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Sandy Whittlesey, ride designer, has this to say about the ride:
These are not your usual bike rides! Please read the following.
Every year many experienced riders bonk and cramp by the halfway point and go home bummed. We don't want that, this is supposed to be a fun time. So here are some guidelines.
Most avid riders should do the 100K because it takes as long as 100 miles on pavement. It is hilly but not severe, being 50% paved and avoiding the wicked climbs. We count 18 miles of flat dirt roads in Franklin County; our 100K does 14 of them in addition to some flat pavement and roads in Vermont. So we are not able to make the 100K any easier, and it is still a challenging ride. If you've been riding centuries this summer, then the D2R2 100K is for you; don't choose the 100-mile thinking the 100K is too short. Many cyclocrossers are finding the 100K event to be about right for their preseason training too.
If you have not been doing century rides, then please consider our 40-mile ride, and feel free to get our suggestions on other ways to extend that loop if you wish. We would be happy to help out there.
The D2R2 100-mile is another beast. It rides like 180 miles. If you're not doing 8-hour training rides with at least 10,000 feet of climbing on steep grades, then you will not be prepared for the 100-mile event. And no matter what your fitness is, this course will get the better of you. This is not to say that you need to be a European pro to complete D2R2's long course. Just don't underestimate the difficulties thinking that RUSA is a bunch of tourists on funky old French bikes. This is an ELITE course. "Elite" does not mean "I have a USCF license" or "I ride a century each summer weekend." "Elite" means that a professional racer or seasoned ultradistance rider can handle the course reasonably well if their conditioning is near peak and they pace themselves well. Note that the course record - set by a Cat. 1 roadie on a cool, overcast day - is 14 mph (8-1/4 hours). Don't tell your spouse that you're going to ride 7 hours and be home in time for dinner, because you will get yourself in trouble.
The 100-mile would be the hardest ride many people have ever done, even if the whole course were paved. Put into numbers, D2R2's approximately 116 miles with over 16,500 feet of climbing is longer and hillier than a Tour de France mountain stage, or more climbing than either two ascents of Mt. Evans or three ascents of Mt. Washington. And 80 miles of D2R2 are dirt! By way of comparison, the legendary cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix total only 30 miles of level ground. D2R2's signature climbs are so gravelly and steep that you can't stand up without losing traction. Most riders have to walk at least one hill, and some just fall over on the relentless grades. Bring a 1-1 low gear, you will use it. And don't forget to adapt if the weather turns bad. In 2007 the record heat dropped people like flies. By contrast a rainy day would have gooey roads and chilly morning temperatures at the higher elevations.
While we are loathe to join the legions of event promoters boasting about the rigors of their course, we had to make this sort of disclaimer because we've run into problems downplaying the hardships and talking about the scenery. D2R2 is one of the hardest century rides in the world. One California promoter claims "the hardest 200K in America" on a paved course with 3000 feet less climbing than D2R2. Don't think that we're overstating the difficulties, because we're not.
Note that if your goal is to complete the 100-mile, but you are unsure about it, we are offering the "100K bailout," where you get an official finish for a 100K at the lunch checkpoint and then can bail out with a flat 18-mile ride back to your car.
The hardships being stated, be it said a hundred times that D2R2 was NOT designed to be brutal. We designed it by placing pins in the map where the covered bridges and coolest sights were, and then connected the dots with dirt roads. The flat valley roads of this region are mostly paved; the dirt roads access the remoter areas, and it is steep terrain. Our intent was to make the most beautiful ride we could; the severity is just a consequence of what's there. In fact, the course could be a lot harder if we wanted to make it so. So while web chat pages harp on the severity of the course, all we really want is for people to finish D2R2 saying, "Wow, that was really challenging, but totally worth it because it's such a great bike ride." Thus we hope you come - prepared - to see what this thing is all about.
Maybe that's the end assessment after all: if you come with a particular time goal, set your average speed in the first hour or two and try to hold it, this course will eat you alive. But if you come planning to spend a full day out there, forget about your cyclometer and just stay within your comfort zone, you'll have a really great time on some of the most beautiful roads you'll ever ride.
Franklin Land Trust, Inc. 5 Mechanic Street, P.O. Box 450, Shelburne Falls, MA 01370