Back in the Saddle Again How 100 adds up to $2 million in the proud Prouty BY BILL MCCOLLOM
RIDING 100 MILES on my bicycle in one painful sitting is not high on my
priority list. As a matter of fact, every time I’ve crawled through the finish of
the five century rides I’ve endured over the past five years, I’ve vowed to burn
my bicycle and then throw the charred remains under a steamroller. But I
guess I keep coming back because it’s one of those things that have to be done,
much like getting a colonoscopy. It may be painful at the time, but I realize
that it’s good for me, and I know I will recover. But the Prouty Ride this past
July was different. It was fun — no, really!
A large part of the allure of the Prouty Ride is being a part of something so
unbelievably huge that it dwarfs even my incessant, petty whining and com-
plaining about my sore this and that. The Prouty Ride, a fundraiser for the
Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Hanover, N.H., attracted 4,700 participants
this year, including 3,100 bikers and 1,600 walkers. For a full two days before
the ride, bicycles slalomed in and out of traffic while conversations at every
corner centered on the upcoming event. The energy surrounding the Prouty
could have provided the entire town of Hanover with electricity for a week.
And as a result, riders raised $2 million in the name of cancer research — all
in one day.
Yes, it was infinitely easier to ignore the absence of skin on my crotch in the
face of such an outpouring for a single cause.
As much as I hate to admit it, the other key element contributing to the fun-
factor was that I was in better shape than in past attempts. One of the benefits
of committing to such an endeavor is its motivating effect for some degree of
conditioning after the ski season.
It’s all too easy to “fake it,” however. This year I rode on a regular schedule as
soon as the roads were free of snow. Of course, “regular” is subject to interpre-
tation, but let’s say I spent considerably more time on my bike than in previ-
ous years, despite the return of New England to a state of primordial ooze.
Day after day of rain — soaking cold rain, thunderstorms, persistent drizzle
— we saw it all for over seven weeks. I rode in the rain so many times that
my bike shorts were sprouting mushrooms, and I developed a severe case of
dishpan hands, face and butt. But I slogged on, checking off the days until
The spacious parking lot for the Prouty bikers was nearly full at 5:50 a.m.,
and teeming with century riders buzzing about picking up their riding mates.
I quickly found my partner and we headed off with the masses on our big
46 | Ski Racing OC TOBER 3, 2009
Bicycles streamed out in front of us and behind us as far as line of sight
would allow. Views of the Connecticut River on one side and fields and farms
on the other were filtered by early morning fog, keeping temperatures in the
low 60s. My partner and I sped north at a dizzying pace, as we’d affix our-
selves to the rear end of every passing group of riders. They might casually
dispatch us at the first significant incline, but there was always another group
following close behind. A significant tailwind also helped our cause. Local
police stopped what little traffic was on the road as we zoomed through small
towns and intersections, and then we were quickly back into farm country
where curious cows charted our progress.
At about mile 60, feeling surprisingly chipper, we made the turn and headed
south along the Vermont side of the river. Proving that indeed there are no
free lunches in nature, the tailwind we’d been enjoying as we headed north
quickly became a 20- to 30-miles-per-hour headwind. Riding by ourselves at
that point, we felt as if we were riding through cement thanks to the vicious
gusts. But after tucking in behind a few wide-bodied riders with massive legs,
we soon discovered that size does matter, and there’s no shame in playing the
“old-guy-card” for all it’s worth.
Over the course of the final 15 miles of the ride, the 25- and 50-mile riders
converged with the 100-milers in one glorious parade to the finish. Just at
the point when it would be very easy to start whining (“My butt hurts.” “I’m
thirsty.” “Are we there yet?”), we were again reminded that this event is bigger
than any of us.
The 3,000 bikers chugging their way to the finish came in all shapes and
sizes. There were kids on mountain bikes with Fourth of July streamers still
tied onto the handlebars; old folks wobbling along on vintage bikes with bas-
kets on the back; mothers and fathers towing babies in mini-chariots behind.
Yellow ribbons fluttered in memory of cancer victims on most bikes, and can-
cer survivors proudly wore special colored bibs.
Buoyed by the masses of bikers, as well as by the cheering crowds along
the side of the road (which thickened as we approached the finish) we soon
joined the post-race celebration. My riding partner was seeing double and I
was having trouble standing upright. I couldn’t tell if this was due to my ach-
ing back or my brain desperately seeking oxygen, but it didn’t really matter. I
was feeling too good.