Devil Week 2016 … well, that’s done!

Ride Report from David Thompson:

This was my first complete Devil Week and the first time that I’ve actually been the organizer.  Devil Week has been run out of Simcoe before, with rides starting in Alliston run by Isabelle Sheardown and then Dick Felton.  After that Randonneurs Ontario has also held DW’s out of Toronto, Ottawa and Port Elgin, hosted by the respective chapters.

Choosing and setting up the rides

With Devil Week heading back to Simcoe, I wanted the rides to start in Barrie, which is much more convenient for potential riders both in terms of accessibility and motel availability.  Simcoe has a few rides that start in Barrie but we needed either new ones or changes to add variety.

For the 200, Big Chute was an obvious choice.  How could we hold a brevet week and not include Big Chute ?  It’s always a treat.  That was an easy choice.

For the 300 we had some alternatives but doing a circuit of Lake Simcoe seemed like a good choice.  The existing brevet started in Alliston and goes through Barrie; let’s change that and use the exact same route but starting in Barrie.  Done.  (Thanks Peter Grant!).

In 2015 we added two new routes in Simcoe – the Parry Sound 400 and Cottage 600.  There’s quite a bit of overlap between them so it was one or the other, especially if riders are doing them back-to-back.  The Cottage 600k is a challenge on many fronts and would be a fine way to end the week.  It’s best run more Audax style and would give us an opportunity to end the week together.

Having chosen the 600, we needed something new for the 400, preferably heading southwest in Ontario … can we get to Stratford?  Well, it turned out that we could, but barely.  Can we do it without having a straight out and back?  Yes.  We cooked up a new route and rode it for the first time on Devil Week.

Why do we run the 600 Audax style?  Well, for one thing the overnight is at my cottage and it’s not fair to Sandy to have riders arriving across a long time span.  Running it Audax also makes it harder for someone to throw in the towel since they have team-mate support and besides, it’s so far away from anything that it makes it hard to quit if you simply don’t feel like riding any more.  Overnighting at my cottage also provides full access to a bike-equipped workshop !

The section from South River to my place is a particular challenge with gravel, stone and clay – a rough, seasonal logging road and then roughly 65 km more of paved road.  There are very few signs of civilization.  Together they add up to roughly 100kms with no cell service.  As ride organizer, it’s not something that I want people doing alone or at night.

Our choice of rides was complete.  Peter Grant made the necessary changes to the 300 to have it start in Barrie; did some minor tinkering with the 600 and setup the new 400.  Peter, Stephen Jones and a couple of others provided commentary on the 400 route before it was finalized.

Rider Registration

Starting the week, I made up 37 brevet cards — 200×12; 300×8; 400×8; 600×9.  Six people intended to do the entire Devil Week — Jerzy Dziadon, David Pearson, Henk Bouhuijzen, Michele Hebert, Peter Holtzenbein and myself.  We definitely had more registrations than I had expected.

Albert Koke did the 200 & 300 on his fat-tire bike, sounding like an SUV on the road.  Bob Macleod did all but the 400.  Craig Kaye, Graeme McDermid, Gwyneth Mitchell and Charles Horslin signed up for the 200.
The Rides
We had two people doing their first brevet during the 200k out of 12 riders.  The one with a buddy completed; the other DNF’d — our only DNF — I feel badly that we didn’t organize that better, find some way of providing a riding buddy.  Big Chute is a very pretty ride but it’s not particularly easy.  It was also very hot that day, hitting 32C, I believe.  We started at 8am and the last two riders finished up at 8:15 p.m.
After the 200, Bob Macleod, Henk, Peter Holtzenbein and I went to dinner at The Mandarin, within walking distance of the motel.  David Pearson and Michel Hebert considered coming but opted out, recovering from the heat.

The 300 is a familiar route for many, starting and finishing in Alliston.  It was strange to ride back into Alliston and not be finished; having to continue to Barrie !  It was another hot day.  Peter was having digestive problems; I thought that it was the heat but they persisted through the 400 and were likely caused by something he ate for dinner after the 200.  Eight started and eight finished.

After a day off, we rode the inaugural Barrie=>Stratford=>Barrie 400 km.  It turned out to be a nice route but had more than its share of gravel.  It seemed like 50 km of gravel but was probably about half that.  Most was hard pack, easy rolling; it would have been a real pain had it been wet.  There was a missing road due to new construction but we figured that out.  We left Barrie along a busy, under construction road.  The route needs some work before being part of our permanent roster.  There has to be a first for everything !

For the 400, Brian Brideau and Martin Cooper replaced Bob Macleod and Albert Koke, keeping our number at eight.  Bob was saving himself for the 600; Martin and Brian intended to ride the 600 as well.

The weather on the 400 was quite a bit cooler.  In fact, finishing up, the temperature was in the 4C range; most of us were unprepared for that kind of drop.  I was expecting about 10C.  Thanks for the surprise Environment Canada !

The cold slowed us down; the last riders were in just before 6am – 24 hours.

Peter’s digestive problems persisted and he wisely decided to forgo the 600.  Brian developed an IT Band issue; Michele decided that he didn’t have a 600 in him that week.  Our planned 9 riders for the 600 became 6.

We started the 600 in the rain but that didn’t last long.  In fact, the weather was ideal – we had a tail-wind both days.  That’s quite a contrast to the last running of this ride, which had a headwind both ways !

As planned, we did this in what I was calling semi-audax – we regrouped at each Control.  That slowed down the fastest riders but we really had no choice for the first day.

We got to South River a little earlier than last year but we’d obviously been lolly-gagging because this year we left an hour earlier and we had a tail-wind.  In the first 12 hours of riding we’d accumulated 2.5 hours of stopped time.  However, we were in time to ride the logging road in daylight — that meant that we could see the clouds of mosquitoes.  It also meant that we could see the piles of fresh gravel in the centre of the road, sometimes 20-25cm deep.  That gravel wasn’t there when I pre-drove the road a week earlier … figures.

I had told people that it was a logging road; well, they were logging.  At one point a truck was being loaded and we had to walk around.  The mosquitoes were delighted with “fresh meat at a snail’s pace”.

We got to highway 522 in daylight but it was 12:30 a.m. by the time we got to my cottage.  That put us an hour ahead of last year but of course the Control closed an hour earlier due to the earlier start time.

The beer was cold as I’d promised; the lasagna was good; many thanks to Sandy !

Henk had his share of mechanical issues.  He had three flats the first day and a broken shifter cable that occurred just before getting to my place.  We replaced the cable and he was ready to roll again.  I had a worrisome creak that I checked out but it disappeared, not wanting to be found.  The only other mechanical was a flat on Jerzy’s part.

Although we had a cool start to the second day at 4am, it was another great day on the bike.  We took our time, regrouped at Controls, carefully managing arrival and departure times so that we weren’t ever at risk of having a DNF.

Our last regroup was in Orillia and we then rode together, less than 20km to where the ride ends in Hawkestone .  It’s technically a point to point — and then we continue to ride to Barrie.   We marked the time at Hawkstone and I updated all the brevet cards.  I had collected them in Orillia.  We finished at 8:23 p.m., 39:23 since we left Barrie.

All in all, it was a successful Devil Week.  Congrats to all!

Additional comments from Bob Macleod:

Thank you David for planning and organizing an outstanding Devil Week, and Peter Grant and Sandy for your important supporting roles. The 200, 300 and 600 events in which I participated took us through incredibly beautiful parts of the province and unique places of interest, each with unique challenges – I definitely plan to revisit these routes.
Of particular note on the Cottage 600:
– At Summerland General Store (89 km), we met a member of Manitoba Randonneurs (Dave Ristau), who is on a solo touring ride from Winnipeg to Newfoundland. He caught up with us in Gravenhurst for lunch before pressing on east toward Algonquin Park. I heard from him yesterday that he’s now passing through Quebec – “bon route” Dave.
– It’s hard to understate the late day Thu challenge of 15km logging road northwest of South River going into Commanda. The freshly laid sandy gravel sucked at our road tires, randomly pulling us here and there, and making it difficult to maintain traction and control on uphill/downhill sections. And, as the deep forest closed in around us, the mosquitoes swarmed our sweaty bodies the moment we would stop – strong motivation to keep moving no matter what! I envied Martin’s wide tires, but in truth I think that even a mountain bike would have been challenged on this stretch. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the route as particularly challenging, requiring focused cycling skill to maintain forward momentum – a good example of the unpredictable things that can happen on a brevet to make you dig deep to keep going. For me, it added to the overall adventure and experience of this particular brevet.
– The lasagna and beer at Dave and Sandy’s cottage in Port Loring early Fri morning, were the best I’ve ever had!!
– Dave Pearson and I faced off with a big buck standing in our path on the road, its short new rack of horns still covered in fur, southeast of Parry Sound on Rankin Lake Rd. Absolutely magnificent!! Finally, with cars oncoming, we shooed it away and it disappeared into the forest.
– Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Reserve southeast of Bala on District Road 13 is more than 30 km of winding road and sharp hills through rugged Shield country, and aggressive black flies! An amazing cycle route that I will return to as soon as I can.
– I applaud the “modified-Audax” style that Dave used on this event. It made a huge difference on the logging road section and the long remote night ride into Port Loring, as well as enabling us all to finish within the time limit. Congratulations and thank you to all the riders who completed this memorable event – you were excellent team-mates!

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