On the nastiest descent, with twisty gravel roads, I spotted a small crowd stopped in the path. I realized that the Jeep that passed earlier on this barely-a-road was a first responder, and a rider was on the ground in a neck brace already. People were just starting to clear out since other responders came to help. He seemed okay, and was talking fine, but must have fell hard. Considering most riders were on cyclocross bikes with decently wider tires, it was not too surprising that the one fallen was on 23mm tires on a triathlon-rigged bike with aerobars though – an amazingly poor choice of bikes for this type of ride.
There aren’t many rides that I consider doing again each year, but D2R2 is one of those that I’d love to come back for. There’s also a Kearsarge Klassic in NH that was just established this year also, and the Detour de Connecticut earlier in the year too. It might be time to spend a little less time on pavement in favor of these kind of rides!
Check out the Strava data here: http://app.strava.com/rides/18974904