GFNY — Double-Double — The Portugal Race

Booth Repeats — 2 days after making one of the best decisions I have ever made, when answering the question “What’s holding you back?”

A Very Special Week — For So Many Reasons

This has been a special week. Without getting too teary eyed about it, in the midst of our #GFNYDoubleDouble hijinx, I hit the 2nd anniversary of being sober. It may not seem important to what we had going on here, except that cycling has been a catalyst, in creating a sphere of influence around myself that has allowed me to understand all that was holding me back, deal with it, and move forward. It’s a process to be sure, just like becoming a better cyclist is. Once started, the journeys follow two similar paths. The Double-Double being a celebration of the journey, and a manifestation of all that the journey means. But we are here to talk about a bike race — and a damn good one — so to quote Anthrax — “Yo watch the beat!”

The Negative Split

It was race time, and falling short of my previous sleep induced terrors on the train back from Lisbon yesterday, about forgetting my GFNY bow tie, it was time to do the work. In conferring with Tom all afternoon about the race, we decided to work together and try to run a negative split. That meaning that we would go easier in the first half, and try to go faster in the second half. Calculating for a mark that would put us just over six hours for the whole course. Tom is a master at analyzing the course profile, required outputs, and how to modulate effort along the way. I was giving it a lot of thought — this concept is something that I have failed at numerous times, and it would take a great deal of discipline for me to modulate that effort, stay with Tom, and take advantage of having one of the best people I know, helping me modulate along the way.

Gruppo compato! Let’s do this!
A lot of horsepower up front. Tom and I would be working our own strategy.

And We’re Off…

It was a lively atmosphere at the start line. Lots of photos, videos being taken. Arms up and waving, and finally the countdown. Really? Already? I don’t feel like I have been standing here long enough. The Portuguese numbers were counted down on the PA by Ana Paula Cavalcanti the race organizer, and then we were off. I could hear my timing chip beep as I crossed over the matt, and we were weaving through the streets of Cascais, and suddenly past the apartment that we just left, waving along the way. Out along the seashore, I was being careful to modulate my heart rate, and not worry about the pack. “They are not doing a negative split”, I thought. We will catch many of them along the route. Hey — wait a second? About that negative split…where the hell is Tom? My first thought was that he must have gotten swept up in the pack. No matter, he would either make his way back or he would stay with the pack, either way, I was going to stick to the plan. Heart rate in the 120’s I kept it moving brisk, and kept the cadence spinning high. Within a minute or two, Tom was upon me. “Geiser, I am here”. He slipped in front of me, and informed me that he had lost his chain at the start, and had to wrangle it back on to keep moving, and that caused a delay. We were now weaving with the pack as we saw Uli, Mirko, Lidia, and Aleksandra on the side of the road. Someone had a flat already. It didn’t take long for them to get it changed, and to catch us on the second turn.

Onto the 162KM Route

We zigged and zagged our strategy through the front half of the Medio route, and out through Sintra, and finally we found ourselves passing the Medio turn and making our way toward our destiny — the Gran Fondo long route. Here we would start to see the climbs that we didn’t see on our Friday recce, and start to understand the true difficulty of the course. As we rolled past one of the first aid stations, we were able to see how the water and food were set up so that we could minimize our stopping time, when we needed water — and we would definitely be needing water throughout the route. The sun was now fully out, and it was getting hot. Despite passing under what looked like a few rain clouds, the heat deepened, and out in front of us, we could see the mountains/hills, that we would need to traverse to get back to the beach at Cascais as part of completing the course. Tom — ever prepared — had the course loaded, and so he and the signage allowed me to concentrate on effort without the worry of course navigation.

The Devil You Know

We were now on the route that we knew — we had rejoined the medio where the two routes converge — and we knew what was ahead for us. There was one really significant climb left, with a couple of small ones in between. The big climb was the KOM climb for the course, and led to the fast descent back to the beach road, that led to the finish line. As we got to the next stop we hit the SIS flat cola tablets, and pressed on, until I heard Tom say “big climb coming now — turn right”, and there we we were. Climbing the last bit. I got stuck again as the road narrowed, behind stopping traffic, but was able to make a continuous roll to the top. With just a few bumps to the summit, we had essentially gotten up and over, and suddenly the road tilted down.

6:19 moving time, my premonition came true.

The Finish Line

One member of the team was still out. We were in touch with Mike Carey via text and phone, and he was aware of Adrienne’s location and let us know about when he expected her to cross. We got some food and a coke, and awaited her return. As we waited, we found out that Aleksandra was on the podium for her age group, and for the women’s category overall. A huge set of wins for #Bomba. As we started to celebrate that, a call from Mirko — “Where is Tom- he is being called for at the podium!” Tom ran to the podium, to find that he was number 1 in his age group. While I know deep down that Tom could have achieved this on his own, it’s nice to think that as I worked with him throughout the day, I somehow contributed to the win, and that feeling, was truly amazing!

The Gavia family on the podium. Aleksandra and Tom celebrate their new hardware. Adrienne crossing the line, and the group of us at the finish.

A New Tradition From an Old Tradition

As we made our way back to the apartment, Jack filled us in on a beach house tradition of his family, to jump in the water full clothed at the end of the trip. While not quite the end, we had done what we came to do. We double-doubled, some of us tripled, and two of us actually won. On top of all of it- to have people from other countries shout “hey Mr. Double Double” (that you have never met), as you ride into the start line — well that’s just the icing on the cake.




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Chris Geiser

Chris Geiser

A family guy, tech-pro, and cycling enthusiast.