Some photos from our stunning day on Erin Mills – Erin:
Ride report from Carey Chappelle:
Last week-end roads should have been closed, snow, rain and strong winds kept everyone off their bikes and inside!
This week-end … sunshine, blue sky, next to no wind!
The Huron Chapter hosted the Kemble Rock 200, Saturday, 21Apr2018. Congrats to Chris Cossonnet, Charles Horslin, Ken Jobba, Bill Little, Matthew McFarlane, John Maccio, Liz Overduin, Terry Payne and myself for successfully completing this ride! Special notice to Matthew McFarlane for completing his first ever Brevet!!
Thanks to Matthew for helping me return my rear wheel to service after having my cassette go loose 11km into the ride! With a Campagnola wheel and a screw loose, it looked like I’d have to stop every ten km to re-adjust screw tightness … I didn’t have the tool I needed, Matthew did, so after mentioning using my Locktight … the screw stayed tight!
Temperature went from -1 deg C to 13 deg C. Later in the day everyone was taking their cold weather gear off to prevent overheating!
If you have never done this Brevet, I can only say the scenery is second to none. Here’s a photo of Ken Jobba stopping to take pictures just before the great descent down Kemble Rock Mountain.
Here are Bill, Terry and Liz stopping to enjoy the view before their descent!
My top speed down Kemble Rock Mountain has been with my wife on our Tandem at 84km /hr. On this ride, everyone had to pay attention as the roads had not yet been cleaned up after last week-ends weather!
Heading towards Owen Sound, Bill Little decided to stop for some Tea!
Everyone arrived at the Tim Horton’s in Owen Sound together for lunch and a well earned break before completing the last 90 km. It’s amazing how short the day seems when scenery, friends and cycling are together!
Ride report from Carey Chappelle:
Happy Easter Everyone!
And of course … Happy Easter to all of the finishers of Huron Chapter’s Neustadt 200 this past Saturday!! Chappy (that’s me of course), Frenchy (Chris Cossonnet), Terry “ Can’t Ask for More Fun!” Payne, Liz “Shiver and Shake” Overduin and Charles “Bat Out of Hell” Horslin.
To the 4 Randonneurs who Cancelled their attempt due to the weather forecast …I’ll fill you in on what you missed!
Thank-you John Maccio and Matthew Macfarlane for meeting us at the Start and wishing us well!
Did everyone notice the weather this past week-end? Blue Sky and Sunshine Friday and Sunday.
Saturday … 56km SSW Winds, Thunder and RAIN! The participants in this Neustadt 200 performed second to none! It was my pleasure riding with them, socializing and simply enjoying the show!
Frenchy designed this route and had two Controls between the Start and Finish, they were the Big Dipper Bakery in Paisley and Noah’s Inn in Neustadt.
Enjoying some great tale winds from the Start to North Bruce, we all noticed the TUFF winds we were going to ENJOY to the finish and decided to simply get our Control Cards signed at the Big Dipper Bakery in Paisley and SKIP the treats so we could focus on pedalling the rest of the ride into the 56km/hr winds!
I contacted the Noah’s Inn in Neustadt and found out they would not be open until 1600hrs on Saturday. Being our official Control, it seemed that our best bet would be to have lunch in Hanover, not in Neustadt, and that’s what we did.
Heading South, we travelled at less than 10km /hr.
Heading West, we were somewhere between 13 and 19km/hr.
Some recovery occurred whenever there were Farms, Barns or enough Trees to block some of the wind. When that didn’t exist, everyone was bent over 45 degrees just to maintain balance and stay on their bikes!
Terry Payne looked me in the eye in Neustadt and simply said “You Can’t Get Ask For More Fun!”
Everyone was basically together until leaving Mildmay, then at the T – Bismark St. N (Concession Rd 8 W), Charles Horslin took off like a “Bat Out of Hell” and we didn’t see him until the Finish.
Frenchy and myself were the last two to Finish and were a few minutes behind everyone else. Heading West to the Shores of Lake Huron, the RAIN turned to SNOW! I started getting nervous, hoping the road conditions would not get dangerous! Terry, Charles and Liz were waiting for us at the finish. We had our Control Cards signed then shared a few laughs with everyone before heading home. It was obvious of how cold Liz was, she “Shivered and Shaked” while trying to get refuelled in front of Tim Horton’s Fire Place!
Hard to explain, but I can’t think of anything else I would rather have done!
Already excited about our next brevet!
Ride report from Carey Chappelle:
YES … HONEST TO GOD … THIS BREVET ACTUALLY HAPPENED IN THE MONTH OF FEBRUARY!
Congrats to all of the participants who were comfortable enough to even attempt Huron Chapter’s South Bruce 200km Brevet this past week-end … Ken Jobba, Tim O’Callahan, Liz Overduin, Patrick Whitehead, Brenda Wiechers and myself.
Patrick completed this Brevet, but was over the time limit of 13.5hrs. He let me know how much he loved the ride, but picking up Orange peels and dropped route sheets simply cost him too much time!
Ken, Tim, Liz, Brenda and myself all stayed together and finished successfully in 10hrs 47mins.
Friday at 1600hrs, I only knew that Liz and myself were going to attempt the South Bruce 200 on Saturday. Friday’s weather was wet and windy, so it looked like no one else was going to attempt it. Later in the evening, Tim e-mailed me to let me know that Brenda and himself were on their way to Port Elgin to join us Saturday for the Brevet. Perfect, 4 people anyway! Ken had asked me to prepare a Control Card for him, just in case he made it up. Patrick let me know he was not going to attempt the South Bruce 200 but do another ride from home. Surprise! Surprise! Saturday morning, Ken and Patrick showed up! Fortunately, I had an extra Control Card with me!
Traditionally, February winter in Port Elgin means … closed roads … stop signs no longer exist … and snow blowing was what everyone did for fun! This past Saturday, no snow blowing was going on, roads were open and we had to actually Stop where Stop signs existed!
Pedalling to the first Control in Walkerton, five of the six Randonneurs planned on a 10 minute stop at Tim Horton’s, which turned out to be 30 minutes. We headed to the next Control in Wingham only 43 km away. Scenery was breathtaking! Some roads had snow and ice on both sides but nothing but asphalt for us to pedal on!
Weather -2 deg C to 3 deg C, SUNSHINE and amazingly …only 12km/hr Winds!
Having a great lunch in Wingham, we headed towards Kincardine. Again, with only 12km/hr winds and SUNSHINE, everyone was simply loving the ride! Personally, having done this Brevet many times, this one is my favourite! Pedalling along, loving life … then …
SURPRISE … SURPRISE …. SECRET CONTROL just outside Kincardine!
The INFAMOUS Bill Little had set up a Secret Control, provided hot coffee, water, beverages and butter tarts for everyone!
We then stepped back to get a photo of the river behind us! Notice the SUNSHINE!
Back on our bikes, we headed to the Hawgs Breath Saloon in Kincardine for our final break before heading to the finish in Port Elgin. Everyone loved this Brevet, the Scenery second to none and above all … attempting an actual Brevet this time of year in Bruce County…
PS: Patrick actually stopped in Kincardine for supper before heading to the finish!
2017 CLUB AWARDS PRESENTATIONS
Outstanding Performance on a Brevet – Brian Brideau and Renato Alesandrini
PRESENTED BY: Joey Schwartz
Awarded to the club rider who has: Demonstrated significant fortitude, courage, or generosity on a brevet ride. Demonstrated physical or mental abilities beyond the usual in the conduct of a brevet ride.
Jock Wadley Award (Outstanding Rider) – John Cumming
PRESENTED BY: Mike Barry
Awarded to a club rider who is outstanding in one year or over several years and has: Shown interest in the club and has provided support and assistance Helped on rides or helped other riders.
Beryl Burton Award (Best Female Rider) – Erin Marchak
(Also winner of Female Distance: 763 km)
PRESENTED BY: Dede Barry
Awarded to a club rider who is outstanding in one year or over several years and has: Shown interest in the club and has provided support and assistance. Helped on rides or helped other riders.
Coronation Cup (Most Improved Rider) – David Hamilton
PRESENTED BY: Bob MacLeod
Awarded to a club rider who has at least one previous year riding with the Randonneurs Ontario, and has: Shown consistency in appearing and in cycling; Demonstrated improvement either in cumulative mileage ridden from previous season, or in brevet finishing times over the previous season.
Jim Griffin (Rookie of the Year) – Don Williams
PRESENTED BY: Peter Leiss
Awarded to a club rider who has: Joined the Randonneurs Ontario in the year of the award or who rode their first brevet in the year of the award; Shown ability in the year & shown interest in the club and in other club riders.
Half Wheel Award – Jerzy Dziadon
PRESENTED BY: Stephen Jones
Awarded to a club rider who has consistently forced the pace of the group during brevet rides.
Best Fleche Team – Hogtown Express
Andrea Ferguson Jones
PRESENTED BY: Carey Chappelle
Awarded to the members of the fleche team who record the most kilometres on the club’s fleche ride in the year of the award.
Organizer of the Year – Granite Anvil Organizing Committee
PRESENTED BY: Tim O’Callahan
Awarded to that person(s) who has: Provided support to the club’s riding events in the year of the award or over several years. Demonstrated care for the well being of the club’s riders. Consistently taken on the task of organising and supporting club rides.
Special Recognition Award – Dave Thompson
PRESENTED BY: Dick Felton
Awarded to a club rider who has: Completed a cycling event in the year of the award that merits commemoration. Made contributions to the club that merit commemoration.
Dan Herbert Memorial Award – Tim O’Callahan
PRESENTED BY: Arthur Reinstein
Awarded to a member who has in one or more years: Benefited the club by mentoring one or more members (generally but not necessarily new). Mentoring is to be defined as encouraging, educating and assisting riders to achieve their full potential as bike riders and club members.
Long Distance Award(s)
PRESENTED BY: Peter Leiss
Awarded to the rider(s) who has:
Completed the highest number of Kilometres on:
- Randonneurs Ontario Brevets – Jerzy Dziadon
- All ACP Brevets – David Thompson
- Randonneurs Ontario Permanent Rides – Dave Hamilton
Creemore Classic Bowling Champion – Carey Chappelle
PRESENTED BY: Terry Payne
Ride report from Carey Chappelle:
SUNSHINE! … BLUE SKY! … GLEN STEEN! … We couldn’t ask for more! Glen arrived to meet everyone at the Tilsonburg Community Centre prior to 2018’s FROSTY 200!
Patrick Whitehead, Liz Overduin, Terry Payne, Bob Kassel, Ken Jobba, Jim Raddatz, Brenda Wiechers, Tim O’Callahan and myself met with Glen prior to the Start. We talked about the one and only time the FROSTY 200! had been completed, Glen had injured himself crosscountry skiing a few days before, so he decided to support us on the first FROSTY 200!, by setting up Secret Controls and being available from beginning to end. On this FROSTY 200!, Jim Morris took over and supported everyone from beginning to end and was MUCH APPRECIATED!
GLEN STEEN SENDS US OFF!
The advantage of this FROSTY 200! was that the roads were in excellent condition … not snow covered! The disadvantage was the 25-45 kph head winds from the WEST! Riding with Bob, Liz and Terry, we decided not to stop at Control #2, Uncle’s Country Coffee Shop for lunch, but work our way towards Control #3, the Norfolk Tavern in Port Dover. Riding my TREK 1120 Mountain bike, with Fat Tires, I couldn’t believe I was climbing a hill at 0.0 Km/hr! Felt better when I looked ahead and saw two Randonneurs walking up the same hill!! The Tavern we were headed to, was PACKED! Fortunately we found a few chairs open at the Bar and enjoyed a great lunch! Not to mention the entertainment from the Band playing music!!
Tim O’Callahan and Brenda Wiechers were a little quicker then us, had lunch at Control #2 so passed by us on their way to Control #4, Tim Horton’s in Delhi.
Notice the smiling face on Brenda!
Eight of Nine Randonneurs were successful completing this FROSTY 200! Everyone enjoyed the SUNSHINE, BLUE SKY and touching base with GLEN STEEN!
Ride Report from Dave Thompson:
At the pub get-together before the ride, an Aussie warned me that this was going to be difficult, that nothing about Florida would prep me for this ride. In emails before the ride we were warned about wind, rain, cold, sleet and high DNF rates. Kangaroos and wombats are an issue from dusk until dawn.
Now the ride is finished. Looking back, it’s hard to rank 1200s on any difficulty scale as weather, personal conditioning and route familiarity play such a huge role. One edition is never the same as another, especially four years later.
I was lucky. I saw kangaroos. They watched me pass. Nothing jumped out in front of me. I did almost hit a wombat at slow speed. The latter are big; it would be like hitting a slow moving hog. One Australian rider died the first night. Speculation was that he hit an animal.
We could have had huge headwinds, but the winds were kind and often at our backs. We could have had sub freezing temps, but we didn’t. I never even used my heavy jacket that I lugged for all but the last day, let alone neoprene booties! I don’t think that the temperature dropped below 10C. That heavy jacket of mine usually gets a lot of use. It’s highly unusual not to give it some exercise, whether due to cold or wet. I also brought along rain pants, the ultimate protection from the elements and heat retention. They stayed in my drop bag.
I did try out the new lightweight RUSA wool jersey the first day; the midweight jersey the second. Long sleeved jerseys also got some use, as did my leg warmers. My featherweight PI jacket blocked the wind nicely. It was all I ever needed.
We could have had rain; it threatened but never happened. The forecast changed daily but we were lucky. Originally it looked like we would start in the rain, but it was glorious weather, dawn at Sydney Harbour, the iconic Opera House in the background.
With less climbing than the Rome 1600 earlier in 2017 albeit longer climbs, moderate grades, no get-off-bike-here steeps, it had a lot of climbing but not a lot more than the average. Numbers are meaningful for planning but at the end of the day it’s the “feel” of the ride that’s important, vs the hard numbers. This didn’t feel any harder, climbing-wise, than the Granite Anvil and certainly not the Rome 1600 earlier in the year. It was probably less difficult than LEL; certainly, the weather was better.
We did have heat, intensifying as we got closer to Melbourne. At its hottest, it was hotter than Rome, furnace-like and similar to the Gold Rush final day in the desert. I made ample use of my pour-on-head cooling strategy. I never came close to running out of water.
Getting out of Sydney wasn’t fun, nor was getting into Melbourne. The latter had heavy traffic, bike trails, sidewalks, traffic lights … slow going. There were some high traffic 100 km/h roads well into the ride but not enough to be bothersome. I heard some mention of unfriendly drivers but experienced nothing firsthand.
The ride is a point-to-point, which is harder for the organizers and riders. That said, suitcases and bike boxes were transported to the end; drop bags were moved from overnight to overnight. They made it as easy as possible for the riders. Sandy took the train from Sydney to Melbourne while I was riding — that was a 10-11 hour trip. It is a long way no matter how you get there.
The overnights were mostly camp-ish, with bunks, shared bathrooms and showers, good food fresh prepared, lots of volunteer support. It was all well organized and efficient.
As usual, I was close to being lanterne rouge early in the ride, long before we ever got out of Sydney. I had to wait for every traffic light and there were many. At some point during the day I passed Hamid, I don’t remember when that was. He was certainly way ahead of me mid morning. He rolled into a control as it was getting dark and I waited; it’s always good to have companionship in the dark. We finished up that first day together, sometime after midnight, and planned a 4:30 wake up and 5am departure. We were close.
We rode together for a while on the second day; Hamid got ahead and I passed him at one point as he was at the side of the road doing something with his bag. I stopped shortly afterwards at a cafe and thought that he’d passed me; didn’t find out until much later that he had trouble with his light and was well behind. I waited a couple of times, expecting to see him, but he was further back. I figured minutes but it was hours. He spent a lot of time dealing with his light.
Getting to the second overnight, I told the vollies that Hamid would room with me but when I awoke, he was still out there. He and Wolfgang arrived just as I started to pull out. They beat the clock, but not by much. I was happy that he was with Wolfgang as W can need encouragement at times. He likes doing long touring rides and doesn’t have any hesitation about turning a brevet into a tour.
I rolled out by myself but met up with Mark Thomas not far down the road. We were both happy to have riding company. This was Mark’s 10th 1200 for 2017! That by itself has to be some sort of record. I remember Bill Olsen doing 8 x 1200s one year but those were all North American. It’s another thing altogether to add in the time zone, jet lag and travel issues. I was “only” on my fourth. We rode most of that day together, save about the last 30 km. I deal with the heat better, otherwise there’s no way that I’d have kept up. After dark, on a section that was flatter, I was feeling sleepy and made a couple of check-myself-over stops, leaning against a guardrail and closing my eyes. If I fell asleep, that would be a good indication that I was really sleepy. I didn’t trust myself! With 15 km to go to the overnight, I had a 10 minute nap on a bench. I could have finished up but that 10 minutes felt good.
Mark was just hitting the sack when I got into that third overnight, having arrived before me. He was planning a late departure. I had my roughly 3 hours sleep, I think, got up and had some breakfast, expecting to roll out at dawn. Mark was up earlier than expected; Ricky was also planning on riding. Ricky had DNF’d the second day in the heat but rode part of the third day and all of the fourth. I waited for them to get ready, no records were going to be set that day. We were together through the end at the Velodrome.
Mark rode a disciplined fourth day in the heat. I was happy with the pace. Alone, I might have spent less stopped time and would have pushed myself in the heat … probably would have pushed too much. Riding together was good; it’s not usually my inclination.
Finishing up at the velodrome at 5 something, Sandy was there to meet us. I don’t ask that of her but it’s great when she does. Wait … I’m trying to think of another ride where she was at the end but I’m drawing a blank – no, she and Shab were waiting for Jerry and me at the end of the 2016 Miglia. Our bags awaited us at the Velodrome and I was able to shower and change right there. Still early, Rus Hamilton gave me and the bags a ride to our hotel, returning to wait for his billet and Hamid. I was originally going to be staying with him but with Sandy coming into Melbourne a day earlier and getting a hotel, keeping the hotel made more sense. I had met Rus on the Sunshine 1200; the ride where he had his episode of hyponatremia … where we almost lost him.
Now we wait. I was anxious to see Hamid and Wolfgang, finish. We were trading messages with Shab, watching his Delorme tracker. I was worried that the traffic and bike trails might slow them down so much that they’d be late. If they’d planned it too closely, that could happen. We had a couple of false alarms — cyclists on the paths coming in the dark — me yelling “they’re coming, they’re coming” and lit the velodrome for nothing … no, it wasn’t for nothing, they came in a little after 10pm with almost 2 hours to spare. Whew! It’s so unusual for us to finish separately! I’d have had a hard time reconciling finishing and Hamid DNF’ing.
Hamid almost sacrificed his ride for Wolfgang. It reminded me of the 2016 Miglia in Italy, me helping Jerry Christensen finish. Some things are more important than the extra notch in your belt. Friendship is everything.
The ride was well planned and organized, from registration to food at the finish to beers & cheers at a pub the day afterwards. I had lots of silly questions about baggage logistics etc. before the ride and they were answered immediately. A large crowd of volunteers staffed the Controls. There were a couple of unstaffed; we sent a text to Bec when we got there. Another couple had staff but you were on your own for food. It all worked very well. In spite of the remote nature of the ride, it wasn’t quite as remote as the Ontario Granite Anvil, from a facilities standpoint. Hamid and Wolfgang stretched the volunteers a little, since they were on the outer edge of the time limits and actually beyond for a couple. That’s usually ok with 1200s — even PBP — as long as you make it up later.
Will I do this one again ? Who knows. My inclination is “no” but ask me again in four years time. The scenery was great; different than North American or European. Perhaps if I do a different Aussie 1200 in the meantime, like Perth-Albany-Perth, I’ll consider the landscape ho-hum, but it wasn’t so this time. At times it reminded me of the Serengeti, baked landscape and sparse trees … ok, there were no Wildebeest. I expect that if we (Hamid and I) do another Oz ride, Shab will be there. She got less sleep than we did, staying up all night watching the trackers. A couple of days ago, Sandy said that she wasn’t interested in returning to Oz … but a little touring through the wine region of Margaret River and a good time staying with Neil and Annie has changed that.
As always, I enjoyed myself. I love doing 1200s of every shape or form. I’d rather do a 1200 than a 200. This one, with 350 km or so each of the first three days and a healthy amount of climbing, is right up my alley. Yes, I finished late each day, but not at dawn. I’d have liked to finish a bit earlier the second day and get an earlier start on the third, but I shorted myself on nourishment and bonked on a long climb. Stop, take in a couple of gels, I was going again. I probably lost a half-hour there, paying the price for the bad judgement call. It certainly wasn’t a big deal. Most riders wouldn’t make that mistake. I’m too impatient.
We’re on the way back now, having spent several days in Perth with my cousins Neil & Annie, their adult children, our grand-daughter Kylie, in addition to our couple of days in Melbourne. Who knows if we’ll make our connections in Dallas; the flight was very late leaving Sydney. Life goes on.
Ride report from Carey Chappelle:
Well … yesterday was one of my favourite Permanents for the year! By surprise, my wife and I ran into Bob Macleod and his wife Milana at a restaurant in Toronto a few weeks ago and enjoyed breakfast together. Bob mentioned doing a few permanents before year’s end and I fell for it! I hope our next one is as fun as the Big Bay 200 was yesterday!!
Bob arrived in Port Elgin Wednesday night and stayed with us. My daughter was home for a few days and since her favourite restaurant in Port Elgin is Andre’s, we all went there for dinner and loved it!
Thursday morning, Bob and myself were up early and discussed what we should wear. We trusted the rain forecast and dressed accordingly! Fortuntely, the RAIN started just after the first Control in Chatsworth and kept both of us cool for all the climbing to Walter’s Falls.
At the Tim Horton’s Control in Owen Sound, I took a picture of Bob just to confirm we had RAIN! With fenders on both of our bikes … we don’t always know!
Rather then lunch at the Tim Horton’s, we went to the European Cafe, on route and enjoyed GREAT deserts! It was Bob’s choice as I suggested the Mexican Restaurant down town but he knew better! Leaving the Cafe, the rain had stopped and the temperature had gone up to 5 deg C! Beautiful scenery along the way and we arrived at the Control in Sauble Beach after the sun had gone down.
Rather than having dinner in Sauble Beach, we figured we would pedal the next 20km to Southampton and have dinner at the infamous Elk & Finch before pedalling to Port Elgin within the 13.5hr time limit. We made a quick call to the Elk & Finch and figured we better just continue on to the finish and not risk DNF’ing due to how busy they were and how hungry we were! We officially completed this permanent in 12hrs17mins and look forward to our next get together!
Amazing how the proper weather gear can make any brevet this enjoyable!
Ride Report from Carey Chappelle:
Ride Report from Bob Macleod:
Of all Randonneurs ride formats, the Flèche is one of my favourites and each Spring I eagerly look forward to Flèche weekend. I got hooked in 2012 when on my first Flèche with Kathy Brouse, Stan Shuralyov and Fred Krawiecki, which was also my first event longer than 200kms. Based on that experience and others since, I’m convinced the Flèche is one of the best ways to introduce longer distances to those new to Randonneuring. Since cyclists on at least 3 of each team’s bicycles must finish together to successfully complete the event, the Flèche truly requires a team effort and provides an ideal nurturing learning experience for rookies, and I might add, an excellent early-season training event for veterans. It’s loosely structured, with simple rules to complete a minimum distance of 360km in a fixed 24h timeframe, with each self-organized team free to plan its own route to a common destination. In 2017, Randonneurs Ontario designated Barrie as its Flèche destination and fielded two Flèche teams, from Ottawa and Toronto/Huron (Hogtown Express). This is Hogtown Express team’s 2017 Flèche ride report.
Flèche rules (see Flèche rules link) require 3 to 5 bicycles per team, so a minimum of 3 cyclists on single rider bikes up to potentially 10 cyclists if all on 5 tandems. Given that at least 3 bikes must complete the whole distance for a team’s Flèche to be successful, planning for a team of 3 is risky and a full complement of 5 bicycles is preferred. I put a call out for Hogtown Express 2017 team-mates in February and our team as planned consisted of 6 cyclists on 5 bicycles: Andrea Ferguson Jones and Stephen Jones on their tandem, and Dick Felton, Bob Macleod, Erin Marchak and Joey Schwartz on singles. As things played out on event day, Erin and Joey both had unexpected work commitments, so Andrea, Stephen, Dick and I started out on our 3 bicycles, fingers crossed.
In addition to recruiting team members, planning for Hogtown Express’s 2017 Flèche focused on route design. Stephen and I, with feedback from others on the team, collaborated closely on key design decisions. We wanted to make this early-season experience enjoyable and reasonably achievable, so decided to keep total distance under 400km and climbing reasonably humane. After mapping out various alternatives, we agreed on a route northbound out of Markham to pass eastward of Lake Simcoe into Muskoka before looping back southbound to the destination in Barrie (see Hogtown Express 2017 Flèche Route link). In early May, allowing time for final route changes before registration deadline 2 weeks before the event, I test drove the overnight section of the route to personally confirm road conditions and overnight food services. Incidentally, in addition to using Ride With GPS as our route design tool, we drafted a Control Plan spreadsheet to assess and refine route leg lengths and target times for rest stop arrivals and departures. Since the only formal timed controls on a Flèche are Start, 22-hour and 24-hour points, with no single stop to exceed 2-hours, it’s up to each team to carefully manage rest stop departure times to ensure its objectives are achievable. I find a detailed Control Plan to be a useful tool during route design and also for time-management during the event.
In late May, overnight temperatures often drop into the low single-digits, so a key Flèche planning requirement is to identify indoor overnight rest stops with food services. Based on Hogtown Express’s route, this meant careful assessment of overnight services in Beaverton (eta 10:00pm), Orillia (eta 12:30am) and Port Carling (eta 6:00am). As it happens, Tim Horton’s was the only viable option in each of these locations. With an overnight low of 3C during the event, we were grateful for the indoor rest stops.
Another key planning consideration for each team is start time, since Flèche rules permit starts from Fri 6pm to Sat 10am. This decision clearly has a big impact on the ride for various reasons, not least of which is expected arrival time at overnight rest stops. Stephen and I have both experienced Fri-evening and Sat-morning starts on previous Flèches and after a short discussion, we agreed to propose a Fri 6pm start. An evening start would enable riding the overnight section of the route while still relatively fresh, but also meant we’d arrive in Barrie early enough to socialize over a meal with other teams and to get a good sleep Saturday night. A secondary objective for Hogtown Express was to arrive at Torrance Barrens Dark-Sky Preserve before pre-dawn for some spectacular star-gazing, assuming clear sky of course. We polled Hogtown Express and the Ottawa Chapter’s Flèche team and all agreed with a proposed Sat 6pm arrival time in Barrie, so the Fri 6pm start time for Hogtown Express 2017 was set in the plan.
Water levels were an additional concern this year. With flooding and record water levels throughout the Great Lakes Basin and St Lawrence Valley, it was top of mind in April and May when we were finalizing our plan. When driving the overnight section of the route in early May, I found that while many farmer’s fields were completely inundated, lakes and canals at flood level, and rivers and streams raging torrents, the roads on the route were in good condition except for some debris in remote areas. So, assuming conditions didn’t worsen, it looked like the event wouldn’t be adversely affected by high water levels. Still, given all the extra standing water in prime mosquito breeding season, I brought extra fly repellent with me on the ride. It turned out to be too cold overnight for mosquitoes or black flies, so we dodged that special kind of torment, but when we stopped for a celebratory picture at 6pm Saturday, a cloud of hungry flies swarmed us within seconds – it made for a very brief picture stop!
Our route to Barrie, starting in Markham at 6pm Fri, took us 395km with 3,121m ascent through a number of beautiful geographic zones (see Hogtown Express 2017 Flèche Route link): the rolling hills and meadows of Oak Ridges Moraine, the flat plain bordering Lake Simcoe’s east shore, the rising plateau north of Lake Simcoe, the southern perimeter of 2.5 billion year old Precambrian Shield bordering lakes Muskoka, Joseph and Rosseau, and finally the relatively flat Lake Simcoe north-shore on final approach into Barrie. A site of interest on the route was Torrance Barrens Dark-Sky Preserve on Southwood Rd (CR13) at 181km, which promised unparalleled star gazing should we arrive to a dark clear sky. Six rest stops were planned, being Beaverton (80km), Orillia (127km), Pt Carling (210km), Windermere Rd / CR4 (242km), Bala (281km) and Orillia (350km). Flèche rules require at least 25km to be cycled in the final 2 hours with minimum 360km total distance, so the team would need to pace itself to arrive at its 22-hour control (Sat 4pm) between 335km (Cambrian Rd inbound to Orillia) and 370km (Ridge Rd at Hawkestone).
The north-south road network between Huronia north of Lake Simcoe and Muskoka is extremely limited, as I’m sure Simcoe-Muskoka Chapter route planners are painfully aware. Given that Highways 11 and 400 are neither legal nor safe for bicycles, Southwood Rd / CR13 is the only centrally located north-south road between Orillia and Bala, with bike friendly north/south alternatives being far to the west (~22km west of Orillia) and east (Housey’s Rapids Road / CR6, ~25km east of Orillia). Given that Hogtown Express’s Flèche route used this road twice, northbound and southbound, it accounted for 68km (17%) of total route distance. Should it suffer from pop-up construction or flood damage anywhere along its length, the ride could be significantly affected, and if impassable for any reason, detours are so distant that Hogtown Express’s 2017 Flèche would be finished.
After meeting for a hearty pre-ride meal at Main’s Mansion in Markham, Andrea, Stephen, Dick and I departed as planned at 18:00 Friday, with temperature a comfortable 17C and wind not a significant factor. We cycled northeast over the beautiful rolling hills of Oak Ridges Moraine and then the relatively flat plain beyond to our first stop in Beaverton (80km), arriving in darkness at 21:55 to a noticeable chill in the air. Cottage-country bound traffic was a steady stream on the few northbound main roads we used, but not as heavy as I had feared it would be.
Departing Beaverton, we continued along the relatively flat northeast shore of Lake Simcoe, with a short delay to bypass road construction exiting Beaverton. There’s a sudden sharp 55m climb approaching Orillia’s north end, which as we approached our rest stop felt particularly dramatic after the 70km flat run from the Oak Ridges Moraine. It marked the beginning of a steady climb into Muskoka’s granite highlands. It was uncomfortably cold when we arrived at our rest stop in Orillia (127km) at 00:47 Sat morning, 17m behind plan. We greatly appreciated the opportunity for a warm rest, but Tim’s had shut down their grill at midnight, so no soup or warm food was available, a bit of a disappointment. But of course, we made the most of our chance to warm up, eat and rest. As we set out from Orillia, temperature still falling, we were grateful no rain was in the forecast and the wind was light.
Shortly after leaving Orillia, we encountered construction on Division Rd E for about 1.5km, a slippery deep coarse gravel that shifted under our wheels and tore at our tires in the dark. Fortunately, we got through without incident, grateful to be again riding on firm road surface.
The next leg of the route from Port Stanton on Sparrow Lake to Torrance on Hwy 169 near Bala, is one of my favourite rides in Ontario. Southwood Rd / CR13 rolls and winds through magnificent forest, wetlands and granite ridges for 34km of mostly unsettled country. Traffic is very light and, being a challenging road to drive, drivers are alert and speeds low. In early morning hours, when we now cycled this leg of the route, traffic was almost non-existent – a cyclist’s paradise! As we rode through the Torrance Barrens in darkness, we were greeted by a loud distinctive bird-call every 100m or so along the roadside – I haven’t discovered yet what type of bird it is, but it was a perfect otherworldly musical accompaniment to our overnight ride.
Andrea and Stephen pulled ahead on Southwood Rd, hoping to arrive at Torrance Barrens Dark-Sky Preserve (181km) before pre-dawn light degraded the stargazing brilliance. Also, the temperature was now 3C, so they picked up the pace on the tandem to try to generate a bit of warmth. Dick and I arrived shortly after they departed the Preserve trailhead, twilight spreading in the eastern sky and only brighter stars now visible. In the middle of this darkened remote rugged landscape, the small rocky parking lot at the Preserve’s trailhead was packed full of silent parked cars. Who knew there were so many committed stargazing enthusiasts? We pressed on quickly, but were soon stopped again at a railroad crossing for at least 10m by what seemed an endless freight train travelling northbound at high speed.
We pulled into Port Carling (210km) at 06:15, still only 15m off plan, but everyone was cold and weary. Dick was feeling bad and having difficulty eating. He was training for the June 4 Comrades 87km ultra-marathon in South Africa, so I’m sure that was a significant drain on his energy level. We warmed ourselves, napped and ate as best we could, before pressing on about 07:40, now 40m off plan.
The next 72kms of the route, with almost 900m of climbing to Windermere / Raymond Rd (242km) and Bala (282km), was by far the most challenging of the ride. Tired from the cold overnight ride and grinding up the steep grades northeast of Pt Carling, I was questioning the wisdom of bringing the route this way on a supposedly easygoing Flèche. Dick was feeling very bad physically and I was grimly hanging on, so I fully expected to DNF at any point. Andrea and Stephen doggedly set the pace and shadowed us through the most difficult parts. We arrived in Bala at noon, an hour off plan, but still an achievable time. We had 4 hours remaining to achieve our 4:00pm 22-hour control within the minimum distance, which was 53km outbound from Bala.
At this point in Bala, Dick was concerned about making the 22-hour control, so he chose to immediately press on, with Andrea, Stephen and I following 45m later after resting over lunch. The southbound daylight ride on Southwood Rd / CR13 was the most enjoyable of the Flèche for me, with beautiful remote forest blanketed with white trilliums, rolling and winding terrain, and very little traffic. I felt great and the struggles of that morning faded with every passing moment – it’s amazing to me what a difference a few hours can make on a long-distance event. We were all mindful of the 22h control objective, so couldn’t linger, and rode independently to make the best possible time. We had planned for the lead riders to hold in place before 4:00pm to allow those following to catch up, so we regrouped approaching Orillia about 3:45pm and continued to 4:00pm, where we marked our distance at 340km – 22h control objective achieved!
Pressing on together now, we took a brief rest in Orillia (350km) before continuing toward Barrie along the north shore of Lake Simcoe, very familiar to all of us from our many Simcoe-Muskoka Chapter rides. At 6:00pm, as we entered Hawkestone (369km), Andrea, Stephen, Dick and I stopped for a celebratory picture, graciously taken by a passing cyclist, before swarming flies drove us to mount up and press on for the remaining 26km to Barrie, another successful Flèche experience to remember fondly.
The Ottawa team, made up of Guy Quesnel, Peter Grant, David Hamilton and Alan Ritchie, was waiting for us when we arrived in Barrie, having also successfully completed their Flèche. We all shared a well-deserved meal at the Mandarin close to our hotel, my mind already racing in anticipation of Flèche 2018!
RO’s 2018 Flèche, scheduled for May 18-19, targets Blue Mountain Village on the Niagara Escarpment near Nottawasaga Bay, enabling a huge scope of possible interesting routes from far and wide across the province. Given that the Flèche is, 1) a fun social cycling challenge, 2) a great early-season training opportunity for Rando veterans, and 3) an ideal introduction to longer distances for those new to the sport, I’d like to throw out a couple of simple challenges:
- To veteran members, I propose that each of us resolve, where feasible, to either organize, join or assist an RO 2018 Flèche team, and to take the opportunity to encourage one or more rookies to join each team where possible.
- To cyclists who are relatively new to Randonneuring and curious about riding longer distances or riding a team event like the Flèche, I encourage you to set aside May 18-19 on your calendar and seek out a Flèche team to join in 2018. It’ll be an amazing experience!
RO typically fields 2-3 Flèche teams each year, but I believe we have potential to field at least 5 or more. It would be totally awesome to have an overflow crowd of Rando’s gather at Blue Mountain Village next May 19. I hope to see you there!
2017 Hogtown Express Team