The Longest Day
208 miles in one Day

(Last updated: Sun. May 25, 2008)

The Longest Day

Riding the Longest Day

by Piers Forsyth

It's dark. There are several riders in front and behind me. One car follows, headlights on full beam. It's 4:32 am. Our destination is over 200 miles away and we plan to be there before sunset!

We are riding the Longest Day. The length of New Jersey, from Port Jervis just in side New York state to the souther tip finishing at Cape May Lighthouse.

It all started in late October when Peter said he would ride the Longest Day if Jack did. So the decision was easily made, anyway training could wait until the next Spring. We needed to add more riders as we wanted 5-7 in the team to limit time at the front. None of us are spring chickens, so team work and good drafting is important.

It is late May and we are near the end of our third century plus training ride. Jack has found this really scenic route that takes us well north of the Round Valley reeservoir and I-78. It is the first hot Sunday of the year. Our last rest stop is at mile 95 and we have 35 miles to go. My smiling request for a 130 mile hilly training ride now seems flippant. We feel empty. The deli sells sticky buns, I find one filled with sugar and covered in gooey frosting. The label says 480 calories. I buy two and eat them. We stock up on other foods and drinks and set off south for Frenchtown.

Our last training ride was 110 miles and on flatter terrain focusing upon rotation, drafting, and rhythm. We have agreed a steady speed of 17-18 mph. Our team of 6 is working well.

It is June 10th, 2006. The departure hotel is alive with 95 riders and bicycles. Teams leave before dawn when the roads are quiet and want to arrive at the other end before sunset. Speed and rest stops have been calculated. Our SAG driver is ready and we are dressed for a mild morning. It is dark, but out eyes adjust and the SAG headlights illuminate the road ahead. Soon the sky brightens and by 5:30am it is full day light and we are well on our way. Our second stop is at the Griggstown Causeway on Canal Road. We have ridden 78 miles and it is only 9:15am. Our reception is great; my family has chalked PFW and other encouragements on the road. It has to be brief stop; home made brownies are wolfed down and we set off to Allentown NJ for the lunch break.

We are feeling great.

We take a planned hour for lunch, eat and drink well. Some riders change shirts and shorts, others re-lube-themselves. It's a good time to remind every one that we have ridden 101 miles and it is another 111 miles to the Cape May Light House. Yes, it is more than the advertised 200 miles! The hills of northern Jersey are behind us and ahead are the Pine Barrens. We all know the easy bit is done and secretly wonder how we will do as the afternoon blends into early evening.

Southern Jersey and especially the Pine Barrens have long stretches of road, the pace line works efficiently, our speed and tempo is steady and the three minute turns at the front are working well. We start to see more riders and pass some slower groups that do the Century from Allentown. Other groups pass us; they started later and look younger than we do. We get a puncture, our only mechanical of the day. Our SAG greets us at mile 172ish. She is cheerful and with fresh peanut butter and banana sandwiches, a new delicacy. We are starting to tire and my butt is getting really sore so I take an Advil, it works. We have already eaten alot today and some riders are feeling full. They have to keep eating so no-one bonks on the home stretch. It happens. We discuss strategy and agree for a quick stop at mile 192ish.

The team has got kinda quiet but the pace line and tempo are steady. The training rides are paying off. Our last stop at mile 193 is a bit more stressful, one rider now doesn't want to stop, one won't eat anything and there is no bathroom! It is a brief stop. The afternoon is over and the day is starting to cool. Only about 1 hour to go! We know we will all make it.

We pass a group that has punctured, bummer-so close to the finish.

The last hour is the best. Turns at the front are reduced to 1 1/2minutes. We are soon scanning for the lighthouse, the chit chat picks up. We pass a pair of riders spinning exhaustedly and chat briefly. Wow, just the two of them and 203 miles. They jump on the back and we pull them in.

We are leaving Cape May, going due west along Sunset Road. The light house blinks just two miles ahead. The pace briefly hits 20 mph. Left on to the Lighthouse Road and we've made it. 211.7 miles at 17.3 mph. It is 7:50pm. We opt for the cold champagne recovery drink and revel in the festival atmosphere as more teams pull in. It has been an awesome day, ridden with great team spirit. New Jersey is beautiful state for riding.

Team riders were Jack Pallis, Neil Rivers, Jeff Reed, Piers Forsyth, Peter Harnett and Brain Cap.