Events: The Dog Days of Summer
(2016) Not to rush summer along, knowing that people have just started enacting the summer vacation itinerary, but the following cycling events aren’t just scenes one can plop into. They take prep work (I hate the word ‘training’ as if I’m some ninja). So while it may feel rushed to mention late summer rides, they’re for the best interest. They fill quickly; make sure to take advantage of these well-run August events.
The saying ‘dog days of summer’ evokes baking summer days. The image of people fanning themselves on the porch, dogs panting under shade trees, steely whirls of cicadas, and the distant ice cream truck somewhere on the other side of the heatwaves are what enter our mind when thinking of August. At that point in summer the laundry pile is remarkable. There are sweaty clothes and bathing suits. Dirt-caked clothes and salt-stained cycling kits are quickly whisked into the washing machine. But actually the dog days of summer have nothing to do with dogs on Earth.
In Homer’s time, dog days may have referred to the constellation Sirius, Orion’s pooch, pushing its muzzle over the horizon for the first time that year. As celestial experts have estimated this happening around late July, it’s a plausible explanation. According to National Geographic, the saying was changed over to English from Latin around 500 years ago, thus solidifying its origin.
August is also a strange time in the cycling world. Riders are punch-drunk from the conclusion of the Tour de France. The Olympics in Brazil will have given us a nightcap. The Fall Classics have yet to start, and the roads are hazy, sticky, and radiating dry heat. These three events fill in the schedule abyss nicely. Whether you raced all spring and are rebooting for fall or you're cooling off a mid-summer schedule, these rides are certainly for bridging the seasons.
July 17th – Bastille Day Randonee ($35)
Of all the events completed in 2015, I found myself returning to the beautiful course of Kermesse Sports’ Bastille Day Randonee ride. That event was its first, and it returns for a second year. Similar to last year the Randonee offers two distances: 39 miles and 80 miles. Either is enjoyable.
This ride starts at V5 Cycles in Flemington, NJ, a major thruway for commuters heading to New York. But don’t let the motocar traffic concern you. In fewer than two miles, the ride plunges into quaint back roads where few cars passed us by. Expect an expansive view of an earthen dam of Round Valley Reservoir along with horse farms and small towns. The long ride, which features over 5,000 feet of climbing, comes within 35 miles of Newark, NJ, but it would never be known because of the peaceful nature of the ride. One extremely enjoyable portion was a lengthy downhill.
This is an unsupported ride around the northern parts of New Jersey. Though last year a group of us stuck together and stopped together. There are several historical towns on the course well spaced to allow for restocking. Nothing was more enjoyable than the glass bottle Coke at a strategically place gas station during the warm day.
Actually there was a more enjoyable feeling: finishing at V5 Cycles where participants can sit on their couch, watch the day’s Tour stage, pop some caps, and enjoy some fine French-style cuisine. I cannot recommend this event highly enough. If you ride it, don’t be surprised if, like me, you find yourself mentally returning to the Bastille Day Randonee on a slow Wednesday at work. At the least expensive event on the list, you get quite a ride.
August 6 – Tour of the Catskills ($95)
You may know Great American Cycling and Anthem Sports from their most popular event: the Tour of the Battenkill. If you’ve done Battenkill, you know the event experience is phenomenal. This year’s Tour of the Catskills will certainly meet the need for a competitive ride without the race format.
This ride has been altered from a two-day, three-race format from 2015. Instead, this year will feature three distance options with a closed street finish line. Riders can choose from 23, 54, and 80- mile events. The finish line is tucked in the town of Tannersville, NY. If anyone has read the article from last year’s Catskills adventure, I cannot reiterate enough just how beautiful this area is. Though I cannot speak for this event’s route, our ride last year saw maybe fifty cars tops over the 135-mile loop, five if you remove the two major roads we took because we were unfamiliar with the area.
The Catskills are perfect for riding. Quiet back roads, beautiful scenery, and police presence at all major intersections make this a must-do event. Doing the 80-mile route gives two perks: a pint glass and a homely-named climb called Devil’s Kitchen, which hits 22%. Some of the pros walked it one year. If that’s not for you, the 54-mile or the 23-mile event is just as good. Ride the Catskills. Ride Anthem Sports. You won’t be disappointed with the combination.
August 13 - Rapha Prestige ($200 per team plus 6 -12 beers to share)
Just yesterday I received an email I had been curious about. Rapha announced their Rapha Prestige Appalachia event. It will take place in the quiet regions of Mathias, West Virginia. Team applications are due by July 8th.
Twenty-five teams of four riders each will tackle 120 miles around the beautiful land of West Virginia. The route is scheduled to tackle a barf-inducing 10,000 feet of climbing (though the route won’t be released until the day before). Rapha recommends expecting the ride time between eight and twelve hours for this event.
I can vouch for the beauty of this land. Several years ago the Missus and I took part in a white water camping trip to attack the Gauley River during the dam release. On our commute to the Gauley Marathon, I couldn’t stop thinking about how amazing it would be to ride the very same roads. There are winding valley roads as well as dramatic switchbacks that gain or lose scores of feet in one turn. The roads are like tunnels through the forest that reward riders with windows of remarkable scenery at unexpected times.
Like the Bastille Day Randonnee, this is an unsupported ride. It’s no surprise that looking at a map of the surrounding area few towns pop up to provide support. It is recommended to bring quite a bit more stuffs than a normal ride due to the remoteness of the route.
With Chantilly, Virginia, fewer than two hours away, expect hefty admission competition. Washington, D.C. riders will certainly want a piece of the action as well as farther teams from places such as Baltimore, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia. A one-hundred-and-twenty mile ride is a long day out, but to trammel over new roads with 99 other thrill seekers certainly makes the Rapha Prestige an adventure. It's also bragging rights to pocket the roundel after finishing the slog. If your team gets in, that is.
Cover art was lifted from the National Geographic website and is not mine. The art in question can be found here.