D2R2 First Time Experience

I'm yet again very thankful for social media connecting me with rad people who share the same passions as me. Jack (@steelstatue) is one of the latest people that I've had the pleasure to meet and ride with thanks to this great platform - and this weekend was one for the books at the D2R2 event thanks to him. There were great laughs and conversations, miles of astounding views, and challenges that would come with the territory.

If you haven't heard about one of the nation's largest dirt-road event before, don't worry, because I hadn't either. To start of with some technicalities, D2R2 stands for Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnee and it's held every August in Franklin County, MA. Thousands of cyclists come together to ride the course that best suits their skill set. What makes this event so special is that every entry goes towards the Franklin's Land Trust, helping them conserve farms, forests, wildlands and other natural resources in the area.

When Jack reached out to me the week before the event and asked if I wanted to join him, I said yes without hesitation. I was stoked and decided to sign up for the full 180Km with about 4000m of elevation.

We arrived a day early, as we wanted to be organized for the day of the race, check out the bonfire, meet new people, and get a good meal with an early bedtime. Saturday morning was a very early start, being out the door by 5:15AM.

When we arrived to the campground, we could feel the great energy of the event. Friendly staff keeping busy and ensuring everything is set while also offering breakfast to all riders, campers getting ready for the big day and a dense fog. We also ran into some familiar faces from New York, in particular Wilis, owner of Deluxe Cycles in Brooklyn. Having done a few rides in the past, we decided to make this another group ride and continue adding onto miles together.After some coffee and bagels we got ready and took off.

D2R2 is not about the podium. It doesn't matter if you're the very first or dead last - it's about the event itself. Riding these beautiful conserved gravel roads, climbing the scenic routes and just having a blast. While I love NYC cycling, I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun.

The ride started off with a foggy and almost-mystical vibe. You couldn't see further than a few feet in front of you. When you are in the city, this is a view that you are not blessed with very often. As the sun began to peek through the fog, we were all so stunned with such beauty that we barely paid attention to the road. I think we would’ve all been several miles off route if it hadn’t been for my new Wahoo computer keeping us in check and reminding us when to turn and where to go.

One of the greatest things about riding so early in the morning in a rural place, is observing animals including farm animals, through their morning ritual. At one point, even a pig ran across the road in front of us which was very different from our typical squirrels and deers in New York City.

We didn’t stop for a while and passed a few pit stop marks as we were having so much fun. When we made our first stop, we had done over 1200 meters of climbing. We grabbed some snacks, refilled our water bottles and were set to go again. It was a good thing we decided to stop as things began to get pretty serious past that point.

We passed some sections that were literally called “Gnarly” on the computer, descending hills at about 50 mph while still on gravel, next to cliffs and with cars on the road. At one point, on a paved zig zag turn, my back tire slid under me and I was sliding for several meters, like a fixie skid, until I was able to pop it back straight. It’s fair to say that the roads, views and environment became overwhelming at times.

As we finally ascended to the halfway stop, we were all ready for a meal and no wonder why: we had done over 2400 meters of climbing and close to 100 Km. Knowing that the hardest part was behind us, we took the time to enjoy a few shots of pickle juice, a plate or two of quinoa salad and some more water to tackle the rest of the ride.

Unfortunately this second half didn’t go as well for Wilis, who was having trouble seeing after a pebble flew into his eye earlier in the morning. Despite the discomfort he was feeling and not being able to see, we kept going. When we stopped for lunch, we were able to take him to a medical tent where he learned that he had scratched his cornea and that was causing the burning sensation in his eye. In true Wilis nature, he decided to keep going even if that meant having only one eye open. With that being said, I couldn’t leave him to ride on his own.

The pain and discomfort happened on and off for the next few kilometers. We rested several more times and found some great people to provide us with water for rinsing the discomfort. Eventually though

The discomfort became worse after 30 km of riding again, and we didn’t know what to do as our bottles had been filled with electrolytes - great for rehydrating, but not sure how great that is for your eyes.

Wilis told me he would take a quick break and that I should keep going up the hill and not wait. I agreed to wait for him at the top. Climbing up, I saw a boy playing in the yard and asked him for a glass with water for my friend. The boy returned with a bottle of water that I waived in the air once I saw Wilis making his way up.

After Wilis rinsed his eye and began to feel better again, we proceeded to pass by some beautiful rivers. The gravel was smooth and the stoke was still high.

Unfortunately, the pain came back and Wilis . He needed to rest his eye that was just constantly tearing and actually thought about asking for a lift back to the campground. He told me to keep going, I didn't want to but he said he will be okay.

After some hesitation I decided to make it to the next checkpoint and tell the officials about his situation, to see if they can give him a lift.

After a long and steep climb for about a mile and a half I made it to the pit stop. It was the stop that everyone told me about. They had watermelon slices ready for everyone, water and just about anything you want or need to make your last 15 miles push.

After catching my breath I told the officials about my friends situation. They were nice and said that it wouldn’t be problem and that they can give him a lift back to the campgrounds.

A few slices of watermelon in, and I took off to finish the full d2r2.

Lucky for me, the ride was a breeze after that pitstop. It had some rolling hills but mostly flat.

The closer I got to the finish line, the more people I saw. Not everyone is doing the full 180 km, matter of fact most people take other options, but towards the end the routes intersect and you end up riding with people who have done other distances.

Making the last turn and onto the pavement, I realized that it was it. I am almost done. With my spirits high, I pushed on and attacked the last stretch of road. I wanted to make sure I give it a good effort at the end. In the end, it is a big day and I wanted to end it on a high note.

I was greeted with a smile and glass for a celebration beer. The food was ready and I had two plates until I felt good again.

About 20-30 minutes later, Wilis arrived. He said that he never made it to the pit stop. In fact, his Garmin died, he took the wrong road, found a gas station to get water and used Google maps to find his way back. In the end he did almost 10 extra kilometers and a couple of extra meters of elevation.

I hung around the for for a bit, talked to a few people and shared some experiences. Then, I went over to the Cannondale booth to see my friends after they finished their 115 km ride. Met Stephan Hyde, the current USA national CX Champion who did the ride with the Cannondale crew.

A few more plates of food later and a shower we headed home. The ride started to settle in and we were all pretty tired.

At this point I would like to thank everyone that made this trip possible. The staff at Franklin Land Trust and every one who was working or participating for the event.

I would love to do this event again!

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