'Praxis'

Double Whammy Day 1: JAM Fund’s Grand FUNdo

Momentum.

Momentum is the product of the mass and velocity of an object. Taken metaphorically, managing – building, preserving, and arresting – momentum can be considered the primary challenge of existence. If you consider all the things you do in your life, I suspect you’ll see that the majority of your time and energy is spent dealing with momentum.

The weightier a body, the slower it is to gain momentum, and the slower it is to lose that momentum. Established in 2003, JAM Fund Cycling has steadily grown into an entity that carries considerable mass, and it’s plowing through space and time as it takes more mass – community support – on board. It’s a veritable juggernaut, and it’s incredible.

Fittingly, the route Jeremy Powers created for Saturday’s Grand FUNdo ride was and is all about momentum. It’s about a feeling, a way of riding bicycles. It’s not about ascending the biggest climbs or shredding the gnarliest gnar. It’s about building and maintaining momentum. A sensation many will describe as ‘flow,’ this is the characteristic so many cyclists crave, one that can only be realized when the right conditions converge and fitness provides enough of an impetus to spark things off. Off the bike, at the community-level, it’s the feeling of mutual support that underpins development across different scales, from personal all the way up to regional. As I sat on the grass in the shade of a party tent in rural Massachusetts on Saturday afternoon, processing my experience over the day, these are the thoughts that crystallized in my mind. As Jeremy presented a dozen young aspiring cyclocross racers with Jam Fund grants, everything came together: momentum. Jeremy has built a lot of it within the industry through his racing career, and alongside Alec Donahue and Mukunda Feldman, he’s harnessing it to help young riders build their own momentum as part of a network. The grant each young rider receives is potential energy, latent, ready to help propel them, to race more, to learn, to grow, to live cycling.

Speaking with Jeremy after the 127km Grand Hundo ride, he asked, “What did you think of the route; did you like it?” I could tell he was hoping I’d say yes. He cared. He cares. “Jeremy, I loved it. Honestly, it’s one of the best routes I’ve ridden anywhere. Do you know why I think it’s awesome? Momentum. There is so much momentum. It’s fun, the whole thing.”

“Yes! That’s exactly what I wanted out of the route,” said Jeremy. “I want it to flow and feel good, even though there’s a bunch of climbing.” Chapeau, man, you did it.

The Ride

After a new cultural experience for my family at the local KOA campgrounds in Westhampton, Mass, my wife, Danielle, and our kids, Sen (5) and Ro (11) pulled up to the day’s start point, an old farm in hills situated between Alec Donahue and Jeremy Powers’ houses to the sight of Jeremy setting up his playlist atop an elevated DJ booth and hundreds of excited riders milling about under an already hot sun. Within minutes 90s hits emanated from the speakers, filling the air with sexy tracks like Milli Vanilli’s Girl You Know It’s True and Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing. I think people often underestimate the degree to which music sets the tone for cycling events. Jeremy’s playlist set the vibe: FUN. We’re here to have FUN!

Alec Donahue took a few minutes to chat while I waited to roll out at a very mellow 09:30ish tee-off; he’d be supporting the event rather than riding. Alec pointed down the road in one direction, “Jeremy’s house is just down there,” then the other, “I’m just a minute down there.” He proceeded to tell me about the button factory along the stream behind the Black Birch Vineyard across the road, which had washed away over a century ago (from what I can tell, by the Mill River Flood of 1874), depositing its buttons in the silt. He regularly spends time there searching for buried white porcelain, green glass, and most rare, wooden buttons. My god, wow! Danielle and the kids would love to go there!

Pete Smith, fresh back from his sojourn in Colorado, and I enjoyed interesting conversation as the pack rolled out, led by J-Pow, Ellen Noble, Anthony Clark, and a slew of other local heroes and heroines. It wouldn’t be until we hit the first real climb that the pack would stretch thin, and I’d find myself in a small group of 8 or so riding pretty hard off the front. It only took a few minutes to realize I wasn’t keen on hammering all day and barely talking to anyone; I’d wait at the first rest stop for others and roll with a good group.

 

You’ve never seen a rest stop decked out like this. I promise. I’d been hearing about ‘fluffernutter’ sandwiches for a couple years, but Saturday was the day to get to know one up close, as J-Pows and the gang had thought of us veg folks, preparing the classic – white bread, peanut butter, blueberries, marshmallow fluff, bacon – and an alternative sans bacon. I have to admit, it works! On top of these local delicacies were a dizzying assortment of goodies, many of which were vegan, all locally made. Best rest stop ever. But the JAM gang wasn’t content to turn it up to 10. No, this one goes to 11! A cooler on the ground was home to an ice-bath of towels for chilling off steaming bodies! As Peter Vollers declared, JAM was causing sparks in the gravel event cold war with this addition to their arsenal! Where do we go from here? I can tell you one thing, I want to have cold towels at the Ride of the Damned in 2017 if it’s hot out!

An incredible day at the @grandfundo rest stop #2!#grandfundo

A photo posted by Jeremy Powers (@jpows) on

Anthony Clark, Ben Frederick, Adam Myerson, Pete Smith, his buddy and perhaps a couple others rolled out after a solid hang-out and the hills sorted us out as we proceeded toward the ice cream truck rest stop that would fall perhaps 35km later. Anthony, Ben and I were riding the same pace, and picked up their friend, Matt Urchull further up the road, forming the fourtet that would remain through the balance of the ride, waiting for each other as three of us flatted. My 32mm Compass Extralight tires were ideal for the route, but I happened to hit something very pointy….

Nothing but the good stuff today at the Jam Fund Grand Fundo. 👌🏼 . 78.5mi 8,100ft ^

A photo posted by Matthew Erchull (@consult_ant) on

Aside from one longish climb, King’s Highway, the route didn’t have any climbs I’d consider ‘hard,’ because we carried momentum into so many of them. I geared quite low – Absolute Black oval 34t ring, 11-36t cassette – and this meant I was able to spin relatively well the whole time, which was a big leg-saver. Knowing I’d have a longer, climbier ride the following day at the Vermont Farm to Fork Fondo, gearing was important, as was eating, drinking, and taking a Hot Shot cramp-inhibitor potion. I opted to down that after about 3 hours riding to see if it would change the feeling of my legs. They felt ok, and remained that way, and perhaps tellingly, I had zero twinges of cramping that night at bedtime. Nice! I’m looking forward to this stuff shipping to Canada in 2017; until then, Canadians will have to ship to US addresses.

One of the aspects of the event I really appreciated was the excellent signage. This is something that is hard to get right, but they folks – including Anthony – at JAM nailed it. All the gnarliest decreasing radius turns were well marked (Slow Down!) and following Anthony helped massively as well. Talk about fun descents! Anthony’s skids were pretty fun too. It’s been a long time since I said ‘This is awesome!” so many times during a ride.

A brief reprieve from the grinding pace to enjoy the view. 65 miles dusted, 20 to go. . #ridemercury #rockmercury

A photo posted by mercurycycling (@mercurycycling) on


“It gets even better, Matt!” Hard to believe the route could get better, as it was already pretty incredible ¾ of the way through, but Anthony was stoked about the singletrack sector ahead. Beauty it was, tacky as you like, and running parallel a river with a rock slide Anthony pointed out. Wow! This area is so RAD!

Did I mention the ice cream truck stop? Best strawberry pop ever. Need I say more?

Mostly descending back to the farm made for a sweet cap to the morning of riding. Our pace was just right, mellow enough to enjoy the day completely. 127km with about 2500 metres elevation gain is a solid day any way you slice it, but more than that, it was fun from start to finish, not a single metre of lame road. Impressive. This must have something to do with why so many CX pros have come to live in the area.

More great food capped the day off, followed by the aforementioned grant presentations and raffle. I was jazzed to score a flash pink Jam Fund t-shirt, just like J-Pows! My fam was pretty fried after a day in the sun trying to find the button stream, so we kicked off while the party was still raging so we could drive a couple hours to our next destination, lining up Sunday’s adventure in Vermont.

IMG_9653

Here’s the route:

Check out Matt Erchull’s great recap animation:

I’d like to thank the folks who donated to the Jam Fund last week, meeting and exceeding the $250 target I was hoping to hit. Your generosity is appreciated, Alain Villeneuve, Warren MacDonald, Anthony Moccia, Marcel Brugger, and Pat Kelly!

Thanks go out to everyone who supported the event, from volunteers to landowners. We experienced so many good vibes out there on the roads, and encountered so little traffic it was almost unreal; magic! Thank you to all the event’s sponsors for investing in cycling development! And I’d like to thank all my sponsors for helping me afford to get to events like this and enjoy them immensly: Giro, Woven Precision Handbuilts, Mad Alchemy, Vega, Compass tiresSilca, Re:Form. Their fantastic feeds on Instagram will keep you stoked on riding: @girocycling, @wovenprecision,@madalchemy@vega_team@compasscycle, and @silca_velo.

My Instagram account can be found at@cyclosomatic, and our club’s is @teknecycling. I encourage you to check out feeds from these rad folks too! @ellenlikesbikes, @jpows, @jamfund, @tweakn101, @benjamfred, @consult_ant

Later this week, day two of the Double Whammy Weekend, the Vermont Farm to fork Fondo.

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