Fools Classic 2017 – Who’s the Fool Now?

April 15, 2017 § 2 Comments

  1. a person lacking in judgment or prudence Only a fool would ride Fools Classic without knowing what thy got thyself into.

  2. a :  a retainer (see 1retainer 1) formerly kept in great households to provide casual entertainment and commonly dressed in motley with cap, bells, and bauble: The designers of Fools Classic are entertained by the motley fools who sign on for their event.
    b :  one who is victimized or made to appear foolish :  dupe History has made fools of the many who ride Fools Classic.

  3. a :  a harmlessly deranged person or one lacking in common powers of understanding That fool must be MENTAL and has no idea what Fools Classic is going to do to them.
    b :  one with a marked propensity or fondness for something a dancing fool, a fool for candy, a cycling fool

In some ways it seems pretty simple to apply each of these to the participants involved in the 2017 edition of the Fools Classic.

Fools Classic occurs two Saturdays after The Hell of Hunterdon (my write-up here),  and is the 3rd of 4 Spring Classic rides put together by Kermesse Sports. The Hell of Hunterdon is a well attended, and well supported, ride that this year contained some 800+ riders. Checking the “Who’s Registered” link on BikeReg.com, the numbers for Fools Classic drop to fewer than a a quarter the number of riders. “Why is this?” I kept asking myself.

Where L’Enfer D’Hunterdon is a tribute to Paris Roubaix, Fools Classic is a tribute to  Ronde van Vlaanderen a.k.a. The Tour of Flanders. Ask any Flemish local and they will tell you that there is no better race than De Ronde. It has everything. It is a long race of attrition at 260 km, with 18 hellingen a.k.a. “bergs” or hills, and 14 sections of cobble roads many of which combine with the bergs, such as the infamous Muur-Kappelmuur and Oude-Kwaremont. The race has been held more than 100 times, and is truly a spectacle to watch. Tour groups will provide riding experiences around various parts of the course in the days leading up to the event, and then will transport you to some number of key points along the race to watch the riders come through. Once through, you jump back in the vehicle and race to the next location.

The designers of Fools Classic have taken to heart the back and forth nature of routing to get the biggest elevation bang for the cycled mile buck. Check out the official map of De Ronde, and compare it to the Fools Classic route. The FC turns back in on itself many times over the course of its 77 miles, and in many of these turn backs, the rider comes to haltingly slow pace to maneuver onto a gravel road that then begins climbing, so if the cyclist/fool is ignorant of this trickery, they find themselves in a “Gear too Hard” and struggle to get the gearing right without laying down a dreaded foot.  No self-respecting hard-person wants to be seen getting off their bike to adjust their gearing after having to stop. Might as well start out dressed like this.

FC is staged in Upper Bucks County. For those that don’t know it, UBC is some pretty country to ride your bike around. Probably most people know Bucks County from New Hope, the small quaint town on the Delaware that draws people from miles around on nice warm days, with knick knack shops, and that old-time antique look-and-feel. The Lahaska Flea market used to draw regular crowds, but I am not sure that even exists any longer. Peddler Village grew up out of that in the 80’s, and I think they had a big fire there in December 2016. The point is most people don’t know Bucks County outside of New Hope, and that ignorance leads to fooldom for many unsuspecting cyclists.

Perhaps it is proper to note that not so many people are in fact fooled by FC, as the number of registered entrants numbers in the high hundreds, where as The Hell of Hunterdon draws closer to 800 riders every year. So clearly some people knew their limits, or at least asked someone about the ride, and were told “Harder Harder Harder”.

This year’s edition ran on the Saturday prior to Easter. Having signed up for this event way back in January, I didn’t think twice about it when my wife suggested we host our friends on Easter Sunday. So that I could still ride and do my part in the preparations, I took Friday off to handle downstairs clean-up, and get the outdoors ready, as we were expecting very fine weather. That same expectation was set for the Saturday ride, and it was touch and go in the early morning. An issue with a ride like this is being over-dressed as the sun draws higher in the sky, vs. being under-dressed until it does in fact warm up. The call was for a warm afternoon, but the morning sun was quickly obscured by overcast skies. I did decide to go with a long sleeved thin base layer, and I was glad I did.

I believe they started everyone in a single wave from the Point Pleasant Fire Company at the cross-roads of here and there in the middle of somewhere. They also didn’t want the baby seals to run back to their cars early because the course was too hard too quickly so they were smart in engineering the course to go easy on us for the first few climbs. Better to fool the fools into a false sense of strength and endurance, while all the time taking you further and further north into Upper Bucks. I still remember the road that “got my attention”. Geigel Hill Road started out relatively meaningless at the bottom, picking up grade through forward progress until you realized you had shifted into your baby seal gear and Geigel Hill was a club coming down hard upon your skull. That was the point, you knew, that blood would be drawn today. Your blood type was on call.

As I said, we all started in a single wave, and we were moving up nicely through the throng. I was reasonably sure that holding onto Tim (Ox if you recall from Hunterdon), was a pipe dream, but I never saw him again until the end. We had a couple of early distractions, engineered by cool gadgetry and technology. These days, you can pair your phone with your Garmin GPS device, and when a phone or text comes in, your Garmin device lets you know. Grant got two such notices, the first being a notice from his house security company that the alarm went off, and the second from his wife that she forgot to turn the alarm off before leaving so that it wouldn’t go off when some workers were coming by.

By the time that was over we had a lot more people to wind our way through again. It was going to be a tortoise and the hare kind of day.

I will not bore you with the details of the ride. Simply picture a lot of people struggling on their bikes to negotiate some extremely picturesque Upper Bucks County countryside, and you pretty much have the route. Certainly the flat sections were easy, and you could enjoy the scenery on those sections. With 27 sections of gravel, there were a lot of miles where attention to details were important, and there wasn’t much time for pictures, though I did manage to snap off a few.

I should note that the further we got into this ride, the more Terry suffered from the intense club to head beating he was taking. Add to that the only organized feed zone was 52 miles into the course, and Terry’s skull was quite pulpy by the time we managed to get him there. It did not take any work to convince him that the best thing for him was to punt, and head south on 32 all the way to the shortcut climb back to the firehouse.

Meanwhile Grant and I, revived from the stop, hit the Canal Path for 5 miles of flat trail with semi-precarious low clearance bridges. At one point Grant informed me we had climbed 3700′ already, and that worried me. The course layout said something like 5700′ total, and we only had 20 miles left after the canal path. Well, the course designer bastards had few extra clubs stowed away, and they took us up away from 32, and back down 4 times as we worked our way south, and managed to squeeze the extra 2000′ into our elevation profile.

In a moment of weakness, I approached the “Shortcut” sign, and I hesitated. If Grant had said “Let’s take the shortcut”, I would have instantly relented, but he said nothing, and forward we went for what would be one more beating climbing away from 32, only to return one more time. Finally in Lumberville, we were done with the Delaware, and we climbed back to nowhere, somewhere between here and there where the course designers found one more section of gravel road to finish off their masterpiece of engineering.

Upon returning I noticed Terry’s bike in the back of his truck and knew we would find him safe inside. We finished about 3 pm after starting out at 8 am. Strava told me I spent 5:33 riding, so that meant I spent 90 minutes of that time resting. I think the rest was probably good for me! Inside we were given our growlers, and there was a spread of good recovery carbohydrates to load up on, AND, a nice pale ale from Mad Princess Brewing. We hooked back up with Terry who had been to triage where the proper application of skull-o-tape had managed to put enough of Terry back together again and he was reasonably functional and happy. “When I put my foot down that first time, that was the end of me!”

The folks at Kermesse Sport had put on a great show. A template for a good time was laid out along the roads of Upper Bucks County, but as any racer will tell you, it is the riders who make the race, and today, many riders made for an incredible day in the saddle. The final tribute race is April 29th, and is sure to be another baby seal blood bath. Fleche Buffoon pays tribute to the Ardennes classics which are currently two down, and La Doyenne to go. Liege – Bastogne – Liege. Check out WWII and Patton and Belgium for a story about this area. Remember “Battle of the Bulge”?

Until then, happy riding.

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