JAM Fundo


by Carolyn Johnson

In the spirit of adventure, none of us really examined the elevation profile before we piled into a car and drove out to Easthampton for the JAM Fund Grand Fundo, a beautiful 65 mile ride through rural western Mass. That meant that we all had different reactions when, somewhere around mile 15, we found ourselves in the midst of a beast of a long dirt climb.



Photo by Raquel Pineiro 

I watched my teammates pedal steadily upwards while I made my way behind them with way more effort and less grace, feeling like my legs had turned into slugs. A few spectators had come out to the end of their driveway to watch as more than a hundred cyclists rolled up the road as if it were a canal – bicycles going single file up a narrow channel in the road where the dirt wasn't quite as loose and our tires could maintain traction. A man struggling in front of me called out to them to say he was glad that we were near the top. The people by the side of the road replied gently and unconvincingly, "You're probably close."



Photo by Meg McMahon 

We rounded a corner, and I looked up to see Cindy and Milica soft-pedaling on a flat bit of pavement, waiting for me and giving their legs a little rest in front of what looked like a vertical wall. The steepest part of the climb was still in front of us. We paced ourselves upward, crested the last bit and my mind went a little blank until we made it to the first rest stop, where we scarfed down the most delicious sandwich I have ever eaten: a heavenly peanut butter, marshmallow fluff, blueberry confection.



Photo by Meg McMahon 

Throughout the first miles, I'd been feeling a little fatigued and worried that I was going to hold back my teammates. Then, we overheard a man talking about a group of women who had been riding steadily along, passing him on the climbs. He thought that they would surely slow down when they hit the pavement on their bikes, which seemed built for dirt and mud, but they just kept cruising. Gradually, we realized he was talking about us.

"They have only one speed: adventure!" he said. It was the motivation and potential new team motto that made us hop back on our bikes together.



Photo by Meg McMahon  

The ride only got better from there. An ice cream truck parked in the middle of a winding, idyllic road beckoned like a mirage. None of us exactly felt like we needed another rest stop yet, but the frozen treats of our childhoods called out – creamsicles, éclairs, and popsicles with inexplicable gumballs in them.



Photo by Raquel Pineiro 

Post-popsicles, we hit our stride, working together efficiently on the dirt and on the pavement. We had friends around us for company and encouragement – including Michael Fallone, of id29, the company that designed our kits and built our team website. When people complimented us on our kits, giving credit was as simple as pointing to the guy responsible for making us look so good.



Photo by Meg McMahon

Around mile 40, we turned sharply onto a loose dirt road that took a long straight shot through a dense, remote forest. It was the magical left turn into the reward for all of our climbing: shady, fast, and fun to the end.

Afterward, a few people remarked that it was great to see a group of women working together so well on the road. On a day when I wasn't feeling my best, the camaraderie and support was what made the ride fun, rather than grueling. People noticed us because we rode well together: adventure speed.

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