Vol. 5


No. 3

All the news that's fit to print and then some.

Work to live, live to bike, bike to work.

From the president

As I sit to write this message on this crisp, cool fall evening, I cannot help but think that the cycling season is about to change with the season too.

Even though I did not ride as frequently as I normally do, I have heard about all the great rides offered this past season. However, we did have some weekends where only a show 'n' go was scheduled.

In order to make a great club, we need volunteers to lead rides. With that said, I have taken it upon myself to research, review and even ride rides that are offered in cycling books. I have some new ideas about new rides and hope to share them with all of you next year. There are hundreds of roads to discover and enjoy. I hope all of you will explore them with me, and I hope that you will also lead a new ride next season.

Before I conclude, I would like to congratulate all those fellow club members who completed and placed in this year's Mt. Washington Road Race. For the first time in all my years of participating in the race, I was in the cheering crowd at the finish line. I witnessed Doug Aspinwall, John Fitzpatrick, my husband Jack, Joyce Morris and Theresa Lak all reach the finish line in amazing times. I believe you will find their personal stories on their experiences included in this newsletter.

One more thing before I close. As you probably already know, club member, John Fitzpatrick was involved in a serious crash while participating in a road race in Maine just one day after placing 3rd in his division on Mt. Washington. John, on behalf of the FHF, we wish you a strong, speedy recovery.

To all Freewheelers, I wish a great mountain biking season and a winter of wonderful adventures.



July 8, 2001
Walter Chudzik

The day started with wet roads and eleven riders. (one late - Julie got to ride with a dog) The ride should have been called "Fix the Flat", as four of us encountered flats and only three people actually completed the whole route. All in all, it was a good day to ride with overcast skies and no rain. Will try to complete this ride in September.

July 22, 2001
Ken Paquette

Sixteen riders on fifteen bicycles showed up in Chicopee for the combined FHF/Cyclonauts ride to the summit of Quabbin Reservation. There were a couple of new riders that we hope to see often. The day was hot and sunny but the back roads often provided shade. You could tell that Joyce Morris and Jack Fitz-Gibbon have been in training for the Mt. Washington climb. I don't think they broke a sweat on the ascent to the tower. Because I did not mark one of the turns clearly, there was minor confusion that caused some to go a short distance in the wrong direction. Next time I'll steal brighter colored chalk from my grandchildren :-) I really enjoyed having the opportunity to ride with a great bunch of individuals.

Aug. 5, 2001 Aug. 5th post-ride picnic at Lake Wyola (110 KB) LEVERETT LAYOUT 'Sweepers' Elaine and Pat

Twenty-one riders left promptly at 9:10 (Jack!) on a hazy, humid morning and returned just before the blazing heat settled in. It was a good ride: one significant hill and the rest a glorious and fast-paced, long downhill. A snack stop was taken at the Village Co-op. After returning to the start, the majority of the "hot" riders then got into their air-conditioned cars and drove to Lake Wyola for an impromptu apres-bike swim and picnic. Thanks to Chef Bill Martin for his grilling talents. Great time!


FROM JOHN: As I write this from an ICU bed at Maine Medical Center, it's difficult not to be overwhelmed by the contrasting events of the past weekend. It's hard to imagine going from the high of a third place finish in my age group in the Mt. Washington Hill Climb on Saturday to the low of a season ending crash in the final sprint of the SMCC Road Race near here on Sunday, but I managed to pull it off!

First off - damage report: me - fractured left femur, separated shoulder, infusion of the left knee, a couple of cracked ribs and a punctured left lung. And last but not least, a full smorg of road rash! All thanks to a butthead move by another racer with 400 meters to go when he hooked my handlebar trying to take away second spot in the sprints. Result: we both hit the deck at 40+ mph, so it was game over for us and the four other racers who either went down or hit the woods to avoid the pileup. The good news - my bike survived with just some cosmetic scratches and my helmet saved my skull. I know I would not be sitting up writing this today had I not been wearing one!

But back to Saturday - Mt. Washington was clearly a rush and without question the hardest climb or time trial event I've ever participated in. I can't thank Freewheelers, Jack and Suzanne, enough for ferrying us down the mountain after the race in first class style, as well as to Joyce and Fred for their support and experience from doing the event multiple times in previous years.

As for the ride itself, I ended up in the fourth wave (of 150 riders each) so I had plenty of bikes "up the road", so to speak, when our gun went off. On one of those bikes was Doug Aspinwall who had driven up with me for the weekend and went off in the second wave and became my "ten-minute man". Doug managed to stay away the entire ride and finished two minutes ahead of me with an excellent first time finish of 1:18. Talking it over that night in the motel, we both pretty much agreed on it being a one-time effort for each of us. We would just never be as lucky with the ideal weather, lack of flats, mechanical, etc., to have everything fall in place so well in the future. But I'd be more than happy to drive support for anyone with the urge to give it a go next year!

I know my hat's off to all those who endured, in prior years, some much worse conditions on the mountain in terms of wind, fog, ice and rain. Everyone said our conditions on Saturday were just about the best you could ever ask for - 50's at the bottom with a little fog that burned off before the start and sunny at the top with a slight head wind that actually felt pretty good since I was beginning to overheat in the sun.

As for lessons learned on the ride - I could have used some different tires for sure. My standard 700x19 racing slicks were fine until I went to stand on the dirt sections where they lost traction, something wider with a little tread would have definitely worked better since over a third of the climb is unpaved. And don't underestimate your gearing! Those final two switchbacks at the finish were all they had been made out to be and more! We're talking back side of Sugarloaf stuff only extended - you don't want to have to hoof it! But just in case you need to get off the bike anywhere on the climb, bring some cleated shoes you can walk in. I know I was glad to have my mountain SPDs just for getting around the finish and parking areas before I got my mountaintop bag (super job with all that Suzanne)!

So in closing, I just want to thank everyone again for their support on Saturday and the calls and well wishes since my accident Sunday. And a special thanks to all the Freewheelers who sent along the orchid and fruit basket that just arrived tonight. It's got everything from Powerbars to herb and green teas - thanks so much! The nurses have all been just marveling over it!

One last item of note - my O.S. just checked in on me and said, as I was coming out of anesthesia, my response every time to the question, "Do you know where you are?" was the same: "Yeah, I'm on Mt. Washington!" Guess I was doing the climb again in my dreams on Monday!

FROM DOUG - The weather was perfect, no clouds, hardly any wind. The group of us from Western Massachusetts did well. I think that both John and I agree that it was good to do the hill climb once, but they'd have to pay us to do it again.

FROM THERESA - Mount Washington is my friend. I rode well, under two hours (1 hr, 59 Min., 4 sec.), better than anticipated. Special thanks to Jack Fitz-Gibbon and Joyce Morris, who helped me train. It's the most exhilarating ride I've ever done. I plan to do it again. I know how to train now. I had never seen the mountain before.

FROM JACK - Now that I knew what to expect from the great mountain, I spent most of the summer training, with good friends and compatriots Joyce and Theresa (my honey, Suzanne, abandoned me on training [having done the race 4 times before] but was there to ferry us down) and in trying to figure out the best gearing possible on my road bike. I had used a Mt. bike the first year, and last year did it, with Suzanne, on a tandem. This year was an attempt at a personal time record, and so the road bike was the answer. Ah!, but what gearing? Suffice to say, I stripped every bike we owned in my experiment and finally wound up with a 30 x 32 (mt. bike cog), which worked just fine.

As for the race, I have never seen more perfect weather on the mountain in my 20 + years of hiking, visiting and, now, biking Mt. Washington. There, literally, was not a cloud in the sky the whole way up. Temps were in the 60's at the bottom and the cool 20-mph breeze above the tree line, with 50-degree temperatures, were welcome relief in the sweaty climb. The views were spectacular!

Add to this wonderful mix the fact that so many of our Freewheeler friends and members were there struggling up, and ultimately conquering the great mountain, and you have the greatest experience of my summer. The party/feast afterwards, with such good friends, was all the more sweet.

Where were you? Will we see you next year?

The mountain awaits. Are you up for it?

P.S. I bested my time by ten minutes, climbing the mountain in approx. 1:52. (I'm slow - Freewheeler John Fitzpatrick did it in 1:10 - but I did it!)

FROM JOYCE - You too can climb Mt. Washington if you are committed to the challenge and determined to reach the top of the tallest peak in the Northeast. All you need is a healthy body and a strong mind, a good bike and, if in a relationship, a very supportive partner.

Once all that is in place, be prepared to spend your winter months in the gym working out and attending spinning classes. When spring arrives, hit the road with your bike and start training for the "toughest hill climb race in the world".

You must be willing to do at least 80 training rides covering over 2,500 miles and to spend a minimum of 200 hours in the saddle. During this time, you will climb: Mount Sugarloaf 26 times (occasionally ascending the steep side at 25% grade, just to get you ready for the last 50 yards of Mt. Washington at 22%); Mount Holyoke a minimum of 6 times; the Mount Tom access road (average grade of 18% with one section reaching 21%) at least 4 times. Mount Greylock at least twice (starting from Heritage Park in North Adams and ascending the steep side, of course); Mount Ascutney, Vermont (half the distance of Mt. Washington, but the same average grade of 12% with one spot reaching 19%) at least 6 times.

Having all this training in your legs, you are now ready to climb Mt. Washington: elevation 6,288 feet, 7.6 miles long, average grade of 12% with extended sections of 18% and the last 50 yards a grueling 22%.

If you should decide to take on the Mt. Washington challenge, I can only hope that you will be blessed with the same amazingly gorgeous day we experienced this year.

Sep. 17, 2001 COVAC (Century Ride)

On September 17th, the COVAC ride went on [or off, which is correct?] without a hitch. I believe that the day could be considered on of the top ten riding days of the year. The weather was pristine and the message conveyed from fellow cyclists was "This was a great ride".

The century ride took place at a new location this year, starting at the John F. Kennedy Middle School on Bridge St. in Northampton. We had 150 cyclists registered for the ride. The majority of riders went for the full century. The sag stops were located in the same locations as last year, with each stop serving a variety of wholesome snacks. This year the riders were treated to snacks and drinks at the finish. This was a big hit! The riders were very appreciative to have a cold drink or two and energy food readily available. This offering of food and drink also had many riders hanging around and talking with the century crew about their ride and cycling topics in general.

The century ride was successful in another way, I am pleased to report that the club netted $ [..]. After much discussion with the century crew and from century riders themselves, FHF will make a donation from the century proceeds to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund that has been set up in wake of the September 11th events in New York City and Washington, D.C. I am working with our club treasurer to finalize the donation amount. There will be more to report on the donation at the next club meeting.

Lastly, I want to express my appreciation and gratitude to all those who participated in making this year's century a great success. To those whom I fondly refer to as the Century Crew, they are: Mike & Pat Vinskey; Steve & Ann Schwartz; Fred & Joyce Morris; Charlie & Eileen Meyers; Irv Friedman; Dave Hounshell; Jon Marcil; Bill Martin; Julie Miles; Sally Peters; Bob Kowaleski; Jack Fitz-Gibbon; Walt Chudzick and Elaine Stafford. Thank you for a job well done!



Russ Loomis and Susan Plonsky were at the start of the BMB ready to go at 4 AM Thursday morning August 16th with some 90 other riders. BMB is a 1200-km (750-mile) randonnee with 35,150 feet of elevation gain that must be completed in 90 hours or less.

We headed out in the darkness on our way to the first checkpoint some 80 miles away at Bullard Farm in North New Salem, MA. After [stopping for] a few minutes, we were on our way to Brattleboro, our second checkpoint. We arrived around 12 noon, had lunch, and were on our way again in 30 minutes for checkpoint #3 in Ludlow, VT. It was very hot and it was nice to check in at 5 PM and have dinner.

We headed out for Middlebury, VT, the next checkpoint (#4), hoping to arrive at 10 PM. It was dark by the time we reached Middlebury Gap and we were behind schedule. We arrived at 11 PM [Thursday], 235 miles into the ride. After a quick shower, change of clothes, and food, Susan and I headed for Rouse's Point, NY, checkpoint #5. Our goal was to make the Canadian border and rest. This would be a seven-hour ride if all goes well. Four hours into this section, we were dumped on with heavy rain. Soaked and frozen we found a room in Burlington, VT. We slept two hours and then headed for the checkpoint. It was still raining and while on Lake Champlain the skies opened once more and the wind was tremendous.

We arrived at Rouse's Point at noon [Friday]. We ate, dried off, and were on our way to Montreal. The sun was now shining and it was getting hot! This section is a new route this year and is no longer flat. We encountered numerous rollers and one monster hill (Covey Hill). This wouldn't have been so bad except we were now plowing through 40-mph headwinds. We were struggling to maintain 6 mph on the flats!

At the checkpoint, we enjoyed good food with a friendly reception and headed back to Rouse's Point at 6 PM. We were now half done! Arriving at Rouse's Point at 10 PM [Friday], we ate. Susan decides to get some sleep and will leave at 1 AM. I showered, changed, and headed for Middlebury, VT about 90 miles away. I arrived at 8 AM [Saturday], ate and slept for one hour.

When I awoke, I headed for Ludlow, VT and arrived at 4 PM. This was to be my sleep break, but I was anxious to continue and thought that I could make Brattleboro then Bullard Farm before sleeping. I checked into Brattleboro at 11:30 PM [Saturday], ate and rested for an hour, then headed for Bullard Farm. This was a mistake. It was very cold and I was too tired to stay awake. I slept in Chesterfield, NH in a schoolyard for an hour and headed off again to Bullard Farm to check in at 6 AM [Sunday].

I slept for one hour, had breakfast, and left for Newton, MA (the finish) at 8 AM. I now have only 72 miles to go! I finished at 2:37 PM Sunday. I showered, visited, waited for Susan. Susan finished and we ate and headed home. My 4th successful BMB and Susan's 2nd.

Russ Loomis