Ok, so just in case you missed the NH 100 a couple weeks back, we decided to hold our own little epic in Allenstown NH. Invites were sent on Monday morning a week before. Upon arrival the hiker biker lot was already filling up. Our ride was scheduled to start at 9AM and was advertised as a 45 mile Bear Brook Epic (wishful thinking). Eleven riders would make the commitment for this one. The list of riders was; Carl D, Kevin O, Greg K, Steve C, and myself representing Team NEMBA. Other rides would include, Andy Gould (Blue Steel), John Hickey, Matt Caron, Rob Albert, Andrew Schnell, and some guy named Ryan LaRocque (5:21 NH 100 time).
The plan was a moderate epic type pace, with few stops and to come back to the cars a couple times to grab food and fluid. (I hate the hydration packs but there was no way with temps in the high 80’s and an oppressive dewpoint I was leaving home without it). Roll out was at about 9:15 from the lot and we eased into the ride with a nice dowhill on Bear Brook Trail. Nice easy start, however Kevin took a nice digger at some point on the sweet ribbon of single-track (not shown in the Video). We would then regroup and head to Catamount hill trail. This was not one of the planned trails on the route but Andy wanted to hit it, and I haven’t done it since last year. So instead of taking a left and heading over to Short Cut Trail, 11 riders would get an early taste of what was to come. This would be the first detour of the day. The trails and miles started ticking off. Sentinel Pine, Carr Ridge, Lane Trail (sand hill), Hayes Field, Hedgehog, Bear Hill, and I trail. Temps would continue to climb as the morning fog burned off and it would become clear that we would need to alter the first half of the course a bit due to the extra water consumption. We decided to axe the planned Hall Mountain climb (no objections here), and we would hit Chipmunk and Little Bear before getting back to the cars. 17 miles to this point.
First Casualties. On a day like this there is bound to be some attrition. John was not feeling well and packed it up at the Bear Hill climb early in the morning. Chipmunk would claim Andy’s rear derailleur, and Andrew would suffer a broken chain. Many of the trails were in great shape but the tropical storm did still have some sticks and trees down. After bombing down Little Bear we hit the cars only to find a missing chainring bolt on Steve’s bike. His day should have been over, but Carl keeps a rolling bike shop with a 34lb Rocky Mountain ready to go in the back of his cruck (1/2 pickup truck, 1/2 car). At the cars we had already had lost two riders, and Greg and Matt would call it a day as well.
Heading out for the second half there would be Kevin, Steve, Carl, Andrew, Ryan, Rob, and myself. Due to the oppressive New England humidity there were mixed feelings heading out for part II. Plan would have been, Hemlock Trails, Beaver Pond, the Hall Mountain loop, and Hedgehog Ledge. That wasn’t going to be the full course either, some little blip on the map called Fort Mountain was planned as a “special” treat.
I would lead out heading over to Hemlock. The planned stop was a tad bit longer due to a bike swap for Steve. Lactic acid filled up the quads pretty quickly at this point. Once on the second section of Hemlock I started getting tired, almost dizzy. I suspect some of the others were feeling the same. So it was time to hit the reserves. Hammer bar, gel, and Perpetuem, and continue on. Once through Hemlock it was time to call it. Go straight and you’re on your way to Beaver pond and Lynx. Take a left and you head back to Deerfield Rd and about a 1/2 mile of pavement back towards the access point for Fort Mountain. We would take the left.
So it was now time for the Assault on Fort Mountain. Twice in the last month or so I had planned on finding this climb and it just never worked out due to fatigue or loss of light. Today was the day, we certainly had the right crew for it as well. At the intersection of the point of no return Kevin decided to head back to the cars (bummer no crotch cam). So we would start the route with Steve, Carl, Ryan, Rob, Andrew, and Myself. No single-track here, pavement turns to fire road, jeep road, and back to pavement. There was even a section of a grassy field just enough to bring back the memories of the 100 just weeks before. Only one wrong turn was taken up a steep paved road where at the top I asked a woman how to get to Fort.
We finally get to the gate that begins the climb and at this point we had also lost Andrew. So five would start the climb. Ryan passes under the gate, I follow. Steve was out of water and Carl out of calories. You can see the large radio tower that marks the top of the climb, but it’s tough to judge vertical distance. Once on the climb there was no shelter from the sun, no shade, as the climb is wide open. It’s an all gravel base that made any out of the saddle effort useless as the rear tire would just break loose. It was a hazy day but the sun was out and beating down on the crushed stone. With every grinding pedal stroke you could feel the heat being reflected back into your body. Ryan would get smaller as he ascended the beast. Steve would come up along side of me on his 34lb borrowed 26er only to jump off 30 seconds later. I kept a steady pace but would loose it as well around the same section. Carl was running himself into the ground behind us. His front wheel going back and forth like he was stopped at a light doing a track stand. I did not see Rob at all. This climb was no joke. At the top it was, Ryan, Steve, Myself and about 5 minutes later Rob crests the summit.
Was it worth it, hell yes! Would I do it again, hell yes! Will I include it in at NEMBA FEST this year. Hell NO! This was not the 100, in fact it was only 37 miles, and although this was not the 7000ft of climbing that the 100 boasts it was in some ways just as difficult. Plenty of steep climbs, Catamount, Bear Hill, Lane Trail, and Fort Mountain. However this ride has more technical aspects and the heat was certainly a factor. Total ride time was just under 4 hours. I think by the end everyone was pretty much done. So by the end what was 11 was now 4. What a ride.