It all seemed so easy - a few hours on the bike and then we get to watch one of the best bike races in the country. Of course during our initial daydreaming we didn't appreciate quite how early we would need to leave New York City in order to hit Philadelphia in time for the Men's finish. The answer of course was on the first train out of Penn Station.
I WON'T DENY SECOND THOUGHTS WHILE SETTING A 3:50AM ALARM
But with that ungodly early alarm we found ourselves riding through the mostly abandoned city streets at 4:30AM - immersed in darkness other than a blinding stretch through Times Square (perhaps the only hour that Times Square is bearable). Descending into the hell hole that is Penn Station we were immediately reminded that we were on the first train out of the city as we were greeted by a plethora of partiers napping on chairs, stairs and floors. With a quick coffee and doughnut in hand we boarded the train, bleary eyed but far more sober than the vast majority of our fellow commuters - all of us greeted by a rising sun across New Jersey.
The train ride also gave us the opportunity to address the only near crisis of the trip - Lisa had woken to a nearly dead Di2 battery - but after attempting to explain why her bike had a battery in the first place, she was able to squeeze into the back row of the train where an electrical outlet provided her with enough juice to get to Philly with her drivetrain still functioning.
HITTING THE CANAL TRAIL AS THE MORNING FOGGED BURNED OFF
Our route had us covering approximately 85 miles and ending at the Wall, in theory in time to catch the Elite Men's finish. With the sun rising behind us the opening miles on the canal trail were spectacular: far too early for anyone other than a fisherman or two to be out, with a morning fog slowly rising off the water to our left as we debated appropriate instagram hashtags for the journey at hand - ultimately settling with a straightforward #willbikeforcheesesteak during our only flat of the trip.
We went into the ride with no idea what sort of roads would be greeting us, but the route (thanks Jed!) was remarkably good, featuring backroads for the majority of the mileage and canal trails wherever possible. With steady rotating paceline we made good time as we traversed New Jersey and crossed the Delaware River, ultimately hitting a rail trail that dropped us off in Philly just a few kilometers from where the course turned right and started the steep ascent of the Wall.
A BIKE RACE LIKE NO OTHER
We hit the course as the Men came through to receive the bell for one lap to go - catching a brief glimpse of former NYC racer Kyle Murphy in the main group before dragging ourselves up the Wall towards the finish line. After raiding a nearby deli for ice cream sandwiches we had a front row seat for the Men's finish.
Taking advantage of a 30 minute delay to the Women's start, we hopped on the course for the journey to the KOM/QOM at Lemon Hill, apparently looking sufficiently like Elite Racers that we received applause from several of the innumerable parties taking place on front lawns throughout the course. A few miles later we hit the giant lawn party that is Lemon Hill - quickly finding a crew of fellow New Yorkers in town for the race as well as vast quantities of free beer to rehydrate after our ride, all while screaming our heads off during the Elite Women's race.
All in all, and despite the painfully early start, pretty much a perfect day on and off the bike.
Matthew Vandivort is a New York City based cyclist and sometimes photographer who was also a founding member of To Be Determined. You can follow him online at @photorhetoric or http://photo-rhetoric.com/