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9.2.1 Boston-Montreal-Boston rides.Boston-Montreal-Boston 94 Part 1




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This article is from the Misc Bicycles FAQs, by various authors.

9.2.1 Boston-Montreal-Boston rides.Boston-Montreal-Boston 94 Part 1

From: pamela@keps.com (Pamela Blalock)

Boston-Montreal-Boston 1994
by Pamela Blalock with John Bayley


I love tandeming ! From the very first time I clumsily tried to keep
my feet on pedals that seemingly moved around by themselves, I have
loved tandeming. My first experience on a tandem was a day before a
200K brevet. Neither I, nor the would-be captain, had ever pedaled a
tandem before and really had no clue what fate awaited of us. After a
few trips around the block and a 30 mile ride home, we decided to do
the brevet the following day. From then on, I was hooked. That was in
1986. Eight years later, my passion for tandeming has continued to
grow, as has my love of long distance rides. And I've found a soulmate
with whom to share both activities. When John and I decided to do
Boston-Montreal-Boston on our tandem earlier this year, we knew
exactly what we were getting into. Independently, we each had already
completed three successful 1200 km events, including BMB, and numerous
other long distance tandem rides.

But for those who don't know anything about BMB, here's a little
history. Randonneuring started in France at the end of the last
century, soon after bicycles became popular. In an attempt to explore
the limits of what might be possible, the first Paris-Brest-Paris race
was conceived, a race of 1200 km that went from Paris to Brest and
back, with a non-stop clock. The first ride was won in a time of
71:22. Many years later, it became a ride for amateurs as well. While
some still race the event, many others simply enter to complete it.
Randonneuring first appeared in the US during the 70's, when a few
recreational riders decided to try PBP. Within a few years brevets
began to spring up around the country. These are rides of 200, 300,
400 and 600 kms within a strict time limit, that riders must complete
in order to enter PBP. By 1987, this form of riding had become so
popular that over 200 American riders headed over to Paris to try PBP.
Unfortunately poor weather and lack of preparation added up to a
lackluster showing for the American riders with a dropout rate of over
50%.

I was one of those dropouts. I returned home depressed and dejected,
but as soon as I heard about Boston-Montreal-Boston, a 1200 km brevet
patterned after PBP, to be held for the first time in 1988, I set my
goal to complete that ride. I devoted a year to getting ready for this
event, and when I, along with 11 other riders, successfully completely
the inaugural ride in August of 1988, I was thrilled, and addicted
even more to long distance rides. I returned to Paris in 91 to
successfully avenge my defeat there, and the next year returned to
Boston with my riding partner Steve to become the first mixed tandem
to ever complete BMB, overcoming a few physical and mechanical
obstacles along the way. But there is no rest for the weary, and BMB
beaconed again this year.

John and I had met at BMB in 1992, and developed a friendship that
blossomed into a romance during a cross USA ride after we decided to
do a little tandeming together one afternoon. Now how's that for a
romantic tandem story ? It gets better... We received our brand new
custom-made Rodriguez Softride equipped tandem on Valentine's Day. Now
if that isn't one of the most romantic Valentine's gifts for two
cyclists, I can't think of what is. Fortunately John felt the same
way. The next weekend we even had a break in the snow in this winter
from ... well it can't be hell, since it doesn't snow THERE ...
anyway, we got a break in the snow, and took the Rodriguez out for
it's first ride - a century, of course.

Many centuries and double centuries later brought us up to August 17,
where we stood in line to have our lights inspected before the start
of BMB at 4 the next morning. While waiting in line another couple
approached and asked about our tandem. They were also riding a tandem
in the event. I don't know if they were trying to psyche us out or
what, but the stoker said, "Oh look honey, they are smart. They have a
triple." I asked what gearing they were using, and they said a double
with a 42-32 low gear. Our crank has 26-38-54 rings, driving a 12-32
freewheel. We recently moved up to the larger freewheel to try and
tackle a 4 mile long 17% grade in Vermont that's been destroying cogs
for us. We didn't plan on using our very lowest gear, but definitely
planned to use the granny ring throughout the mountains. We decided
they were either wicked strong or very foolish. As it turned out, they
were seriously strong. We heard rumors of them toasting riders on the
climb over Middlebury Gap and that they were the first to arrive at
the checkpoint in Middlebury.

This ride has over 30,000 feet of climbing, including 8 major climbs
in each direction. All 8 are tackled in the first 240 mile day. The
toughest, Middlebury Gap, a 5 mile climb with grades exceeding 12% at
the top, comes at mile 220. Then there are hundreds of smaller climbs
that make this ride an exercise for the rider's hands while shifting
and braking, almost as much as the riders legs ! This is not what
anyone would call an ideal tandem route. It can certainly be done, and
5 tandem teams have now completed it as proof that it's possible.
Probably one of the coolest parts of doing the ride on a tandem for me
is that so many people think it's impossible, and so many people seem
in awe that a tandem team would even try.

So anyway, we got through inspection, dropped off our sag bags (the
organizers carry 4 small bags to 4 of the checkpoints along the way),
chatted with old friends, and met new ones. We met and chatted with
the only male/male tandem team entered, Rich and Byron. While talking,
Byron lifted their tandem and put it into their van by himself. Wow, I
wish we could do this.

Our bike is built for comfort, and while it's not a tank, it's no
lightweight either. Then we added lights, batteries and panniers. In
the panniers, we had packed rain pants and jackets, arm and leg
warmers, booties, light jackets, extra liquid nutrition, and a little
bag full of drugs and toiletries. We had planned to stay in motels
along the route and carried the medium size panniers to enable us to
carry extra clothing to and from checkpoints. Well, as it always is,
panniers get filled, and the bike was heavy. But we did have plenty of
clothing to keep us comfortable, and there was no danger of us
starving. We also had plenty of tools, tubes, cables and a spare tire
along as well. The drug bag grew a bit along the way, but included
Desitin ointment, Gold Bond powder, Borofax, Motrin, Pepto Bismal,
Tums, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, Boost tablets, no-Doz and toilet
paper.

We normally carry antacids, because liquid diets and 20 hours a day of
riding can reek havoc on one's digestive system. But on the Monday
night before the ride started, I became so violently ill that I was
sure I would not be able to ride Thursday morning. An IV drip for most
of Tuesday got me rehydrated and actually feeling much better. John
and I did a fair amount of soul searching Tuesday night as we
discussed the possibility of not riding. I really wanted him to take
his single if I couldn't go, but he said it just wouldn't feel right.
We had planned and trained together and we simply wanted to do this
ride together as a team.

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.

 

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