Follow or subscribe to our blog to get notifications of updates to this site
as well as more frequent insightful, pithy commentary


bike logo



by Pamela Blalock with photos by Steve Frechette


The Start

By Wednesday night, I felt much better, and ready to tackle the world, or at least a 750 mile section of it. So as a team, we set out from Wellesley at 4 o'clock Thursday morning, with 100 other excited cyclists in a steady downpour. Jeff Vogel told us it was the first time BMB had started in the rain. I knew riders encountered a couple of days of rain in both 89 and 90, but apparently we were the first to see it at the starting line. Unfortunately it was also 62F degrees. I say unfortunate, because this temperature renders my rain gear somewhat useless. It's so warm that I steam up in rain gear, but still cool enough that I need something. I chose to put up with the steam to avoid getting chilled this early in a four days event, using rain pants and jacket, while John went with tights and a light jacket. We both opted for booties. At least this made our panniers lighter ! A scan of other riders revealed everything from shorts and jerseys to full rain gear.

While driving over the first part of the course the night before, we learned that construction crews had left us a little surprise in the form of a mile's worth of raised manhole covers. I wanted to be out front going through that section. And being one of the very few bikes with fenders, I wanted to be out front in hopes of staying a bit dryer. Amazingly, other riders seemed quite content with the pace we set for the first 20 miles. The rain flooded roads presented a fun obstacle course to pedal or should that have been paddle through. Riders behind asked us to warn them in advance about the puddles. Despite our very powerful NiteRider headlights, we only sensed the presence of deep puddles when the water sprayed our own feet. The mudflap on the front fender definitely kept some of the spray down, but I was happy to have my booties.

Just after we reached I-495, one of my cleats slipped. It slid completely back on the shoe. Living in the area, we have a nice advantage of knowing most of the route very well, and therefore we know where stores are and aren't, and which ones might be open at odd hours. We set our sites on the Dunkin Donuts in Clinton to tighten the cleat and take care of other pressing matters. The hills were about to start and I also decided to trade my medium weight jacket for a lighter one.

Ray Edwards, a friend from Atlanta, was keeping us company at this point. Soon after the hills began, we bid farewell to Ray, since it really can be a struggle for singles and tandems to ride together in steep terrain, given their very different behavior on hills. Ray would go onto finish the ride in a very impressive 66 hours. We knew enough about what lay ahead of us not to kill ourselves early !


We continued the march onward and upward toward Princeton. On a clear day, one can see the outline of Boston's skyline ever so faintly from the top of the hill in Princeton. That was definitely not the case this drizzly Thursday morning.

We soon found ourselves in the company of the Crones, the tandem team we had met the night before. They were quite strong, and I was immediately confident that they would break the old mixed tandem record of 85.5 hours by quite a significant margin. John and I had decided to go for my usual goal - have lots of fun, get lots of sleep, lots of massages, and finish close to the picnic starting time. We also planned to ride shorter and shorter distances each day, aiming for 270 to Burlington, VT. the first day, 210 to Montreal and back to Burlington on Day 2, 165 to Brattleboro on day 3, and 113 back to Wellesley on the final day. We had made reservations in Burlington and Brattleboro to ensure good nights' sleep along the way, with the option to cancel them if our plans changed. But we had quite a ways to go first.

We saw a BMB official vehicle pulled over on the shoulder just after we turned onto Route 68. Since, John and I had suffered a couple of flats on our rainy 400K ride on this particular stretch of road, we were purposefully staying off the shoulder. When we first saw the vehicle pulled over to the side, I thought for sure that others were suffering the same fate we had earlier, but instead, it was simply a secret control. Each rider starts out with a passport-like card, with squares to be stamped at announced controls along the route. There are 5 controls each way, plus the turnaround and start/finish. The vary from 37 to 85 miles apart. Riders have to check in, and get their cards stamped along the way. Then there are secret controls which can appear at any point along the route. These are designed to deter riders from taking shortcuts. This secret control would catch any rider that stayed on Route 62 - the old route - although given the roughness of that road, and the superior road surface of the new route I can't imagine anyone wanting to do so.

We pressed on through some good "fifty-five" rollers on the way to Barre. By this, I mean hills where a tandem breaks 50 going down and struggles not to drop below 5 going up. For some sadistic reason, this section of road gets covered five times in our brevet series. Locals know it all too well. This section of road can be quite discouraging to BMB newcomers, especially the final climb into Barre, which is probably the steepest climb of the entire course. Many riders use their lowest gears to reach this town that I have determined must be the center of the cycling universe, since so many rides in this area pass through it.