Out of 200 racers, only five braved the Kancamagus TT this year on one gear. Singlespeed record holder and NorEast teammate Glen Fraser, Grampie, Ron Chevrette, and myself were all contending for top three. To podium this year was going to be extremely difficult. No one has beaten Glen, Grampie always gets me by several minutes, and while I’ve never raced against him, Ron is exceptionally strong.
I was very ready for this. I may race a lot during the year, but there are only two events I truly focus on – Mt. Washington, and this time trial. I never stop thinking about it all year long.
During warmups, here comes the sun. As advertised, this was gonna be a hot one. This is not good news for me, and I do the only thing that makes sense. I frontload electrolytes. I went through 2 bottles of nuun in a half hour of warmups alone. I’m sweating a lot already, but I know at a minimum I’m already doing more than I did last year before Wash, when I had an epic meltdown.
We lined up in the chute, starting 30 seconds apart, and I had last position. I prefer this. I don’t want to wonder what’s going on behind me. I want to hunt and know exactly how things are shaking down.
Glen holds the singlespeed record with 1hr15min. What really pushed me was the thought that I might be able to catch him, in spite of that being more or less a fantasy. He is unbelievably strong. But I never believed he could be out of reach. Right out of the gate I was pulling 100+RPM, and I knew if I could at least hold 90RPM for the first 16 miles I could make a run at 1hr30min, and who knows, maybe him. Maybe.
Grinding grinding grinding. I had my music going, and my legs were right at the limit the entire time. The gear was really tough to turn, in spite of hitting 90+RPM. My lungs were very comfortable, but the legs were really not excited to do this kind of work for this long. Glutes, hams, everything was straining. Just go go go and hang on, knowing it won’t last forever. I knew I had to average 90RPM, and at times I dipped below, which made me work that much harder when I had the opportunity to get over 100RPM.
Early on I picked off Matt Stoller, who ended up with a pretty rough day on the bike. Some work on food and nerves and we can get his time down, no doubt. He’s much stronger than the time he put up.
Some time thereafter I overtook Ron Chevrette. Ron had much easier gearing, and that was really hurting him on the first 16 miles of this course, where bigger gears prevail. Singlespeed here is a gamble and a compromise, trading speed on the 16 mile runup for speed on the 5 mile climb to the finish.
Every now and then I would spot Grampie far in the distance. For the longest time I thought he started only 30 seconds ahead of me, and the gap between us had to be greater. Mentally I kept bouncing back and forth between believing I could catch him and letting him go and being content for a possible 3rd place. I was working so hard that I couldn’t do the math on the time difference. There was a lot of rubber banding. It would seem like I would make time on him, and then it would all go away.
Then I got really fired up. I was really happy with the way I was rolling out the effort, and a few miles before the sustained climb I started absolutely motoring. I committed. I wanted it. I didn’t want to give anything away to anyone. I ditched the “just be content” mentality and had a freakout. MOVE IT. Fuck next year. Do NOT accept 3rd place. I started to realize I may have a time advantage on Grampie, and I’ve never beaten him here, but I knew I had a chance this time. That was enough. I decided everything after Bear Notch Road was downhill (it’s not), went mental, and just started passing people on geared bikes with reckless abandon.
I hit the 5 mile climb, and it was survival time. I knew the gear I chose would really suck here, and it did. My cadence was in the 30s and 40s, and it was rugged. Standing was only helpful to break up the monotony, as I just couldn’t sustain the effort out of the saddle. And it was hot. At times it was like someone opened the oven door. And those couple of times, when the heat just wouldn’t move, I thought there’s no way I can hang on. Then I’m thinking about Ron. He’s going to absolutely clean house on this climb with his easier gear. I’ve gotta stay on it; surely he will be putting time into me here. He’s back there somewhere, I just don’t know where.
The climb hurt. I just kept pressing and hoping I could hang on. One guy passed me on a geared bike and said “Did anyone tell you you’re a hero today?”. I f*cking LOVE THAT. I get huge respect every year from guys on the climb who see how much work it is to do what singlespeeders are doing. Just one guy makes my day and picks me up and makes me dig for just a little more.
I see the gazebo and know we’re about a mile out. I start to pick it up, and somehow I think I’m reeling in Grampie. One (Metallica) had just started on my iPod, and I go ballistic and start turning all the screws. I go totally anaerobic and just hit the gas, absolutely wailing. Two sweeping turns to go, and I’m on another planet. It’s an out of body experience. The effort is so hard, all I can hear is myself gasping for air. I know the line is just around the next turn, just stay on it. Don’t give up. You have this; don’t give up. I’m flying. I take on two geared riders at the finish, who won’t give up themselves, and push even harder. I cross the line, gasping like a fish out of water. I have no idea how the time shakes down, but I think I did it. At a minimum, I know both Grampie and I went under 1hr30min, which was all we wanted to do today. That in itself would be amazing. It’s all we wanted out of today. And we got it.
We ride back to the high school, and the results are posted. I’m listed as the singlespeed winner, which I know can’t be right. Glen Fraser is listed as DNF, but that’s impossible, since I not only never passed him, but saw him coming back down from the finish. I immediately protested, and the results were corrected. Probably one of the few times ever in sport where someone protests because the results say they won.
Glen’s time soon went up – 1hr15min, and mine was next. 1hr,24 minutes. I gapped Grampie by 30 seconds, and absolutely destroyed my time from last year by 9 minutes. It seemed inhuman. I couldn’t believe I turned out that effort. All the physical and emotional input, committing to wanting it, and it paid off. I had the guts to go for it, went all in, and it’s there in the results. Huge for me. I have a totally different attitude this year, and it comes from being strong. I no longer just accept that I’m not going to factor in the standings. That’s just not how it’s going to be anymore.