Words: Jeremy Dunn | Photography: Brian Vernor | Date:
Linked together with a few short connectors of pavement the mostly gravel Deerfield Dirt Ride Randonneé, or D2R2 as it has come to be known, has made its way to the front of a New England tradition of dirt and gravel. Actually, this ride could be one of its Founding Fathers. The tradition here is one where the “carriage roads” are King and the never-ending twist and turn of Western Massachusetts roadways the norm. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on whom you ask, the ride has also become a bit of a staple for the Rapha Continental who first straddled these dirt roads two years ago. So, you would think we had learned our lesson.
Still, no one complains when it comes to showing up for D2R2. In fact, even some of the people that have previously expressed their distaste for dealing with a gravel laden ride were the first to sign up. This could simply show the type of fortitude that goes into carefully selecting each and every rider chosen to represent the Rapha Continental, but more than likely this speaks to the ride itself.
If a ride must be broken down into its respective parts then this one would be — one part fundraiser for the Franklin Land Trust, one part crazy invention of ride founder Sandy Whittlesey, and one part gravel quarry. Add to that just a dash of a party atmosphere and the ride has quickly skipped the growing pains in becoming one of the best organized rides on the East Coast. In fact, in the last few years D2R2 has inserted itself as a staple of East Coast riding. The ride has even reached such mythical proportions as causing true blue roadies to skip races for the day to “play in the dirt, on the backroads of New England.”
When Whittlesey started the ride it was not out of a quest to make money. In fact that though could be further from the truth. “I could be working elsewhere, there are certainly more jobs in the Boston area, but then you would have to live in Boston and you’d not get to ride these amazing roads.” His statement came the night before this years version of the race and as he said it, he dreamily swept his hands out over the growing campsite and first few roads that would be the start of D2R2. It is sentiments like these that keep bringing people back to Sandy and back to the little town of Deerfield nestled a few hours west of Boston, Massachusetts.
But that could be part of why the ride has grown so quickly and with such ease. It is Sandy’s Pied Piper-like charm that must have convinced early participants, and it is certainly one that takes over when speaking with him. Two years ago we put together this interview with Sandy about his entry into the sport as well as how he went about putting the ride together. But, when you talk to him now he will insist that this ride is not about him. He will urge you to look around and appreciate the roads that are completely soul crushing, extremely serene and peaceful at the same time. He will ask you about who you are riding with and how you came to know them. Sandy would rather tell you about Jaap Molenaar who not only plays host for the D2R2 camping grounds but also serves as a Franklin Land Trust Board member. These are the things that are of concern, not him.
Although, Sandy can be pressed about why he put the D2R2 together, you get the sense from talking to him that he is much more comfortable talking about why you are here to do it. More importantly, why the bicycle is the best way to see these rides, to feel these rides, and after 112 miles on gravel roads, over the short punchy climbs that make up New England you will see why too.