Ride report from Dave Thompson:
Ride Report from Dave Thompson:
An interesting ride for sure. I’m not sure if I’d do this one again, but I say that about many of the 1200s, for a variety of reasons.
Nick et al. set out to showcase the region. Combining downtown Washington, Annapolis and the Bay Bridge with climbs on Skyline Drive and through one of the Appalachian gaps, hitting the battlefields of Gettysburg — these all provided diversity and challenge. From a time perspective, the long run into Washington and the city riding with a multitude of turns affected average speed more than the long climbs and descents. There’s payback from climbing; none from jogging through suburbia. The route designers did achieve their objectives but it probably made the route more difficult than they expected. Degree of difficulty isn’t all about climbing. It’s a very difficult route for anyone to break 80 hours.
I have a somewhat jaundiced view of heading into Washington; I lived in the Philly area long enough and saw the sights often enough, that it wasn’t new. Skyline Drive is spectacular and the Appalachian Gaps are challenging. In between we climbed and rolled. The run into Washington on commuter paths, 40+ miles of them, was new to me. I was pleasantly surprised that I could make reasonable time but for those who start these rides at a fast pace, the paths are speed limiting. I found it interesting.
The weather was also provided diversity — mostly cloudy the first day; sunny and hot the second day, again with rain late; climbing easing up on the third day and more late-day rain, but it was a long 203 miles; rain all day on the fourth and final 200k, cool and chilling. The rain on the first three days had been warm. You had to be prepared for anything.
At one point with heavy thunderstorms we took refuge at a waste treatment plant and then an open barn. Such is randonneuring!
The DNF rate was somewhat high, around 35% for the 1200k riders. Nick thinks that was mostly due to the weather. I think that it was mostly due to the long riding days. The female DNF rate was zero. The Seattle rider DNF rate was 100%. It’s really too small a sample to say for sure and even if the ride is held every year for the next dozen years, different riders and different weather will produce different results.
I rode with Hamid most of the time except, as usual, that first day. He always gets out ahead on the first day; this time he finished an hour before me. Jerzy from Toronto and Greg, a local rider, were companions for most of the ride. Jerzy slept in after the third day. He was riding strong; it wasn’t due to route or conditioning.
I never felt that I was in trouble time-wise. Nick had made it clear that intermediate times were guidelines; the final time was all that counted. As such, I could plan a reasonable day for that day’s riding. The final day, for instance, turned out to be a 15 hour 200. We warmed up and dried off for extended periods a couple of times.
Volunteer support was good. We started in Leesburg, spent two nights at the same place in Shepherdtown and the third night close to the BWI airport. There were loads of volunteers at the overnights; during the day we saw Bill taking photos and Nick providing water. Shab managed the overnights, doing her usual excellent job.
I enjoy all these rides and this was no exception. It didn’t have the views of the Rocky Mountain 1200 nor the Cappuccino from Italy, but it worked for me.
Ride report from Charles Horslin:
The first ride of Devil’s week was the Chenaux 200, a wickedly scenic route up the Ottawa Valley along the huge Ottawa River and across the dam at Chenaux and back down to Quyon to cross back on the ferry. The ferry is pulled by a cable on the shore instead of being a motor boat… kinda neat and very quiet. I thought there would be more climbing but was happy with the few good kickers we had along the way. The forest was lush and quite aromatic at times. Scenery highlights included crossing the only 5 arch stone bridge in North America
Sunday was the Vennachar 300, which was an amazing day on the bike! The scenery was breathtaking and the climbs were challenging. The weather was quite favourable for the first 200k with some sun in the morning to take the edge off the cool air. Soon clouds moved in which kept the sun off us. We had lots of rain for the last 80k but it also brought a nice tailwind and thanks to Peter Grant for loaning me a rain coat so I didn’t freeze. I forgot to pack a few important things for the week, namely my helmet and a rain jacket. Thanks to Peter and Guy for loaning me theirs for different rides! Ben and John were great company all day and we rode a good pace. I think this is a personal best on a 300 for me, 14:54.
Tuesday’s route was the Athens 400. Lovely scenery and an amazing loop through the shield but also one of the hardest rides I’ve done before… could say it had the good, the bad and the ugly. The good part was having a solid gang to ride with for the first half, we had a nice sit-down breakfast at the first control. There is so much history in the area and later on in the evening I saw a nice rainbow. The bad part was the 200km of varying headwinds and another 50km at the end… to top it off the high was only 16 and the low was 8. The rain held off for 250km but came down hard for an hour or two. The ugly part for me was breaking a spoke on the front wheel, a low spoke count one too! Forgetting that my multi-tool has a spoke wrench, I rode the bent wheel for around a 100km before remembering the spoke wrench. Luckily the rims are really strong and I was able to pull enough of the wobble out to stop the brake rub and was able to ride a bit faster. The wheel never got any worse during the ride. It was after sorting out my wheel that I was on the scenic Jones Falls road that the skies opened up and I did get a little cold on this stretch but thankfully it was a short rain and the air warmed up after this. There was about an hour of daytime left at this point and it wasn’t long after that I was treated to a spectacular rainbow which helped raise my spirits a bit. I was able to finish the ride with a couple hours to spare but I did find the last 50km to be a slog through the flat areas with a slight headwind. Randonesia had set in less than 6 hours after finishing and I felt fine the next day! Typical 🙂
To round out the week, Barry’s Bay 600 was the final course on the menu. An epic route through a big swath of the Canadian shield. Our weather was great aside from a bit of headwind during the first 100km. I fell off the back of the group at the first control and did most of the ride alone, which was a nice change after riding with folks for most of the other rides. I tried to keep my control stops a bit shorter than normal to build up some sleeping time. The sun was mostly shining on Thursday but didn’t get too warm. The humidity did get worse until sundown, then disappeared once the night was upon me. I made Barry’s Bay around 2 and managed to get 3 hours of sleep. Woke up and was heading out to Timmies around six. I ate too much breakfast and had a helluva time getting started but managed to keep the pedals turning for a few hours until second breakfast in Eganville. The controls were evenly spaced so that made for a predictable day. I stopped for too long in Calabogie since they had vegan pizza and fried cauliflower wings at the restaurant that was the control! Again I ate too much (story of my life) and had a bit of a slow go for a couple hours. The hills were challenging on both days but worth all the effort, not just for the descents but also the views. The route slowly flattened after leaving the last control in Clayton as we approached the Ottawa Valley and there was a small gang of randonneurs at the finish to welcome the riders back!
All in all I had a wonderful week and would like to thank Guy Quesnel for organizing, providing breakfasts, and supporting on the 400k, Peter Grant for route planning and supporting on the 300k. As well as a special shout-out to Vytas and Colleen for doing dropbags and support overnight on the 600K. We went through some sparsely populated areas and it would have been difficult to resupply without all of them! Also thanks to everyone I rode with, it was a great week of randonneuring.
I took a big pile of photos so if you wanna give ’em a gander they’re all captioned and sorted here:
Ride report from Martin Cooper:
Four riders and three bikes embarked on the Lake Simcoe 300, which circumnavigates Lake Simcoe in a clockwise direction. Tim Ormond, Stephen Jones, Andrea Ferguson Jones and myself. We rode east from Barrie along Shanty Bay/Ridge Road with a light warm breeze from the south and the glimmer of early morning light. We all arrived together at the first control in Orillia but on the way out Tim disappeared across the Atherly Narrows bridge which separates Lake Couchiching from Lake Simcoe and it looked like we would not see him again. The Atherly Narrows has been used as an important fishing location for indigenous people for many millennia. When Champlain visited the area in 1615 noted that the Huron-Wendat were fishing at the narrows using weirs to trap fish migrating between the two lakes. When underwater archaeologists investigated the narrows in the 1960s they observed wooden stakes driven into the lake bottom. The real surprise was when the radiocarbon dates came back at 5,000 years ago (I digress).
It was a wonderful ride to the next control, which was an information control, a historic plaque for the Victoria Road. By then the heat was building as we headed south into a headwind that was not yet a blast furnace. I tucked in behind the tandem and rode the Ferguson Jones train through the flat limestone floored Carden Plain, including a short but bumpy ride along a section of gravel road. We arrived at Brechin in need of shade and water. While I was turning the corner to find a convenience store I saw Tim pull away from a corner store. We had a short chat before he headed down the road. Well on our way to the control at Beaverton we saw Tim heading towards us. After the usual joking that he was going the wrong way, he told us that he had left his wallet and phone in Brechin…
By the time we reached the control in Beaverton we were in need of lunch and some cooling off. Unfortunately, the pizza place we chose had no air conditioning so we sat outside and watched a parade of broken down automobiles passing back and forth while we forced down pizza slices that were way too large.
From Beaverton we continued south into the heat and wind until we finally started heading east along to the south side of the lake. You could feel the cool offshore breeze before we could actually see the lake. Then it was a pleasant ride along the shore, which was packed with sunbathers and picnickers. While we were cruising along Hedge Road a dude on a time trial bike zoomed passed us and then sat up. Stephen took off after him with Andrea and me in tow and we easily dropped him. It was one of the highlights of the ride!
At about 205 km past the control at Keswick we finally started heading north and west out of the wind. A sudden but brief cloud burst cooled us down on the way to Alliston. We arrived at the finish in Barrie at dusk, just under 15 hours after we had started. About 30 minutes after our arrival, Tim rolled in having successfully retrieved his wallet and phone.
Four started and four finished. Congratulations to all for a long hot day in the saddle and especially to Andrea for completing her first 300 km brevet!
Fun just seeing the title eh! Everyone enjoyed 2018’s Carey’s Carefree Cruise 400km Brevet. Thanks to Liz Overduin who created this route!
The main goal this year was to WIN the GoKart Championship held at the Kartway in Erbsville. The only time we had done this brevet before, the Kartway was closed. By reversing the route and keeping our time down, we were able to arrive when the Kartway opened at noon. I’m getting goose bumps just thinking about what happened next!
Ken Jobba, John Maccio, Matthew McFarlane and myself (Chappy) signed the paperwork and then entered the racetrack! Fans were too far back, so I had to take our picture!
Matthew made it clear … he would be the one to beat!
Chappy was assigned Kart #1 and sat focused before the official Start.
A Shotgun Blast and we were off! The race was 5 laps … the first to finish would become Huron Chapter’s 2018 GoKart Champion! Chappy just about got disqualified after cutting off a woman and her baby who were heading towards their finish. The organizer simply warned him and added at least 10 seconds to his finishing time. Ken, John and Matt were very close behind for the first lap, then John moved out front but still second to Chappy. Matt disappeared so it was Chappy, John and Ken heading towards the finish. Chappy finished first with John second. Ken had just entered his fifth lap and looked into the stands to see John and Chappy signing autographs, he figured he was on his sixth lap … but then realized he had enjoyed the scenery a little too much!
I guess I should talk about the Brevet, although just a way to pedal to the GoKart Championship and back, we actually completed an official 400 km Brevet. Congrats to Chappy, John Cumming, Jerzy Dziadon, Dick Felton, Ken Jobba, John Maccio, Matthew Mcfarlane, Jim Raddatz and Sergii Tsymbal.
Unfortunately, Charles Horslin’s knee started acting up an hour or so after he started, so he called it a day and let Chappy know via an e-mail. Chappy, Ken, John and Matthew were in the Jen’s Cafe (Mitchell Control) for a Great Breakfast when they found out. The rest of the Randonneurs skipped breakfast, basically had their Control Cards signed, a coffee/pop and a muffin etc., then continued on.
If any of you paid attention to the weather forecast, the week before showed rain, thunder and lightning for both Saturday and Sunday. Ouch!
Saturday morning things changed, clouds all day with a chance of sunshine. Basically the clouds disappeared just after lunch and the temperature started rising!
The second Control being the Erbsville Kartway meant that if you weren’t competing in Huron Chapter’s GoCart Championship, you simply had your Cards signed and continued on, backtracking, which is where Chappy, Ken, John and Matthew ran into a few of the Randonneurs heading to the next Control.
The Coffee Culture in Stratford is the 3rd Control. The place to have a Great Lunch or Dinner is the Boar’s Head Pub. We all sat and enjoyed an incredible soccer game on the big tv!
Leaving Stratford, the four of us continued on … being … the back of the pack and all!
With the outside temperature being 36 deg C, we stopped in Plattsworth, time to sit in the shade and fill ourselves up with some H2O.
After leaving Plattsworth, the Randonneurs headed to the next Control in Woodstock. Once Control Cards were signed and back on track, Chappy noticed a Bowling Alley and suggested … ONE GAME?
Highlight of the Night was seeing what looked like a fellow Randonneur who had missed getting his Control Card signed and was heading back to the Control … but it turned out to be Terry Payne on his new TRUE NORTH!
Terry told us how his wife was relaxing on the couch just before bedtime, he simply dressed into his cycling gear and told her he’d be home around 3…
I know, no questions asked!
As we pedalled through the night, weather was perfect. No wind, >10 deg C and we owned the roads! At the finish we took a great shot of John Maccio and Matthew McFarlane with their Control Cards Signed.
Congrats to Matthew for completing his first GoKart Championship … I mean 400 km Brevet!
Now, being without sleep, John and Matthew suggested that I follow them to ensure we were all driving safely. We loaded the bikes and headed home! Thanks Gents!
Ride report from Dave Thompson:
A TALE OF TWO FLÈCHES…
From Carey Chappelle:
The HURON BOYZ and The HOGTOWN EXPRESS successfully completed this year’s FLECHE. Congrats to both!
Bob Macleod from the Hogtown Express and myself (Chappy) from the Huron Boyz kept in touch during the 24 hr ride. Both Teams started from different locations at 1800 hrs on Friday, May 18th and finished at 1800 hrs on Saturday, May 19th at the Village in Blue Mountain.
As you may or may not know, FLECHE teams must consist of 3 to 5 bicycles, so if you had 5 Tandems then you would have 10 cyclists. Steve Jones and his wife Andrea Ferguson Jones were on their Tandem for the Hogtown Express along, Martin Cooper, Charles Horslin, Bob Macleod and Erin Marchak.
Look at the happiness the Hogtown Express showed around 0330 hrs Saturday morning, that’s right 0330 hrs! They were in Orillia at the Casino! Bob claims they were not smiling because of the big winnings, but the awesome noodles they had! I wish that had been us!
Now, the Huron Chapter has somewhat of a different story. As I mentioned previously, FLECHE teams consists of 3 to 5 bicycles, well the Huron Chapter had 3 bicycles and only 3 riders. No Tandem in our group. Initially we had no problems with 5 cyclist participating in this year’s FLECHE. Once the Route was planned two fellow Randonneurs cancelled. Why … too much climbing … and too much distance! Then Jerzy Dziadon asked if he could become one of the Huron Boyz and that brought us to 4 cyclists participating … the more, the merrier!
On Friday, Jerzy planned on driving to Blue Mountain, dropping off his car and pedalling to the START. Sometime during the day, Jerzy let us know his he was having car problems, had made it to Orangeville then decided to head home, now the Huron Boyz were back to three.
The three of us pedalled to the Wismer House in Port Elgin a few hours early to have something to eat and gas up our fuel tanks. Unfortunately, being a long week-end, local police were out and about making sure everyone was playing by the rules and if not ….
We talked about cyclists and automobiles on the road and that rules apply to both. Stop Signs, Red Lights etc. Then we continued on to the Wismer House, sat on the patio in the sunshine, digested plenty of carbs and prepared for our Start! The scenery, road conditions and weather were perfect all the way to the southern end of Point Clark. Here’s a photo of John and Chris leading the way.
Once we turned and headed EAST, things changed. Headwinds, dark clouds heading towards us and a Bridge on route REMOVED. Yes REMOVED. So we headed East a little further to find a road that eventually got us back on track!
Now, having seen the fun that the Hogtown Express had at 0330 hrs Saturday morning, I thought you should know of the fun we were having, we were down to our last water bottle, no food other then M&M’s and peanuts that we carried and that no restaurants or coffee shops existed! Chris noticed a town park with picnic tables under a roofed in area that we could use by taking a quick nap, so we did! Ruffly 30 mins later, we were up, refreshed and back ‘atter. The original rain forecast had us thinking we’d be wet from 8 am on, well it was raining at 4 am. So we put our weather gear on and headed out.
This is where our story gets even better, having developed this route myself, I didn’t pay attention to detail.
The three of us headed into the Luther Marsh Wildlife Management Area, north west of Grand Valley. Pedalling on Gravel / Dirt roads that were flooded in a half dozen sections in a 10 km stretch … how did we know it was a 10 km stretch, signs along the way 10 km … 9 km…8 km…7 km.. all the way! Here’s a picture of John Cumming passing through a flooded area with Chris Cossonnet waiting to see what’s going to happen.
With 2 km to go, the most flooded area had to be crossed. I decided to get off my bike and simply walk through it, John followed me … then Chris decided to pedal through it to prevent getting both of his cycling shoes wet. Well, he made it through … but both pedals went fully under water! Arriving at 0 km to go we finally made it back to paved roads! Yahoo!
We continued on route, Stopped at 22 hrs to record our exact time and location then headed towards the finishing time of 24hrs., knowing that 25 km minimum had to be done during the last 2 hours. Sound EASY? Sure it does, unless your pedalling the route that I created. It turns out that all the North and South roads were GRAVEL, the East and West roads were PAVED. I don’t know why, I didn’t plan on putting us through this on normal Randonneuring bikes, I don’t know how I missed this info …. If one of us had 700 x 23 tires or smaller we would have had to walk a few sections, fortunately we simply travelled at 11 to 18km/hr heading North. John looked at me and questioned if we were going to be able to get 25 km in the last two hours. I didn’t know, wasn’t sure. Chris has always been my map man, knows where were at, where were going, looked at me and said for the first time “I don’t know where we are or where were headed” he didn’t have that positive gut feeling that I was used to. Well, fortunately we finished the 25 km in the last two hours (actually 40 km) for a total distance of 390 km for this FLECHE.
Now we had 50 km left to pedal to the Blue Mountain Village following our Fleche Route. Having reached the 24 hrs mark, the 2018 FLECHE was officially done, so Chris took us on a different route back to Blue Mountain that had 42 km DOWNHILL. WOW! I will develop a new Brevet using these roads at the finish, felt like a reward for what we had just gone through!
The Huron Boyz rented a Condo in the Blue Mountain Village and were able to use a Shuttle at no cost to the Village (24 hrs / day). Having touched base with the Hogtown Express, they told us some of their Randonneurs were falling asleep during their bowl of soup and would see us for breakfast the next day.
We had a lot of laughs, loved all the stories we told about the 2018 FLECHE and enjoyed breakfast before heading home.
From Bob Macleod:
Thanks for the excellent ride report Carey. The reunion breakfast in Blue Mountain Village on Sunday was excellent – you’d never guess the HURON BOYZ had such an epic adventure the day before, what with all the gravel, marsh, wind and lack of services – congratulations to you Carey, Chris and John.
HOGTOWN EXPRESS, with 6 cyclists on 5 bicycles (see names in Carey’s report), completed 368 km with about 1600 m ascent in almost luxurious conditions compared to the Huron team. New Randonneurs Ontario jerseys and cycling shorts had just arrived, so we were all kitted out like a real team. Our route took us northbound out of Markham, circling Lake Simcoe from its south shore eastward, to Honey Harbour on Georgian Bay, and then westbound along the Georgian Shore to Blue Mountain Village. Except for a few short stretches of gravel because of spring construction, road surfaces had good pavement. There was a brisk southeast wind, so most of the time it either wasn’t a factor or helped push us along. Overnight temp’s got down to 9C and daytime highs never exceeded 18C, so quite comfortable, and except for a steady 3 hr downpour starting 8 am Saturday, the weather was dry. Fortunately, we had rest stops with services evenly spaced along the route, with the highlight being the Noodle Bar at Casino Rama (158 km) which was very welcome at 3 am, so we stayed well fueled and hydrated. Scenery was beautiful and traffic volume very light, except for the last 20 km busy stretch into Blue Mountain – so an awesome experience.
This was a 1st Fleche for Martin Cooper and Charles Horslin, so a special congratulations to both of you! Congratulations too for Andrea, Erin and Stephen, who also successfully completed the event.
Another successful and memorable Fleche event!! Thanks to everyone who helped make it a success.
Ride report from Carey Chappelle:
This past week-end turned out perfect for Huron Chapter’s Brevet – Linda’s Loop 300!
On Friday, John Cumming decided to pedal from London to Goderich … even with the WEATHER WARNING that was posted! He said he took advantage of not having to pedal with that strong tail wind that blew down trees and electrical lines all the way to Goderich!
12 Ontario Randonneurs successfully completed Linda’s Loop 300. Congrats to myself (Chappy), Chris Cossonnet, John Cumming, Jerzy Dziadon, Charles Horslin, Ken Jobba, John Maccio, Matthew McFarlane, Con Melady, Liz Overduin, Jim Raddatz and Sergii Tsymbal!
Special Congrats to Matthew McFarlane and Sergii Tsymbal for completing their first ever 300 km Brevet!
Originally, I planned on driving to Goderich for the Start on Saturday morning, but Con and his wife Cindy convinced me to stay at their place Friday night. Knowing we had 12 Randonneurs participating in this Brevet, my wife encouraged me to leave sooner than later to ensure I had enough time for myself and the fellow cyclists.
Arriving at the Tim Horton’s in Goderich at 0530hrs, I unloaded my bike and got myself ready to go before meeting my fellow Randonneurs prior to the Start. Confirmed everyone was a member of Ontario Randonneurs and had OCA Insurance along with Safety Vests, front and rear lights, bicycle helmets, I handed each of them their Control Card’s before heading out at 0600hrs.
On our way to the First Control- the Colonial Hotel in Grand Bend, we all road together. Road conditions were perfect, weather conditions were perfect and the Scenery was perfect. Many comments were made early on about how gorgeous the scenery was!
At the First Control we departed in two groups, 4 Randonneurs shared a Large Muffin … John had the TOP and his buddies, Jim, Sergii and Jerzy split the BOTTOM (at least that’s what I remember!). The remaining 8 of us went into the restaurant for a REAL BREAKFAST! Ken and myself shared a table beside Chris, Liz, Charles, Matthew and John. Unfortunately, Ken and myself had a different waitress and watched our friends enjoy their fuel loading a little ahead of us! Con figured it would take too long, so he headed to Tim Horton’s down the street for his breakfast, figuring he’d be back before we were done.
Leaving the Colonial Hotel in Grand Bend we headed towards London and the second Control – Tim Horton’s. It didn’t take long, but Con was able to catch up to us … so much for Tim Horton’s being faster! On occasion we had some head wind. Ken encouraged all of us to cycle peloton style and that worked out perfect! I’ve talked to a few of the fellow cyclists who loved cycling into the wind using that style! Thanks Ken and Thanks Fellow Randonneurs for staying together!
Eight of us arrived at the London Control – Tim Horton’s around the same time. I convinced everyone to make our stop short so we could spend more time at the next Control in St. Mary’s, the Parkview Creamery Bar and Grill. Once there, we enjoyed a fantastic lunch and a beverage or two. A few Randonneurs had gone out to refill their water bottles prior to taking off, but mentioned the rain coming down! Needless to say we hung around another 20 mins or so before heading out.
From St. Mary’s to the finish was 112 km with one stop at the Mac’s / Subway Control in Mitchell. Fortunately, the eight of us had no RAIN and the WIND had dropped to at least half of what it was for the 4 Randonneurs ahead of us! OUCH! Now having said that, the 4 Randonneurs ahead of us went through a BBQ Festival in Londesborough, where the food and beverages were second to none. Too bad that Festival ended at 6pm, our group of 8 would have loved that experience!
After leaving Mitchell, we headed towards the Finish in Goderich. John and Matthew let us know they were going to take a little break along the way, so the rest of us continued on. I was riding at the front of our group listening to stories from Charles and Liz, tears in my eyes … everyone laughing and simply LOVING RANDONNEURING! To top it off, as we got closer to the shores of Lake Huron and Goderich, the view of the SUN GOING DOWN WAS THE BEST I’VE EVER SEEN! BREATHTAKING!
At the Finish in Goderich, we all talked about how GREAT this get-together was. Then those who weren’t driving home Saturday night, paid a quick visit to the Paddy O’Neils Restaurant and Pub downtown Goderich. Con asked me if I would spend another night at his place Saturday night … I couldn’t resist! John and Matthew dropped in to give us their Control Cards and let us know how much they enjoyed Linda’s Loop 300! The next morning, John, Jim, Ken, Con, Cindy and myself went out for breakfast at Willy’s Eatery downtown Goderich. Incredible food and Incredible conversations!
Unfortunately, I left my Cell Phone in my car and couldn’t take pictures along the way. However, John Maccio took a few and posted them on FACEBOOK. Check them out!
Ride report from Dave Thompson:
Where to start …
Brazil. I’ve never been there before, heard about crime, walled compounds, mental images of carnival, Ipanema, the Amazon … but what’s it really like?
Then of course there’s the ride – there was no question that this was going to be a climbing intensive ride – 20,233 metres / 65,757 feet upwards, and downwards. I expected hot. Was it going to be cold? They warned us that it might be. It is, after all, the Fall. How much rain would we get? Would it be like Rome, riding until dawn each day, having gotten off on the wrong foot (or is that pedal)?
The first draft of the route showed the first night around 300 km, the second about 550 later. No, that doesn’t work for me. 550 km later would be me, at best, finishing in the afternoon of the third day. We went back and forth with the organizers, providing optimum distances for overnights, making what would normally be a three overnight ride (1300 km) into four overnights. That extra 100 km and being climbing intensive does provide for 18+ more hours than a “normal” 1200. The final time is the goal, not the intermediate checkpoints. That said, running “flat time” means that it doesn’t get easier. Behind is behind.
The end result was a ride that roughly broke down into 308+255+274+304+167. The control close times were based on 12 km/h. We hit each of the overnight closes but left a few hours later with negative time in the bank. We got reasonable sleep, with about 5 hour night stops each night other than the last night. We could have stopped longer the last night but needed some margin. That night we cut to a 2.5 hour stop, leaving in the hole again.
Overall, we were running about 15 km/h during the day average, including stops. That provided the sleep time. Long breaks during the day, and we had a few, meant less sleep.
I rode with Mark Thomas and Hamid. At times, I’m sure, we irritated each other, but made it through. I would have had less stop time during the day; they like their food and their sleep. We compromised. I rode stronger and less sleepy with proper stops. The only time that I got really irritated was one night finishing where we could have spent time at the night Control and brought some sandwiches back to our hotel … instead, I went for a walk and found something. I needed something solid. Mark was right; it would have taken more than 5 minutes :).
We had booked hotels for nights 2 & 4. The ride was supposed to provide beds for 1 & 3. That first night worked out; the third didn’t, and the organizers found something for us. They graciously moved our drop bags from the control to the hotel / Pousada, and picked them up in the morning. I admit it, we got extra service. I might have fared better than Mark and Hamid at the ride-provided accommodation, but the extra hassle of moving to a different location meant better sleep. I never really got sleepy; neither did Hamid. Mark was sleepy on the last day but not debilitatingly so.
Each day got a little easier, riding-wise, even though the mileage increased from day 3 to 4. The first day featured a 6am start at the Aparecida Basilica, apparently the second largest one in the world, after St. Peter’s (or maybe I’ve got that backwards). Off we went, 30-something of us, and I was quickly the lanterne rouge, as usual. Getting to a gas station that Mark had targeted for a stop, I looked over and didn’t see anyone, so I rode on.
From the elevation of Aparecida, we descend to sea level. That one hour descent was so steep that I stopped a few times to let my rims cool. They were hot enough to burn my hands, let alone tubes. It hit 18% and was on pavers, rough going, bumps every 30 meters or so, no way that one could get up any speed …. constant braking. I was so relieved when the pavers ended but the asphalt was worse. Once that leveled out, I slowed down to check my location and Spotwalla, to see how far ahead they were, but lo and behold, Mark and Hamid caught up. From that point forward, we were mostly together, or close enough.
Soon we hit the first control. Like many cities we went through, the roads were either 12″ hexagon pavers, bricks or plain flat-topped rocks. The cities were brutal riding. There were also speed humps, but we were already slow! Those pavers, bricks and rocks made for very slow city rolling.
Late afternoon we hit the major featured climb, 8 km of 12+%. I knew in advance that this was a walk, likely a 2 hour walk. Sure enough, it was. There were switchbacks where that grade must have hit 20+% and it was difficult to push your bike up; bad traction walking in cycling shoes. I understand that 3 people were able to ride through. Simply amazing. Traffic was heavy so that even if you could have been spinning up with huge cogs, you’d have been wobbly enough that it might not be safe.
I figured that if I could get through the first day in reasonable time, i.e. not riding until dawn, I’d be ok. We finished up around 1am, hit the showers and bed. It was sort-of a camp with cots, better than mats on the floor. We rolled out at 6:30 — later than I’d like but realized from experience that more sleep for Hamid, at least, meant faster rolling. We all did pretty well but patience does wear thin at times; we do better with some sleep.
The second day was shorter, thank goodness, albeit with a lot of climbing early on. We finished up around 11:30, got help with our bags to our Pousada (bed and breakfast although we never had breakfast at any of these) and settled in to sleep. That Pousada was the best – Mark’s room had a huge jacuzzi; we also had luxury. However, after getting into the room, I realized that I’d left my phone on the bike and found that I had a flat. Ugh. This wasn’t my first. I had four rolling flats and this hotel flat. Two of the flats were radial wires. We rolled out around 5am, I think.
I was pretty knackered that night and it took some time to fix my tire. I was lucky to get two hours but Mark and Hamid got 3+. The other nights we shared a room and I let them hit the shower first.
An extra 25 km on the third day but an earlier start put us in around midnight. That was the night that I went for a walk to find some food, coming back with 3 beers and some buns from a pizza place that was trying to close. Mark was already asleep so Hamid and I had 1.5 each. There’s no point in wasting cold beer!
The fourth day was back at 300 km. It was a long day climbing and riding-wise. We wasted a huge amount of time at a restaurant waiting for a meal and lost sleep as a result. In at 2am, we left at 4:30 for the 5th day. That was already 1.5 hours after the control close so we had ground to make up but kept a pretty steady pace over that last day, finishing around 3:30 pm. Heck, we had almost 3 hours to spare!
There were some short climbs, long climbs, 6-7% sections, others advertised at 5-7% but hitting 11%, all over the map. Riding through towns was very slow with the rough cobbles. There were a couple of flat-ish sections, but mostly we had hills. Some of the riding was on major arteries and, for a while, Interstate equivalent (you can ride anywhere in Brazil!). The more major the road, the more engineered the grade. Trucks were plentiful and seldom moved over for us, maintaining their lane with a few inches to spare. Sometimes we had ample shoulder; sometimes not.
A few of the Controls were at what I would call Interstate Service Centers. During the day, they had an incredible selection with the hot and cold food bar. During the night, selection was more limited but still sustaining. There were also a couple of memorable restaurants with wonderful selections. We did eat well. Those stops mostly ran an hour or more, so you can see where we got our recovery time!
The scenery was wonderful; the people helpful and pleasant. English, however, is very limited to non-existent. These are not tourist areas. That said, we always felt safe.
The weather was hot in the afternoon, almost as bad as Rome last year, although I didn’t pour as much water on my head — but only because the springs weren’t as plentiful. We were able to maintain a normal riding schedule, stopping at night vs riding until dawn. That was my objective.
We finished up with about 3 hours to spare. Several riders were behind us; we weren’t the lanterne rouge. Beer awaited … it was time to celebrate!