It was very humbling to ride behind Charlie, who did this year’s ride — his 15th — in memory of his mom, Eleanor Clapp, who passed away in June. Charlie rode wearing a t-shirt with his favorite picture of her on his back.
My daughter’s godfather, Charlie Clapp, stopped by Saturday night, half-way through his annual bicycle ride across the state from Sturbridge to Provincetown, raising money to fight cancer as a rider in the Pan-Mass Challenge, the first and premier charity ride in the country.
I asked if I could escort him from Cotuit to the service roads where he could rejoin the riders on the second half of their ride, and he encouraged me to try to keep up (Charlie won a silver medal in 1984 at the Los Angeles Olympic Games in the U.S. eight with coxswain). So we hit the road at 6:30 am and rode side by side chatting until the service roads, a roller-coaster route that parallels Route 6 – the Mid-Cape Highway. A few of the 3,500 cyclists were streaming by, so we tucked ourselves into the flow and began riding with a little more competitiveness — something about another bicyclist up the road just gets the competitive juices flowing.
Being 6’5", Charlie is a very good person to ride behind, sort of a human air-dam that just sucks along a nice envelope of air-resistance. Before long we were up to 35 kph (I normally ride alone at 29 to 30 kph) and flying past the other riders.
The best part of the ride was on route 6A, a very scenic two-lane road along the northside of Cape Cod. Ordinarily this is a route to avoid at all costs during the summer, but with police waving us through intersections and the entire east-bound lane to ourselves, it was the closest I’ll ever come to the feeling of riding in the Tour de France when bicycles actually own the road and don’t have to fight for a tiny sliver of it along the pot-holed verge.
We cranked through the villages of West Barnstable, Cummaquid, Yarmouthport and Dennis, flying just inside of the yellow line and drafting behind a support van from the PMC organization. I parted company with Charlie at Nickerson State Park in Brewster, stopping to wish him well, refill my water bottle and marvel at the sea of cyclists gathered to raise more than $21 million in a single day for the Dana Farber Cancer Insitute in Boston (an astonishing 95% of the funds raise are handed over, unencumbered, to the hospital, ever year).
With some regret I left the caravan and headed back another 50 km to Cotuit, by myself into a headwind. Next year I’ll get my act together early and register for the entire ride.
I didn’t feel sorry for myself during the ride home though. It was very humbling to ride behind Charlie, who did this year’s ride — his 15th — in memory of his mom, Eleanor Clapp, who passed away in June. Charlie rode wearing a t-shirt with his favorite picture of her on his back.
To support Charlie and the cause, you can click on https://www.pmc.org/egifts/ and enter his rider’s number CC0005.