2017 Maple City Century

Last year, I wrote in detail about what a wonderful event the Maple City Century turned out to be. Based in Honesdale, PA, the event offers rides of 30, 62 and 100 miles, all on gravel and dirt roads with a little pavement thrown in to connect the sections, What I didn’t tell you was that this grass-roots gravel ride, is a family run event. Zach Wentzel, the founder and director, operates with a tight knit and dedicated crew. He, his wife Stacy and his parents are intimately involved and it shows. All riders and staff are treated like first class passengers on their flight around Wayne County.

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Zach and Stacy personally sign everyone in at the registration table. After a pre-ride meeting, the 100 milers are sent off with a Police escort out of Honesdale and onto some of the nicest gravel roads in the northeast. An hour later, the 62 and 30 mile riders receive the same send off.

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This is my third year doing the 100 mile ride and I have seen the route, which is marked with clear color coded arrows for each distance, gets better each time. The aid stations are well stocked and staffed by the friendliest volunteers, who encourage the riders and supply them with a wide variety of fuel, ranging from water, Pb&j & Nutella, Gatorade, fruit, pickles, packaged energy bars, and homemade goodies in sandwich bags.

Zach took matters into his own hands, taking over photographer duties this year and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Stacey was everywhere on the course, making sure riders had a safe passage back to Honesdale.

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Riding with Eric and Darin proved to be the right call, as they motivated me to drink and waited at the top of the hills amid unseasonably hot temperatures. We hit Brown Trout Trail, a 5 mile section of rocks and roots, that as I explained last year, is anything but easy. However, the waterfall and creek crossing were rather dry, enabling you to ride right through it.

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After stopping as rest stop 2, you could really feel the heat and the hills. The cold Coca Cola and pickles helped me forget about the pain. Pedaling out, we hit a series of hills that seemed to go on forever, a tradition of sorts at Maple City; rest, then climb again. As we approached rest stop 3 at 75 miles, I saw the Action Bikes and Outdoor tent from around the corner and it was like I was wandering in the desert and found an oasis.

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Mike and John were awesome, they fed us everything we could eat and after packing up, they caught up and provided an escort complete with lights as we struggled through the last few hills in the dark. At the finish, Zach was there waiting to hand us our gold medals, the well earned traditional finisher’s MCC beer growlers. Which are happily filled at the post ride host, the Irving Cliff Brewery.

 

 

There are so many big endurance events out there and some claim to be grass roots, while they continue to grow and make registration a lottery.  The Maple City Century is truly a grass roots event that I hope grows, but feels more like a hometown ride that will be on my calendar for years to come, although the Metric Century might be next years best course of action for me.  Check out some more pics from this really cool event:

 

 

 

 

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Tour de Force – Day 4

Let me start by saying that riding with and doing support for so many fantastic people for the last 16 years has been a blessing. At the banquet, the previous night, I was honored as the founder of the ride. I was given a plaque and a mtb wheel with a plaque on the inset, expertly fabricated by Eric Swanson of Adventure Cycling in Aurora, CO. I accept these, knowing that Mike and Mike have carried me for many years.

IMG_0512With that said, let’s get to the ride. We started from the Sheraton in Melville, NY and rode down Rt. 25 through urban Nassau County for 22 miles to the Floral Park Municipal Field, where lunch was served (The Nassau County Police Department expertly blocked all intersections to Floral Park). Seems like a short distance for lunch, but the rest of he day’s events were going to be slow as we were escorted as a group to the finish.

IMG_0507From Floral Park, the NYPD took over the escort and wow, were we treated like dignitaries. Eight motorcycles blocked every intersection, through Queens, over the 59th Street Bridge and into Manhattan. Then the challenging part came when the streets of lower Manhattan, so congested at 1:30pm on a Tuesday, were turned into the Tour de Force Expressway. Motorcycles roared, helicopters soared and every rider and support team member, were cheered on by the thousands watching and  patiently waiting to go about their day.

IMG_0524We paused briefly in front of the still boarded and fenced Ground Zero for a moment of silence. The Freedom Tower, although not a replacement for the Twin Towers, looked glorious in the September sky.

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Arriving at Wagner Park, in Battery Park, we were treated to numerous Mounted Poilce Officers, guarding the mezzanine aboard their loyal steeds.

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In the Hudson, just behind the park were the NYPD Harbour Patrol boats as Police helicopters hovered overhead. A welcome home for some,  a hero’s send off for others. You see, many of our riders and support team come from all over the country.

IMG_0525These were and are an amazing 4 days of cycling. We cannot forget the victims of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey. You are all in our prayers. We cannot wait until next year when we welcome back all our riders that had to back out because of the recent storms. Your presence was sorely missed.

I leave you with some more photos of this incredible 4 day journey.

 

 

Tour de Force – Day 3

The day started with a ferry ride from New London, Ct to Orient Point, NY. After unloading bikes and some last minute prep, riders pedaled through the amazing Long Island wine country, with a first rest stop at the Greenport Harbour Brewing Company and although not recommended, I’m sure more than a few riders indulged.

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With about 65 miles left, the ride winded down Rt. 25 through some of the most beautiful fishing towns on the island. Lunch was served at Fink’s Farm in Calverton, NY by John Carro and owners, Dave and Michelle. who served up hero’s reminiscent of John’s former deli, the Steer Seller.

Every day’s ride on the Tour de Force ends with a story. Each rider finishes day 3 with a medal and the memories of a ride with friends and family that will last a lifetime. Two survivors, Mimi and Mikayla, were at the finish line, handing out medals.  At our banquet that night, we honored them, and recognized their truly beautiful efforts to pay it forward.

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You see, nine years ago, we made a donation to Mimi to honor her husband, Perth Amboy, NJ Police Officer Thomas Raji, who was killed in the line of duty. She was pregnant with Mikayla. A few months ago, while eating in a restaurant, Mikayla noticed a Police Officer eating alone. She struck up a conversation with him and asked her mom to pay for his dinner. Mimi did just that and asked the owner not to tell him. The Officer found out that Mimi and Mikayla paid for his dinner. He arranged for MiKayla to throw out the 1st pitch at a NY Yankee game. Seeing this, we knew that Mikayla had to be honored in front of our riders. Speaking with Mimi, she explained that we were the first organization to come to her aid and she purchased her husbands headstone with funds from our donation. This is truly a family that suffered a tradgedy, received a few random acts of kindness and paid it forward.

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Mikayla with her best friend Sydney

 

We had two more special guests. You can read about their amazing story on Facebook at the Tour de Force 911 Memorial Bike Ride page.

Some more photos from an incredible day of cycling:

 

 

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TDF day 2

Life is great on the Tour de Force. Let me explain: First, there is no better group of people than those that put others before themselves. Second, every TDF rider and Support team member, quickly become family. You can’t avoid it. Once you put on the TDF garb ( jersey), it just happens.

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Today, started in Warwick, RI and took us 75 miles through the heart of New England. Today was my day to ride. As I have explained before, the logistics just do not allow the organizers to get on a bike and forget absolutely everything else in our lives for four days. Days 2 and 3 allow riders to wear what ever jerseys they wish. Some form teams and represent with custom jersey designs. I choose to wear TDF jerseys from years past.

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Me, loving life!

The route carried riders through some as of the most gorgeous landscape that  New England has to offer. Narragansett and Watch Hill are two of the nicest beach front communities on the east coast.

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Fueling up!

All photos during the 4 day ride are taken by Diane, our photographer. She has made life easy for us. Diane always seems to be there to get the important shots. She uploads to Facebook on the tourdeforce 9/11 Memorial Ride page. The weather was pretty good today, minus the wind. All 247 riders made it safely to the finishing line.

 

 

 

 

 

2017 Tour de Force – Day 1

Last year, I had the pleasure to detail the events that led to the creation of the Tour de Force 9/11 Memorial Ride, which raised money for first responders killed in the 9/11 attacks and ultimately led to raising money for the families of Police Officers killed in he line of duty, nationwide. IMG_6041

This year, the tour will go from Boston to NYC. This morning, it started at the Boston Marathon finish line in the city’s Copley Square district. After an expertly executed escort by the Boston Police Department’s Motorcycle unit, riders made their way to the Denham, MA American Legion for the first of 3 rest stops. From there, they were released at their own pace. Support vehicles made their way to the front, along the route and a trail vehicle followed the last rider.

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With near perfect weather, the day was something the riders would not soon forget. The miles clicked by rapidly as the terrain was as flat as any day pedaling out of Boston can be.

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Milford cyclists, Andrew and Joe pedaling out of rest stop 1

Most of the route went through urban areas, saving the beautiful scenery of New England for tomorrow and traveled through numerous traffic circles, eventually finishing in an undisclosed location, 60ish miles from the start.

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John and Gonzo Support Team veterans

All riders finished safely, with the help of our amazing support team. 42 men and women from around the country, filled coolers, setup rest stops, directed traffic, fixed flats and kept this ride moving forward for the 16th consecutive year.

Stay tuned tomorrow as I detail my one day on the bike through the incredible Rhode Island and Connecticut countryside.

 

 

 

 

 

Marking the Course

On Monday, Mike H. and I traveled to Boston to nail down a few last details, with a week to go before the Tour de Force. Last September, I detailed this 4 day journey that took us from Washington, DC to NYC.

Most of the logistics and planning are done from my home office here in Milford, giving me the notion that it’s ok to tell you all about it. This year’s ride will take 300 riders from Boston to NYC.

Although the event is completely supported, riders, at their own pace, follow the route, each day to the host hotel. With that in mind, as we left Boston on Tuesday, we drove the first two days of the route, painting arrows leading up to and through each turn.

This is one of the most important tasks when planning an organized group ride. It’s the best way to mark the course.  The paint adheres to the pavement and last for about 3 months. Most cyclists will see a painted arrow. Signs have a tendency to be removed or blow away in the wind. We pre-ride the course each morning to double check the arrows and repaint if necessary.

This is the 16th year that my brother Mike, my friend Mike and myself have organized this ride. I get just as excited leading up to the event as I did in 2002. You can check out our website at WWW.tourdeforceny.com. I will detail each days ride, starting on September 9th.