Monday, August 15, 2011

2011 Gran Fondo Philly (where was Noah's Ark?)

At this point, it didn't matter where I stood... my feet were THAT wet.
I had spent all of last week drowning in paperwork and was really looking forward to riding the 2011 Gran Fondo Philadelphia. Last year's event was challenging and fun (if somewhat poorly organized) so I was excited about doing the ride again. Unfortunately, the weather decided that it wasn't interested in cooperating at all... and I exchanged drowning in paperwork with drowning in rain.

What exactly happened? Well, the forecast had seemed somewhat ominous in the days leading up to the ride. But given that meteorologists seem to be about as right as often as I win at blackjack, I was hoping that the weather would clear up for the ride. But when I woke up at 3:30am on Sunday to drive down to Philly, it was raining. And not just a little bit... it was raining record-setting amounts. But playing the role of insane cyclist, I loaded my bike into my friend's car and headed down to Philly....

A lot of water on the ground when we started.
Driving down to Philly was an adventure in itself. Driving, torrential rains cut visibility to mere yards and there were stretches where we had to slow down to 30mph on the highway. One would think that in situations like this, most people would think "Hey, this is insane. We should turn around and go home." But I apparently misplaced that thought process (also known as common sense) and kept on going to Philly....

The rain didn't stop at all during the entire 2 hour drive. And when we arrived, the ground was flooding with all the rain that had already fallen. Again, common sense would've dictated that most people would head home without even attempting to ride. And again, common sense failed me. I unloaded the bike and with The Driver, headed out to the starting area.

They made us wait in the starting area in the driving rain while taking care of some formalities. I think someone was trying to say something interesting but none of us could hear through the wind, rain, and thunder. Oh, and that little inflatable arch that they wanted us to go through? It fell over....
And the arch came tumbling down...
Once we got on the road, we got.... more wet. Wearing a rain jacket didn't help at all. And I was in a bit of a quandary about whether I should keep my cycling glasses on during the ride. Keeping them on was problematic because the rain made it difficult to see through them. But taking them off also cause a problem because the raindrops kept falling INTO my eyes. Oh, and speaking of some other problems, the utility of chamois cream was essentially negated in about 6 minutes... with all the rain, I'm fairly sure the cream just washed down my leg and into my shoes. So my shoes were wet and slippery. It was awesome.
A wet Kelly Drive. Braking was nearly impossible.
I'd like to say that the ride got better after a while... but it didn't. Can't blame the organizers (except for that minor incident where the entire group of riders got lost because of some misplaced/lost signs). It never stopped raining for the entire ride. The 100 mile route was actually cancelled because it was felt to be too dangerous to do in such inclement weather. Braking from the hoods became a feat of Herculean proportions and avoiding slick manhole covers became a game of life-threatening significance.

After 30 miles, I was done. The Driver and I decided to bail out and head back to the finish. Where, surprisingly, they still gave us our Gran Fondo medals. At least I managed to put on a funny face for the camera on the way back to the finish line. And once I got back to the car, we made a beeline for Pat's to get some cheesesteaks. That was probably the highlight of the trip down to Philly.
Hamming for the camera.
I'm looking forward to a regular, dry ride. Once my shoes dry out. Which will probably be in about 3 weeks.


  1. I feel your pain, did the Etape in similar conditions. It doesn't make for a pleasant ride!

    In case you're interested, my Etape post is here:

  2. Thirty miles in that and you get a medal from me too.

  3. This post is very special because I believe it's the very first time you posted a picture of yourself in the blog.

  4. Good job and big credit to you for hanging in there as long as you did! I just got my jersey from last year's ride a couple of months ago and never did get the finisher's medal from last year that was promised and earned after the 100+ miles of ultra-hilly riding.

  5. Did the 72 mile ride -- it was exactly as describe by the author. I stumbled on this article out of curiousity about the 2011 KOM results (no chance I won it) -- the results were never posted by the organizer (it's now December and the ride was in August). I do believe the same thing happened in 2010. This omission was the only negative to the event. Organizers please don't advertise KOM awards if you can't supply the results or even an apology regarding what happened to prevent the results.

    Finished in 4 to 5 hours (in a downpour and the sound of crickets) and medals were still being handed out -- thank you to the volunteers.

    I only stopped at one rest stop -- it was an excellent assortment of food and drink -- thanks again.

    I'd do this ride again because the route is challenging with hills. Even under the r circumstances of terrible weather it was good time.