Friday Group Ride #450

Friday Group Ride #450

You have to be careful what you wish for. I remember going to Disneyland when I was about 12. This is something I had dreamed of as a younger child. The lines were long. The rides were short. And it was hot. Put another way, we tend to idealize, even fetishise, certain places, events and activities. When we finally get to that thing, the experience is seldom as we imagined.

I was thinking of this the other day, because the Paris Roubaix Challenge ran last week, and a couple of my friends were there. How many are too many cobbles? How cold is too cold? You find out in a hurry in the north of France.

If you were climbing Mont Ventoux on a blistering hot day, a dry breeze choking the moisture from your gaping mouth, and just as you came within sight of the Simpson Memorial a Big Mac wrapper blew by on the wind, would it feel magical?

There’s shattering ordinariness inherent even in iconic things, right? The Mona Lisa is small. You can no longer climb the Statue of Liberty’s torch. The chocolate fountain at Golden Corral sometimes gets mac n’ cheese in it, dropped from some kid’s overfull plate.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what iconic race, event or location would you most like to ride? What would you expect it to be like? Have you already ridden some of these dreams? Did it thrill? Or disappoint?

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  1. BB

    I underwent the transformation from lifelong commuter cyclist to road cyclist only in my late 30s. However, I got a ride up many iconic Alpine passes (Stelvio among others) in my early teenage years in our family car, on the way to — or returning from — hiking vacations. We would see a fair number of cyclists on those occasions, and I thought then that it sure did not look like much fun riding next to all those cars (our own included, shamefully). 35 years on I would actually like to ride some of them, but my earlier automotive experience is a helpful reminder to do so only in the off-season or during unpopular hours.

    1. Neil Winkelmann

      Dolomites and Stelvio (which is perhaps not technically in the Dolomites) are busy with motorbikes, but it’s still totally worth it. Early in the day is the best time. Mortirolo and Gavia are quiet. The Pyrenees are much quieter again and every bit as iconic.

  2. Aar

    I would love to ride in Belgium on all of the roads and in all of the conditions that make it mythical. I have no delusions of being able to conquer other riders there, nor do I want to. Don’t even necessarily want a group ride. Fully expect to be passed by a 70 year old local on a clunker with a cigarello dangling from her barely breathing mouth even if I’m lucky enough to be all kitted out on the unobtanium rivet of the newest friction and aero optimized wunderbike. I just want to know what it’s like to ride those cobbles, murs and walls of wind to the limits of my ability.

    Yes, I’m old and cynical enough to see the romance in that notion and understand that the reality would shatter the romance. Still wanna do it.

  3. David Arnold

    Even though I lived and raced in Belgium for nearly 5 yrs I never got to ride the iconic climbs and routes of the Flanders classic races. I am planning to in 2021 after watching the worlds in Flanders. I also want to ride in Denmark with a city bike out into the countryside with some pastries and get a strong coffee.

  4. Quentin

    At one time I might have said Roubaix. Then I drove a rental car over the Carrefour de l’Arbre cobbles. Only then did I fully comprehend the sheer absurdity of the race. I’d have no problem riding them on a full suspension mountain bike. I’m not sure I really need ride them on a racing bike after all. I still like the idea of riding up some of the bergs in Flanders, but maybe that, too, is just the naivete of having not seen them up close.

  5. Jeff vdD

    To my knowledge, my iconic event doesn’t yet exist. It’s RAGBRAI but on gravel. Multiple days. Dirt roads. Party at the end of every day. Overnight camping. Repeat.

    I’m torn on whether I want this ride to be point-to-point or loops each day returning to the same spot. Point-to-point means more setup-takedown, but there’s something appealing about getting from A to B.

    Doesn’t have to be US, but US is what I have in mind. Western MA and VT perhaps, with lots of climbing? Flint Hills of KS or similar? Or somewhere else entirely?

    The image I have in mind is perfect, so the ride would probably disappoint, at least a little. But it could still be fantastic. And maybe it’s already out there and I just don’t know about it … let me know.

  6. MattC

    The only race I watch every year is le Tour de France….and day after day I gaze in awe at the amazing countryside and beautiful climbs. This year will be very sad without Frances most vocal tourism-supporter Paul Sherwin giving the world a taste of the best France has to offer. I’d dearly love to ride some of that before I die…but I’m very afraid that as fantastic as it all looks on closed roads with helicopter and moto film crews, riding it on open roads with actual motor-vehicle traffic might not be so great. But I’d still like to try. I mean, Alp du Huez, Mon Ventoux, the col de Gablier (sp) to name just 3 off the top of my head? I’m not fast, nor will I ever be…but I can ride all day and love it. Multi-hour climbs? BRING IT ON! That’s my game! Tho I’d likely be terrified on the descents…especially with said traffic. Maybe one day I will get the chance. Maybe not. But it’s good to have dreams.

  7. Andrew

    I’d say “Hawaii”, in particular the Kona Ironman route. It’s not that riding in Hawaii is BAD (you are still riding, and it is still Hawaii), it’s just that it gets talked up as a bucket list thing, when in fact 1) there aren’t many roads, 2) the roads are almost always packed with tourists in rental cars, 3) riding though sunbaked lava fields at 110F on the tarmac is not as great as it is made out to be. There are a few good rides, but overall, it’s a little disappointing. Maui is better, but even then, there are only so many times you can ride the West Maui loop, especially as around half of it is “eh” (the other half is totally awesome though). The Haleakala area, and over to the windmills is great riding, but you’re almost certainly fighting big time traffic to get there. Anyway, first world problems, I know.

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