The Hardest Day of Riding in Massachusetts

Hyperbole? You should have asked me at mile 69…

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I invented the Berkshire Triple Crown last year, as the 100-odd people who bother subscribing to this corner of the internet might remember. The idea was simple; chain together multiple peaks in Massachusetts until your legs give out.

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If I had to sum up the BTC in one word: Brutal.

8,200 feet of climbing over just 70 miles is an intensely steep ride. It’s steeper per mile than many of the Tour de France stages in the alps, and it had more climbing than a century John rode the previous month… in the White Mountains. It’s over 117 feet of climbing per mile, and it really starts to wear on you by the time you get to the final climb, Mt. Greylock.

The ride in it’s current iteration follows a hub-and-spoke pattern, which I think is an ideal format for a bike race/ride. Since each peak is its own “spoke” around the central hub of North Adams, MA, riders can pick their poison according to skill level and fitness, rather than risk getting dropped by the pack. It’s fun for everyone, not just the most Fred among us, and it simplifies lunch stops, water breaks and transportation, since you start and end in the same place.

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This year, my ridership grew to three. My aunt Linda and her friend John, a pair of biochemists from Boston, made the pilgrimage over to the dreaded western terminus of the commonwealth, accompanied by Paul and Lyle from the PMC weekend. They were all fresh off their 280 mile weekend, and rearing to eat more mileage. Paul would’ve ridden with us too, but he had another climb in the Adirondacks later that weekend, so he and Lyle provided us with a seemingly endless supply of energy gummies, gatorade, peanut butter pretzels, and fruit bars.

I had to push double to keep up with John and Linda, but the Berkshires would reward our collective effort with some of the most stunning roads and views this side of the Mississippi.

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We started the day with Mt. Savoy, the longest leg of the BTC. And lucky us, our tax dollars were hard at work this spring repaving nearly the entire stretch> That photo at the intro to this post is how the entire 27.3km looked. Nothing but gorgeous, fresh asphalt, wide shoulders, and beautiful greenery all the way to Plainfield Pond.

Lyle and Paul met us at the lake, and commented on the hill. Paul, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

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After soaking up some views on a gravel road shortcut back to North Adams, we pushed up the short-and-steep Mt. Florida to the Whitcomb Summit, where the elk statue makes for a perfect photo op. Then, it was back down at reckless speed for lunch before we took on the biggest climb of the day, Mt. Greylock.

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The first two climbs left a mark on my quads. I ate a few chicken fingers and nervously anticipated the mountain. This was my climb, the one I had done over fifty times over the past five years. I was a veteran. Linda and John were in brutally good shape this season, making me feel like my year of interval training was more “good start” than “good shape.”

We set off up Notch Road. When most cyclists climb Mt. Greylock, they drive to the parking lot at the base of the auto road and start climbing. The BTC route actually takes you up a few miles of climbing before you hit the base of the mountain itself.

Linda shot out of the gate with a ferocity rarely seen in cyclists half her age. Neither John nor I could keep up. I don’t know how far down she digs to get it, but she’s got a bottomless stamina level and she took on Greylock like it was the first climb of the day. John dropped me after the hairpins, so I brought up the rear in my own ride. I wouldn’t have it any other way- we had the perfect riding group and I loved, loved, loved being pushed to my limit.

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And then it was over! John had our elevation total through Strava at the end of the ride, and everyone agreed; this was the hardest single day of riding any of us had ever done. A big compliment coming from the riders who tackled nearly three centuries the weekend before.

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Behind every great ride is a great S.A.G. Wagon: a big thank-you to Lyle and Paul for the ten pounds of food and Gatorade I went through this summer. See you all next year!

Keep Riding!

2 thoughts on “The Hardest Day of Riding in Massachusetts

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