Editor’s Note: Phil Gaimon, 25, is a Velo magazine columnist and third-year pro racer for Kenda-5 Hr Energy Presented by Gear Grinder. He has an English degree from the University of Florida, and owns online stores at podiumcycling.com and sharethedamnroad.com. Phil’s previous blogs
I first met Jeremy Powers in 2008, when he was living in a huge barn-looking house in Hadley, Massachusetts, with a wide assortment of cyclocross racers, amateur teammates of mine, and their significant others.
As you rounded the corner onto their street, you could hear a deep rhythmic booming, which got louder as you approached the house. Jeremy had just got some new DJ equipment that day. He had turned the volume up, and pointed the speakers down at the floor, so the beat would shake the house. At certain moments in the beat, Jeremy would add a sound effect of his own, like an airplane overhead, or a bullet (some of the roommates were secretly hoping it was a real bullet, which would put an end to this).
I sat down to a dinner while JPOW DJed in the other room. I asked, shouting over the beat “IS HE SERIOUS?” His roommates, Al and Mukunda, just shook their heads “NO ONE KNOWS.” I ended up teammates with Jeremy the next year, and know him pretty well now. I still don’t know if he’s serious. About anything.
A few weeks ago, Jeremy sent me an email asking if I could come do the Grand Fundo, a charity ride he puts on for a local race team in Pioneer Valley, Massachusetts, where I spent the summer of 2008, and always welcome an excuse to visit. This didn’t seem like it would work out, though. It was right after Cascade, and an 18-hour drive from my place in Athens, Georgia. I told him I didn’t think so.
Jeremy’s response: “What if I fly you up?”
My reaction: “Where the ****did Jeremy get ‘fly Phil around money’?”
A few weeks later, I was landing in Boston at 11 pm, and I texted Jeremy about a pickup.
Jeremy’s message: “We’ll send someone to get you.”
My reaction: “When the **** did Jeremy Powers get staff?”
The plot thickened when I arrived at his house, where my bike was built up already, complete with Kenda Criterium 25c tires for the Fundo’s gnarly dirt sections.
I wasn’t staying in the old barn, though. They all left for nicer digs in Easthampton, but not much else has changed. Jeremy’s house is around the corner from Mukunda’s, which contains Mukunda and his wife, Kylie, Al, and Al’s girlfriend Catherine (and last week, Brad Huff and his wife, Mandy). For the whole group, picture a less whiny and higher-IQ version of “Friends.” Or not, because I hate everyone on that show.
Everyone pitched in for the JAM Grand Fundo. JAM stands for Jeremy, Al, and Mukunda (PB for Phil and Brad is soon to be added, though). The ride is a fundraiser for the local team they ride for, which has been developing some strong regional riders, and interesting characters. Jeremy did most of the legwork for the ride, hooking up sponsors, routes, etc. and he delegates tasks to the JAM Fund riders. Hence, Jeremy’s staff.
Al and Mukunda, well, their job was to cook food for the 300+ people that registered for the ride. For that, they found a pig.
Brad Huff and I were there as part helpers, part pros to add legitimacy to the event, part guys taking a free vacation. The day before the ride, we drove around the full course, stopping at every dangerous corner, descent, intersection, and turn. We sprayed arrows to indicate the turns, and hammered stakes into the ground to hold up the signs. We also swept a lot of the nasty corners, and threw some of the bigger rocks out of the dirt road stretches. Overall, we were in Jeremy’s truck for close to 12 hours, and I experienced all of the stages of unexpected manual labor.
- 1. Excitement, enthusiasm, energy: We were jogging from the truck bed to the sign, deciding that minor descents should still get a “WARNING” sign, and moving quickly.
- 2. Rhythm: Still joking around and in good spirits, but trying to make a dent, and realizing we have a long way to go.
- 3. Drudgery: My puny bicep is giving less with his hammer swing. We’re dragging our feet, starting to get grumpy.
- 4. Lunch break at a general store: We each had one beer, and lunch. My lunch was a large amount of macaroni and cheese, a 5-Hr Energy, and a Coke. I was back to #1.
Reinvigorated, we repeated the first steps, and didn’t get beyond drudgery until about 8 pm. By then, Brad had gone home to have dinner with his wife. Jeremy and I had another hour of work to finish marking the course, and it was raining. We’ll call this stage 5: cracked/apathetic.
Here’s the conversation as Jeremy drifted his Toyota Tacoma at high speed through the dirt roads he knows so well:
Jeremy: “Do we need a ‘STAY STRAIGHT’ sign here?”
Me: “No, if they assume they should turn right for no reason, screw ‘em”.
Jeremy: “Do you know what that popping sound was?”
Me: “No, what?”
Jeremy: “We ran over a frog. They pop.”
We could see them coming crossing the path in the rain, jumping right under our fat tires.
Me: “It’s a frogocaust! Do something!”
We were dazed and an hour and a half late for dinner, but Jeremy and I made it back that night, and reasonably fresh for the ride the next morning.
The course was difficult, but had really cool roads, with great views, and all the dirt you’d expect from one of the world’s best cyclocrossers. Any time you weren’t paying attention to what a great time you were having, you’d be reminded by JAM Rider Anthony Clark (one of the most entertaining people I’ve ever met), who screams “SICK WHAT” whenever he sees a cool road, view, butterfly, or anything else. Tim Johnson got around me at the top of the longest dirt climb, and our group hammered through the extended Hundo loop, finishing 84 miles in just over 3 hrs. This doesn’t count rest stops of course, because we had to partake in their unique offerings:
- Rest stop 1: Fluffernutters
- Rest stop 2: Ice cream, out of a real ice cream truck, served by attractive women
- Rest stop 3: Doughnuts
- Rest stop 4: I think I just drank a ton of water here, in a successful attempt to not throw up.
At the end, we ate a pig, lots of beans, and drank some beers under a tent on a peaceful field that a farmer let us use. There were impromptu potato sack races, and a raffle, MCed by myself and Brad Huff, for prizes from Kenda, and various other sponsors, which I’ll let Jeremy pimp in a comment below, since they’re not my sponsors and I don’t want to get anyone angry.
The event raised a lot of money for JAM Fund riders, who’ll get better equipment, travel expenses, and maybe get a chance to ride for a pro team next year. The best things about the Fundo, though, was the community of people it brought together. The hard work was a bonding experience, and the smiling faces at the banquet showed it was worthwhile. After all the serious racing we do all year, it’s good to be reminded what the sport is really about: having a good time, making your friends suffer on the bike, and eating pig.
Next year will be bigger and better. Mark your calendar. www.grandfundo.com