By Eric Uhlfelder
It seems that every time I cover this most remarkable bicycle event for WestView News, the weather gods conspire to tell me: do something else.
It rained, sometimes biblically, the entire day. But there are too many unique parts to this ride to stay safely tucked away at home out of the rain—like a car-free run up the Avenue of the Americas, down the FDR, across the Queensboro Bridge roadway, down the BQE, and across the Verrazano.
But I’m no masochistic or must-do-it-at-all-costs cyclist. So, after we finished breakfast at the Bus Stop Cafe on Hudson Street, I let my friends from Wales start the ride up Sixth Avenue without me in a pretty heavy rain, well, because they had to. Being marathoners, they were far more serious about completing the ride “properly.” Since they had crossed the ocean and paid for several days stay at the lovely Incentra Village Hotel near Abingdon Square, and rented their bikes from Echelon Cycles just up the block, nothing was going to dampen their day.
It’s hard to say how many of the 32,000 riders who had signed up for this rite of spring actually showed up. When I connected with my friends several hours after we’d parted, on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge near Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, the perennial crowds definitely seemed thinner than in prior years, as was the precipitation which, by then, was just a drizzle.
I was not wearing biking garb like my lightly-cladded friends who were compelled to dress for the part for reasons that escape me. In fact, I donned what I normally wear for skiing and was quite pleased I had as we rose up the elevated portion of the BQE and headed south along the Brooklyn waterfront, exposed to harbor breezes and precipitation.
This is my favorite part of the 40-mile ride, navigating the undulating rises of the highway, the most demanding part of the tour, until reaching the long flat straightaway adjacent to a series of magnificent 19th-century loft buildings.
My friends were, literally, too cold to stop, and with me being fresh-legged, we were ready for the final climb onto the Verrazano Bridge—the highpoint of the ride because of the sheer scale of the bridge and the views it normally provides of the city and ocean several hundred feet above the harbor. But when we had reached the bridge’s center span, we were pretty much locked in overcast.
After collecting our medals on the other side of the bridge, for having been silly enough to ride that day, we then followed the tour up the east side of Staten Island along the harbor—an area which felt more like an abandoned outback than a city borough.
Then we were treated to the nicest surprise of the day. Instead of an hour-long queue at the ferry, this time we walked straight on and scaled a flight of stairs to the less crowded second deck where we stretched out all the way back home—no worse for wear.
But almost as if to further prove their remarkable stamina, just an hour after my friends had returned their rentals to Echelon they were perched on bar stools in the Tavern on Jane, while several doors away I had wearily climbed two flights and crashed.