Events: Fools Classic 2016
Kermesse Sports' original Spring Classic took place on April 23, leaving from Point Pleasant Fire Company in Bucks County. Debate swirls about whether the Fools Classic is the hardest event on the Kermesse Sports calendar. Mike McHugh finds out.
(2016) In my eight years of road riding in Bucks County, I had never experienced a Fools Classic. Like a lot of the local riders, or even Grand Fondo regulars, I would find myself in late March (or early April in some cases) riding only in Kermesse Sports' flagship event, the Hell of Hunterdon. This year would be different.
Coming off another successful campaign at Hell of Hunterdon, I was ready to find out what the Fools Classic was all about. After studying the course map many of the roads were familiar, even favorites, while others were neglected throughout the years leaving me to wonder what I was in for. On paper, over 5000 feet of elevation and 27-dirt/ gravel sectors peppered over 77 miles of beautiful Bucks County. The combination I would find to be cruel and unforgiving… exactly what I was hoping for.
As late as Friday afternoon it looked as though we would have near perfect weather conditions, dry with temperatures creeping up into the 60’s by late morning. By Saturday morning those conditions shifted from perfect riding weather to perfect Spring Classics weather. The kind of weather you love to see the pros riding in while you sip a morning coffee. The Vlaamse Leeuw flew high above the Point Pleasant Fire Station. I parked and it started raining. A grin was forming on the face of the Flemish lion.
With slick roads ahead a group of about 150 riders cautiously pedaled their way up Wismer Road then down Schletz Hill Road to Covered Bridge Road. The first dirt/ gravel segment was quickly approaching. We turned left on to Rantzmill Road from Ervin Road and all hell broke loose. The pace lifted, water bottles hit the eject button, and chains slapped against riders' bike frames... the Fool’s Classic was officially on.
The route would hit several challenging dirt climbs; Ridgevalley Road, Tettemer Road, Lodi Hill Road, Berger Road, Stagecoach Road, and Mount Airy Road to name a few. I found Tettermer Road to be the most beautiful but also most punishing part of the ride. Cloudy skies and open fields filled with green grass made me feel like I was riding through an English countryside. The climb out of this scenic valley was ruthless maxing out at 14% (ouch!). On several occasions, like this one, I made sure to stash certain road names in the memory bank for future rides, roads I might have pedaled by previously.
Gentle rain showers held up for much of the first 40 miles of the ride (I swear it hailed as we traveled down Frogtown Road for a minute). Each dirt sector had a different story to tell. At times it seemed the rain packed down some of the looser areas of the road making it easier, on other segments it made the surfaces tacky and slow. I tested the entire width of the road searching for the best line. It was clear early on that the dirt offerings of Bucks County would be much more difficult than the packed surfaces of Hunterdon County we rode on a few weeks ago. The gravel sections were rougher and the grades were steeper forcing many climbers who prefer to be out of the saddle to remain seated so their back wheel would not slip out. Certain slopes required as much effort keeping the bike upright as it did stomping down on the pedals.
The combination of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bananas, Nutella, and of course the Fig Newtons that I had pictured in my head while limping up Narrows Hill Road were waiting for all the riders at the first and only aid station hosted by Upper Black Eddy Fire Company at mile 54. The rain let up, the skies had cleared by this time, and I felt rejuvenated. I tried to keep my stop as quick as possible as I was eager to attack the final leg of the route.
Cyclists were strung out all over the course. They had traveled from Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, and other areas of Pennsylvania. On several occasions riders, even though their legs may have been screaming, shared out loud about how beautiful this little corner of Bucks County was to ride a bicycle through. Perhaps something I, like many local cyclists, had taken for granted.
Hands down this route was harder than any of the six Hell of Hunterdon rides I had participated in in years past. Ride organizer, Brian Ignatin warned everyone at the starting line of the hatred and disgust that many would feel toward him as they navigated their way though the course.
The finale of the ride had us weaving on and off of River Road, which would offer a flat and favorable escape plan for many who were ready to throw in the towel. I would be lying if I told you the thought did not enter my mind, but I refused to give in. Why? I found my answer as I fought with my bike up Smithtown Road where I joked about skipping the final climbs to one rider next to me who responded quickly with a simple question. “How will you be able to look yourself in the mirror?” I started counting the number of mirrors back at home and then realized that this is exactly what these rides can about in the final miles, finding something else (besides your legs at this point) to get up these final dirt climbs that were begging you step off the bike and cry uncle.
I crawled up and out of Carversville via McNeil Road, hit the 27th and final dirt sector as hard as my legs allowed me to, as if I was trying to convince myself that the route had not gotten the best of me. It most certainly did. I was completely nuked.
Point Pleasant Fire Company hosted the post ride party. Cyclists were treated to Biere d’Avril brewed by Mad Princes Brewing. Liege-style waffles were served with a choice of pulled pork or vegetarian chili, prepared by Nina’s Waffles. I know this sounds like a weird combination but I was sold a few seconds into my first bite. Faces and legs were layered with dirt from the damp sectors hit earlier in the day as war stories were exchanged. Today we celebrated cycling and it hurt like hell.
For anyone looking for more spring classic themed punishment check out Kermesse Sport’s next event Fleche Buffoon this Saturday departing from the Saint Martin of Tours Catholic Church in New Hope, PA.