Events: Doylestown Bike Works’ Cranksgiving
(2015) I was on the fence about signing up for Cranksgiving. It had nothing to do with the event proper. Yet it was Bike Works’ effort to sponsor such a wonderful cause that inspired me to register day-of. This is how my ride went:
It was great to see the cycling community show up for Cranksgiving. I pulled into the parking lot uncharacteristically early. It felt weird to not be cramming my shoes on, throwing my bike off the car, and lining up for the wrong wave. Here I took my time to register, grabbed a cue sheet, even talked to some friends, even more so made some future plans with friends, and then headed to my strategically-parked car to prepare for my oh-so-serious race. I mean fundraiser.
Looking around at the start there were many cyclist types out. There was the customary tandem, which is always great to see. There were hobbyists. There were serious riders. There were numerous riders for Doylestown Bike Works. There was a grown man wearing a turkey outfit. Randy was there. If you’re not from Doylestown, just continue to read on. There were over one hundred of us ready for the central Bucks County roads. Noticeably there were a lot of smiles. The beautiful fall weather helped. The temperature was the expected November feel. That helped the participants. It was the purpose of the event that drew us all out: to provide food for the needy.
After a couple of announcements – one including the goal of 7,000 pounds of collected food – and the customary National Anthem, we exploded off the starting line at the break-neck speed of about nine miles per hour. We were looking for the white signs with red letters “CG” on it. This was where I started my all-day battle. For some reasons I kept thinking I should be looking for signs for the Donut Derby. Who knows where my head was.
The group snaked its way through the residential district of Doylestown and headed toward the church district. There really isn’t a church district, just a lot of them clustered together. Once we got out of town I decided to pay tribute to a cyclist famous for exploding off the front at the start, Henri “Ritte” van Lerberghe.
A little history about Henri van Lerberghe: He was famous for regularly riding off into the sunset at the start only to be chased down laughably by the peloton. Ritte would do this nearly every race that left the others not too concerned about him. Being one of the original smack talkers, Ritte would show everyone during the Tour of Flanders when, upon arriving from his military post in Ghent after World War I, on a borrowed bike from a fellow racer's relative, van Lerberghe ran his mouth at the start. The peloton had a good laugh and let him go too far down the road. With the velodrome finish in sight, Henri decided to stop for several beers. After his coach dragged him out of the pub, Ritte proceeded to tell the crowd to go home because he was half-a-day ahead of the rest of the field. In reality, he finished fourteen minutes ahead of the field, the largest margin of victory to this day. He would let everyone know that his story didn’t end there. For to win he elaborated that a train blocked his chance at victory. He boarded the train with his bike and calmly stepped off on the other side.
While I wasn’t riding with that much drama, I figured to pick up the pace out of town. The pack was a little edgy, and it felt better to be in open quarters. These roads were old friends. When I lived closer to town I would be regularly found pushing the pedals on these roads. How nice it was to return to them. On a stomach of Pinot Thibaut toast and Nibali roasted coffee, I wagered I had enough power for the twenty-six mile course to hang in there. I only brought one water bottle for nutrition.
Early on I could tell one rider was pursuing me in particular. It was easy to spot his green day glo helmet. I saw him circle back around at the start. In my efforts to appear calm, I only looked behind when crossing intersections or following the cue signs. He would drop back sometimes, and other times he was closer. I picked up the pace. There was one issue.
As we moved north of Doylestown, the looming Old Easton Road grinder was approaching. I was on the rivet comfortably. I also noticed how many roads had just been repaved. That was nice.
The grind up Old Easton road came and I could hear my pursuer. We crossed Point Pleasant Pike for the first time and he caught me on the pass-through to return to Old Easton Road. I thought I was done for. He played it cool by saying, “Nice day for a ride.” What? He wasn’t even taxed? He then rode away from me. "Tear the handlebars off" is what Merckx would say. I tried to settle into a rhythm while trying to figure out how he was capable of smooth pedaling on the upper portion of the Col de Easton Road. This is where I needed the fans with flapping flags, airhorns, flares, vuvuzelas, and European words of encouragement. I managed to cut my losses and returned to his wheel knowing the first stop was coming up.
Amazingly I reeled him back in. We rode north up 611 and turned into the grocery store there. Volunteers who watched our bikes and waited for our donations greeted our arrival. I ran in with extreme familiarity to this store – I shop here. I remembered the organizers’ list of food on the cue sheet and headed straight for the coffee. Two bags for the price of one. Sold. The next aisle had juice, also on the list. I ran to the self-checkout where I exchanged hellos with my neighbor. She inquired as to my next two stops. She wished me luck as I waddled outside and back into the cheering of the volunteers.
I remounted my bike after turning over the goods and caught the green light to turn onto 611 south. A quick jaunt and another left found me going down the blasted hill that got me caught. Strangely I didn’t see my pursuer any longer. I was also confused as to how there were a couple of cyclists already at the grocery store. As I raced down the hill, the group proper was coming up. People were waving. I tried to return their friendlies, but I was on a mission.
More turns through familiar roads gave me confidence. Riding in events seems to give me just a little more inspiration. I stayed focused on Valley Park Road, my warm-up route to meet up with local rides. I don’t like this climb too much either. It’s not steep; actually it’s just like Old Easton Road. It grinds away a couple ounces of energy. Looking over my shoulder I realized I was being pursued again, this time by two riders! A couple more turns found us returning into the surrounding areas of Doylestown. One rider came into view up ahead, so I focused on him.
He was, however, an incredibly lucky rider. He managed to get green at three successive stoplights. I managed to get red at all three. This meant the two riders behind me closed the gap. As we meandered around the neighborhoods just outside of Doylestown I had to resort to using my cue sheet regularly. The shopping centers were close, but the route had other ideas.
As I tried to read the cue sheet, the two riders caught me. Here is where I should confess I got lucky. Three times, no less. At three intersections I merely went off my hunch as to which direction to go. All three times I was correct. I saw the rider up ahead again as he pulled into the next grocery store for the second stop.
The Boy Scouts of America are quite a lively bunch. They were the receiving party for this stop. (I could’ve used this screaming on Old Easton but no big deal.) I waddled in again but my unfamiliarity cost me. This time I thought boxes of pasta would do. Who knew the pasta would be the farthest aisle from my bike? A rookie mistake! I slipped and skidded to the aisle and cleared the shelf of several types of pasta. Yet again I used the self-checkout lane. I was getting the job done. I walked back out to the screaming Boy Scouts. They saw me coming. They yelled, “Go Lance!” which got corrected immediately.
Here is where I made the mother of all mistakes. The third stop is across the street. However the route does not go there. I passed the leader (as identified to me by the Scout Leader) and went straight to the final stop. I went in and decided this time canned goods were my play. Straight to aisle three and I scooped a bread-basket-full of cans and made my way to the express aisle. While I unsuccessfully swiped several times I realized something. I had prematurely stopped! Rookie mistake number two. It’s probably why I kept accidently hitting “Decline” three times on the keypad. I was supposed to go around the block and come in through the west entrance. I had to fix this.
After unloading my bag, I rejoined the course. Several left turns lead me back to the front of the third store where I did what felt like a drive-through pit penalty. The end was near though. That was the important part.
Riding past the beautiful houses on Court Street, then to Church, then to State I was plunged back into the center of Doylestown. Satisfyingly I caught several green lights. The cue sheet hung out of my mouth. I saw two more turns and geared myself up for what felt like a podium finish. Oh the satisfaction of scores of supporters cheering me across the line. Hopefully a finisher’s bouquet would be handed to me with sponsorship offers and endorsements galore. "Oh I couldn't possibly accept your laurel wreath, but ok, I'll put it on for the pictures." After all, no one was around me. I must have been high up in the running order. Perhaps I should tell them all to go home since second place was slated to cross the line around dinner?
Central Bucks West high school blocked the throngs of people. Oh the suspense of it all! Those finish supporters know how to create drama. I saw the gleaming cars in the parking lot. I was close. The finish line was probably silent due to their desire to surprise me. I turned the final left to see the finish.
There was nobody. Actually there was one rider putting items in his car. The other cyclist parked next to me was the one I had pursued for the final miles. The pop-up tent flapped in the breeze manned by nobody. I looked around in wonderment.
I met up with the rider parked next to me. “Is this it?”
“Yeah. This is it.”
“I thought . . . " I finished the sentence in my head “…there would be somebody here.” I would’ve settled for a dog with a bike jersey on.
The guy stowed his bike, said farewell, and drove off just like that. I figured to call and tell the wife I had finished. The call went to voicemail. Would it be too strange to go over to the gas station and tell the employee that I had just finished? I suppose it would be. I put my bike on my bike rack and headed home.
In all seriousness, this is a beautiful course for a wonderful cause. I’ve always wanted to do Cranksgiving each year but always missed it. It was a lot of fun to ride the old roads from years back once more. I enjoyed being in the tactical mindset this late in the season. To have the event benefit the community was the best part of the ride. Ultimately, seeing the riders coming out with big bags of donations made it obvious that while this is just a friendly event, many people took the donation message seriously.