By Jonathan O'Keeffe
Published 09/04/2010; Updated 03/21/2024

by Jonathan O’Keeffe » Sat Sep 04, 2010 9:58 pm

Hurricane Earl passed by offshore overnight, and left in his wake the kind of crystalline post-hurricane New England morning you only see once every few years, with sparkling cloudless skies, low humidity, seasonable temperatures, and brisk winds out of the northwest. Perfect riding weather, in other words, unless you’re heading northwest.

Which we were.

Zak and I rolled out of Amherst at 7:30 AM and rendevoused at the Academy with Zach, Paul, and Jay. We headed out (to the northwest) on Route 9, and picked up Peter Crisci in Haydenville. I was looking for a route to minimize distance and climbing, and so had us on major roads for most of the day. We ground our way up the long climb to Goshen on Route 9, and then cut over to 116 on Shaw/Wilson/Cummington Roads. Peter expressed some scepticism about this choice, but warmed to it once we finished the initial climb and enjoyed a great descent on fresh asphalt through gorgeous scenery.

We turned left on Route 116, heading northwest into the teeth of the wind through a bunch of rolling hills and some seriously crappy pavement. This was a tough section. Just before the 8A junction in Savoy, we turned right on Center Rd, a suggestion I took from when Mike Hempstead posted a similar ride last summer. This turned out to be a great way to take us off the main roads for a while, with some climbing rollers taking us to our highest non-Greylock altitude of about 2,100′, followed by a three-mile bombing descent down Upper Hoosac Rd, made more interesting by the buffeting winds. Paul led the way, breaking all sorts of speed limits while threading through a couple of very tight hairpins and some sketchy pavement.

When we hit East Street in Adams, we finally got our first glimpse of Mt. Greylock, hovering (at that point) about 2,800′ above us. We headed north for a few miles. with great views of Greylock and the Taconic Range, before making a pit stop in North Adams to fuel for the climb.

The initial stages of the climb generated some controversy/discussion. I had mapped out a route based on Doug’s description of the course, but Peter suggested that approaching from Route 2 was a better option. We went with my approach, which was brutally difficult in the first half-mile or so. At this point, I’m still not sure exactly where the official race next weekend will start, but I think it’s a lot more likely that it will start where Peter suggested than where we rode today. In any case, all routes seem to converge about a mile or so into the climb.

From what I could tell (from the back of the pack), Paul killed this climb, perhaps due to his beta from climbing it a couple weeks ago. He went off the front very quickly and I never saw him again. I struggled to keep Jay within sight, and spent most of the climb in last place. Jay was wicked strong every time the course ticked upward, and I couldn’t match his ability to accelerate on the steep stuff. Eventually, the mountain levelled out a bit toward the summit, and I was able to catch back on, so he and I finished together.

Summit lodge was open, with some well-needed refreshments (we all chose to pass (I think) on the well-stocked beer cooler). We headed down the south side of the mountain, in a very enjoyable high-speed chase. Paul and I ended up getting stuck behind some slow-descending car drivers, so we stopped and waited a while, and eventually regrouped with everyone back on Route 7.

We headed south on 7 to Berkshire Mall Road, which was newly-paved and closed to traffic. We managed to bypass the barriers, and enjoyed a long climb, followed by a long traffic-free descent.

From there, we picked up Route 9 in Pittsfield, and finally turned east/south to break the brutal headwinds which had been plaguing us all day.

We lost Jay in Dalton, after he told us to forge ahead without him – hope the rest of your ride went well, Jay!

After that, it was a brutal climb up Route 9 into Windsor, a high-speed descent to the Swift River, and another (final!) climb into Goshen. After that it was all downhill, and although we were all pretty cooked, we took turns trading high-speed pulls back toward NoHo.

Zak, Zach, and I broke off in Leeds to take the path of least resistance (the bike path) homeward. Zak and I continued on to Amherst, where I finished with 125 miles, 15.9 mph, and 8,400′ of climbing. The average is pretty low, since I was always in the back and everyone else was stopped waiting for me to catch up, so I’m sure other averages were higher.