Epic is a strong word. I believe it should be retired outright, never to be used again. But since that’s not going to happen, I say a hundred-plus mile ride, 75% of which is dirt, over the steep bergs characteristic of the Upper Valley of New Hampshire and Vermont is worthy of such a description.
To backtrack, the Tour of Poland ended amid a black-sky thunderstorm which arrived dramatically in the final kilometer of the seven-day race. It also wrapped up successfully for us as we at Liquigas-Cannondale snatched two stage wins, two second place finishes, and the overall victory. That’s called domination. From there I could be found jetting back to Lucca where my ability to clean a house top to bottom was that of legend. Mr. Clean would have been envious as I swept, vacuumed, scrubbed, dusted, and polished with great vigor. A pair of tasty and authentic goodbye dinners in my 36 hours home in Italy capped off my Italian summer before jetting to the United States where I have the Tour of Utah, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge Which Should Be Named The Tour of Colorado, followed closely by the Canadian WorldTour races, and (fingers crossed) the world championships in mid-September. Giddyup.
So now caught up to speed, returning stateside is always reason to celebrate, and especially so with awesome stuff to do straightaway. A delightful BBQ dinner with my very good friend as well as freshman college roommate plus his newly wedded wife in the Granite State segued perfectly to Saturday’s ride which you see above. The same masochistic genius who created Stoepid Week is also now into version 7.0 of the U(pper)V(alley)Epic – the aforementioned hundred mile ride, thickly laced with steep dirt roads, stunning views, and featured prevalently in this year’s event, flat tires.
Believe it or not, my bike doesn’t have a kickstand. Thankfully chivalrous manners are rife in the spandex clad world of cycling, so rather than plunking my bike down in the dirt, this kind gentleman held it for me while I changed my first of three flats. Ten intrepid souls set out on the UVEpic 7.0 early Saturday morning. Then at hour four and just 48 miles in, I warned folks that I was going to emit more watts (ergo, go faster), at which point the brave peloton was whittled down to five. Soon thereafter a flat tire sadly took out my kickstand-man. One other waited for him while three of us found the elusive Cooler-of-Hope. Now more than five hours into the ride and with hunger pangs coming at us with the same ferocity as sharp stones in the dry conditions, Chris made us very happy with water, Red Bull, sports drink, and, err, some other tasty treats.
A quick glut of calories and unfortunately being on a tight time budget – as well as places to go that evening – I dropped the entire crew and soldiered on solo for the full epoch epic Epic.
And to where was I rushing off that evening? To grill corn with my brother, obviously! Well that and chicken and relax by the lake. I promise you, it’s a tough life.
Mid-season breaks are critical in maintaining peak freshness over the course of a 10-month race season. The way my race schedule was unfolding, I couldn’t find a time to relax after California, nor after nationals the following week, nor Tour of Suisse. So finally after Poland, I had this window of respite and sitting lakeside is a mighty fine way of RnR’ing. (“Bwaa’?! How do you go on a UVEpic and call that rest?” Well friends, sometimes there’s more ways than one to sooth the soul. Letting boys be boys, beating each other up on bikes, riding gnarly dirt roads is certainly one of those ways.)
It’s said that bath salts are a good way to heal the body. I believe that being in Maine is equally therapeutic. There’s something cathartic about the salty sea air that makes me feel like a better person on the other side. But mid-season breaks are always short lived, so I decided to tackle in three days what I would ideally prefer to spread out over three months. In the days of yore, or at least when I was between the ages of zero to twenty, I would come to this magical island in Maine with my family the very day school ended in the summer and would stay there until the dreaded day before school started up again in September. I’m the sixth generation of my family to come to this island and my best friends are here, our neighbors are like family, and my happiest memories on earth are here. The Maine license plate reads Vacationland and the welcome sign driving into this serene state accurately states The Way Life Should Be. As a very wise man once said, “Maine is like heaven. Just with the distinct aroma of fried seafood.”
So my three-months-in-three-days vacation featured swimming daily in the frigid Atlantic, rock hopping, cocktail parties, lobster cruises (seen above), seeing friends and family, tennis, boating (where it has been blowing like stink the entire time – one of the nautical world’s finest expressions, hence the title of this blog), napping, reading, and soaking in the thick sea air. Rest and repeat.
And let’s be honest: beyond Maine, where else can you buy fresh lobsters at the Walgreen’s pharmacy?!