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Mount Washington

Yes. That is Pamela at the finish line for Mt Washington!

 

Apparently the photographer at the top wasn't so impressed with John!


This all started when Alan, a colleague of our friend Roy, talked to him about doing Mt Washington on tandem. So then Roy's wife, our dear friend, Susan, decides to challenge John and me to beat Roy and Alan. Isn't it nice that she's such a supportive spouse. Eventually John convinced me it would be less painful than doing the "100 times longer" Boston-Montreal-Boston, which is held on the same weekend in August, and the only sleep deprivation for Mt. Washington would come from rising at 6 AM back in February to register online before it filled in less than 4 hours. The fees were about the same for these two competing events (held on the same weekend), although, the "per mile" cost was a bit more for Mt Washington than BMB. Given all that, we opted for the shorter ride and the friendly competition.

We planned a trip to the Dolomites in July to remind ourselves how long hard climbs felt, while touring on a heavy loaded tandem. Then we came home, dusted the cobwebs off the Robusta (the lightweight tandem), stripped it bare of non-essential stuff (although the bell was still considered essential), and headed north. (OK, there was a few weeks of time in between)

There were 8 tandems in total, one of which had won before and placed second in another visit. They've also done the Co-Motion stage race a bunch, so we'll just call them pros! They were on a lightweight Calfee with some serious special event wheels - but more on that later. The stoker's legs were so long, they came up to my nose! Not that I was intimidated - well OK, I was. I even thought of removing the bell... but I didn't.

We warmed up, dumped our stuff in our rental car and headed over to the start line. The first group started at 7:40 AM. We were to start with the other tandems and single bike riders over 45 at 7:55 AM. Darn there were lots of folks over 45. And they were all already lined up, so we started near the back of our group. Fortunately John is very good at weaving through bike traffic, but this tactical error still likely cost us a minute. The bell came in handy for getting through traffic!

We slowly picked off 6 tandems and heaps of single bikes. Despite the 5 minute gap to the next group, we never saw a gap - it was just a continuous line of bikes all the way up - John calls this cannon-fodder.

Then I heard something I'd never heard before as one guy said, "SHE's doing all the work back there!" The cool thing about starting last was catching and passing riders (who I'm sure were less than thrilled to have a tandem go by, but were still very polite and encouraging.)

We used our 28/28 and 28/32 a lot, but did actually get into the middle ring a few times. It rained heavily right before the start and then drizzled for the first half of the race. The road was slick. If we both stood, we lost rear traction/drive. John stood to relieve the agony in his glutes a few times while I stayed seated to keep the back wheel on the ground! Ah, I'm good for something at least.

We got lots of cheers along the way from those solo riders we passed and at some point the occasional spectator cheered and told us we were second. Then someone told us that tandem up ahead broke a spoke, and we should catch them! I put all my willpower into having them break another! Not very sporting of me, eh?

Later someone said the gap was 30 seconds, and John didn't believe it, but I said I had spotted them not too long ago on a straight-away. When we finally reached another straight section, we saw them off in the distance. They had to be a minute or more up on us. And then they hit the after-burners and just disappeared up the hill and into the fog.

I could tell we were nearing the finish because of the wall of noise. Everyone was chanting "tandem" as we rounded the corner before the 22% section, at least once they could see we were on a tandem. The fog was so thick I could barely make out John's head! Well I exaggerate, but I really could not see any bike near us, nor could I tell where the road went. Thank goodness I didn't have to steer, and John knew the way.

The advantage of the tandem on this section is the front wheel won't lift up like on many singles, and we just powered up and across the line.

We had a good ride, and as you can see from that first photo, I was positively thrilled to get to the finish!

Then we heard the winning tandem (John Scheub and Kim Melloni) had blown apart their rear wheel (must have been a 7.5 mile special event version) and had to run across the finish line. Nothing destroys the ego more than hearing that a crippled tandem beat you! Fortunately for the ego I found out later it happened just 10 meters from the finish line. Actually, John and Kim are actually very nice people, and I felt very bad for willing their wheel to break.

I had said this was a once in a lifetime thing for me, and still felt that way at the end. But Kim tried to persuade me to come back, and worked on John further out of my earshot! She wants more tandems and more competition, and my spell-casting on her wheel didn't put her off at all. So amazingly before we'd even had dinner, we started talking about the possibility of next year.

BTW, to finish the story, the 3rd place tandem was 15 minutes behind us, followed closely by Roy and Alan, the guys we had to beat. Poor Roy, beat by two skirts! But he's not deterred. As Susan was driving us down the mountain, they talked quite a bit about riding their new triplet up next year! I may have to work harder than Susan on that challenge!