Photographer Andy Bokanev joined Rapha on the farm roads of southern Vermont
It always seems like a great idea the night before. Stay up way too late (hell, I’m not tired yet, my body thinks it’s still three hours earlier) and drink a little too much with newfound friends (I’ll just follow each drink with a glass of water). Harsh reality hits just a few hours later when somebody’s alarm cuts through the darkness. It takes me a second to remember that I have spent the night in a farmhouse in southwestern Vermont and later that morning I am joining the Rapha Continental team to take on the 116 mile, 11,000 feet tour of pavement and gravel known as the Rapha Prestige New England.
While most people are still asleep, the house is buzzing with activity. Check the tires one more time, pack the clothes and shoes, bring the helmet, top off the camera battery and stuff some eggs, toast and coffee into a body that is not at all interested.
At the starting point of Consider Bardwell Farms a few minutes before sunrise, the aroma in the air is equal parts freshly-ground espresso and sour goat milk. Before long, it is time to roll and we get under way at around 7:30am.
The next few hours are a cacophony of sounds and smells. Tires transitioning from the smooth pavement to loose gravel. Increased breathing on the way up to Mt. Tabor. Black top so fresh it is yet to be marked. Maple donuts from a grocery store in a town called Peru. Buzzing hubs giving way to the clicking of the shifters and the slap of the rear derailleurs as every descent turns into a climb. Tractors burning diesel and the occasional hint of cow manure.
“All I am thinking about right now is how good that whiskey will taste when we get there” – I don’t know if Rapha’s Matt Beaudin means to start a conversation, but none of us respond, choosing instead to nod in agreement.
My recollection of the last 20 or so miles is vague. There is a long and steep paved climb, followed by a long descent. And there is me realizing that I am about to run out of gas. Then there is the final gravel section with a descent seemingly selected to put our tire choices through one final test. We all pass. And when we make the turn onto the final straight and someone announces that we have five miles left to go, we turn the pace up even more. My left leg is thinking of cramping.
And then, we finish.
We roll into the gravel parking lot at the farm, unclip, hug and sit down in the grass. I did not feel like it even five minutes prior, but at that moment the thought strikes me that I could do the whole thing all over again. Our memories are short once it’s all over.
Beaudin was right, though. The whiskey tasted damn good.
Finishing information for the 2015: Prestige New England
|Can;t Get Theah from Heah||9:30*|
|New York’s Phinest||9:43*|
|Team Seven Cycles||8:49|
|Murphy Brothers Cyclocross in Memoriam||9:16|
|Maglia Rosa NYC||9:23|
|NYC MTB/NYC Velo||7:48|
|Eggs and Bacon, Bacon and Eggs||8:44|
* Team of less than 4 finished
± 10-30 mile shortened route