Couche-Tard – A 200 km Brevet in Montreal

Ride Report by Bill Pye:

I walked into the Couche-Tard (a corner store chain in Quebec), at 8:00 PM May 25th. I never ever thought I’d take 13 hours to do a 200. I am in line with a chocolate milk ahead of me is a guy about 6’6″ in front of him is a white haired woman with a file of lottery tickets getting a bunch checked by the clerk arguing that some more should be winners and then buying more. I am beginning to panic. The clerk is very patient and seems to know the woman from previous visits.

I’ve got lots of time to think about the ride. How Teena (my wife) and I left Ottawa at 4 am. She drove and I dozed in the car. We got to St Lambert near the Victoria Bridge at 6 glad Teena had checked the map and we’d taken the Champlain Bridge instead of going for the Victoria because the Victoria was closed for long overdue repairs. I had dozed until about 6:20 started to take the bike off the back of the car when other cars with riders arrived. Jean Robert the organizer had said there would be 15 riders but when I got my brevet card he said that 5 had cancelled.

It was raining and not warm. I rode most of the way to the first checkpoint with Jean Robert. I got the feeling he was lagging back with me. He laughed at the old steel Lemond Tourmalet I was riding (its first brevet despite its age, and last brevet).

“I rode a 15 year old Marinonni for years, got tired of people losing me in the hills. Bought this (referring to a Titanium Marinonni Piuma) and I can stay with anyone.” He implied I should switch to something lighter and newer.

His words were prophetic because after the first checkpoint I lost him and although I tried I could not keep up with a couple from Maine and Rando Montreal rider who despite long conversations mixed with English and French I never got his name. The terrain was rolling and the wind and rain were in our faces. The weather report had said it was going to be light rain all day but I remember only short periods with light rain. Mostly it rained and blew. The wind seemed to change directions to never be at my back except after the leaving the third checkpoint when I missed a turn and had to backtrack 3 km to get back on the route. For those 3 km the wind pushed me, sailing along, it was hard get back on the route with the wind and the rain in my face.

Sometimes the rain seemed to come in sheets. Towards Havelock and then near Lacolle it seemed like the rain had become sleet tapping off my jacket and bike as I rode.

I had the route sheet and a GPS no track but the GPS mapping helped. The only problem was the rain was so bad I could not see the route or GPS. I would stop clean my glasses and double check. After the third checkpoint, I missed the turn because I could not believe I had gotten to the turn so quickly. May be the wind had let up enabling to go faster or I just felt stronger after leaving the Flying J checkpoint. Three kilometres extra I finally realized I had made a mistake. Cleaning my glasses as best I could I checked the route sheet and my GPS and turned back.

I enjoyed the route. It was deja vu. I’d ridden most of these roads at different times on my own when I lived in Pierrefonds or with the Beaconsfield Cycling Club. Most were deserted in standard Quebec shape; bad. I broke my old rule about riding in Quebec never ride with tires below 700 x 28. Paid for it too with two flats from potholes hidden by water. First shortly after I left the second checkpoint Boulangerie (Bakery) trying to catch Jean Robert, the Maine couple and the other Rando, I flatted. Gave up on catching them and just tried to enjoy the ride. I flatted again just after I got back on route after missing the turn.

My bike was heavy and the rain was such that it soaked through everything making me heavier too. But I never felt tired; I just couldn’t go very fast. I climbed a long hill near Hemmingford that started with an elevation of 60 by the GPS and went up to 350 metres at the top. I walked the last bit concerned that if I just pedalled up I would have nothing left when I got to the top. It was the only time I thought I’d get worn out all ride. My worry I now think was mostly in my head. Because like I said I never felt tired. It was pedalling in soup.

Thank God for the wool jersey I was wearing. My rain jacket could not keep all the rain out. The jersey was soaked but still kept me warm. I only started shivering in the last few kilometres as I got to the last checkpoint the Couche-Tarde.

The cashier finally dismissed the lady and her file of lotto tickets gesturing towards the people waiting in line behind her. The big guy in front of me asked Export A cigarettes, and pulled out his lotto tickets. Not so many this time. But I was getting more nervous. It was 8:20. Not much time left. At least, it was warm in the store and I’d stopped shivering. Finally, I got to the front. The clerk reached for my card before I’d even shown it. Said in French, she’d mark 8 PM when I’d first come in. Thank You.

I had two more kilometres to go to the parking lot where Teena was waiting for me. I was shivering now. In shock at how long the ride had taken. Feeling like I should have started slower and paced myself. Thinking about giving up on riding old steel bikes on brevets. And thinking of carrying less on brevets. And weighing less on brevets.

I e-mailed Jean Robert with my time. He got back to me and said it had been the hardest 200 he had ever done. He’s done PBP twice, ridden a lot. He’d checked the weather and the low had gotten down to 2 Celsius.

Earlier on the ride he’d invited me back for their 400 on the first of June. Just a few climbs toward Sutton. I probably will go back but not on the first. But with a different bike, less stuff and hopefully less of me.

It was fun. Lost track of whether I was speaking French or English. Got in touch with a lot of deserted scenic roads. Teena told me on the way back to Ottawa that I’d ridden on the fringe of the African Lion Safari. It explained what I thought were the most aggressive looking cows I’d ever seen. They weren’t cows. They were African water buffaloes I realize now. Wasn’t that tired just felt like I’d been wading all day. I guess I was.

Big Chute 200 km Brevet (Livin’ the Dream)

Ride Report from David Thompson:

After yesterday, I think we need to rename this route. Livin’ the Dream is from Liz Overduin, of course, I’m not that poetic!


We met at the parkette in Barrie shortly before 8am, me (Dave Thompson), Liz Overduin, Hugh Francis and Lawrence McMurray. For Hugh and Lawrence, it was their first ride with Randonneurs Ontario and their first brevet. They’d come in from Peterborough that morning; Liz and I were already in Barrie from the Carthew Bay 200k the day before. Richard Rogers was also supposed to join us but was running late by 15 minutes or so. I called him and left his brevet card in my rear windshield wiper.

Although it was a degree or two warmer than the day before, it was still under 5C and Liz and I were wearing an extra layer. Hugh and Lawrence were well prepared for the cool start as well. Once we started climbing away from Lake Simcoe, my light jacket ended up in my pack along with my full fingered gloves. The leg warmers wouldn’t come off until south of Coldwater on the way back to Barrie. The sun stayed out all day; a cloudless blue sky.

Each year I end up with a new “favourite” ride with Randonneurs Ontario. I think that this is it ! We had some rolling hills, some headwind, some wonderful descents with a tailwind, fabulous scenery and great company. What more could you ask for?

The ride takes us part-way around Lake Simcoe and then north to Honey Harbour. We had one recent work nasty gravel section for a couple of km with spots of fist-sized gravel over culverts (would that be called gravel?). I actually dismounted and walked a couple of meters once. Shortly after, as we got to Big Chute Road, there was a sign that the bridge was under construction with a detour. We talked to a couple of people coming to the stop sign to confirm that yes, the bridge was truly out, even for bicycles. After checking with a neighbour, we followed the detour east, then north and then back west to Quarry Road and back on track.

When we turned onto Quarry Road, I called Richard to tell him about the detour. Coincidentally enough, he had just stopped and was standing looking at the detour sign – what timing! That put him about 15-20 minutes behind us, give or take, so he was running about the same pace.

Since the wind was coming from the NW, that last section into Honey Harbour was the toughest, from a wind standpoint. We ended up spread out a couple of times but came into Honey Harbour together, ready for lunch. Honey Harbour is about 90km into the ride. The detour had added 3-4 km.

The Honey Harbour Town Center General Store is truly a gem. Are you looking for paint? housewares? food? deli? It has it all! It’s like a Home Hardware + small supermarket + cafe. It even has washrooms! What would you like — Western Sandwich? Grilled Cheese? Fries? Burgers? We ate and drank well.

Richard arrived just as we were getting organized to leave. Hugh and Lawrence decided that they’d back it off a notch for the trip back to Barrie. Since they were together and well prepared, Liz and I headed off. We weren’t sure if Richard was going to ride with Hugh and Lawrence or not, that would depend on how long he wanted to stop.

The ride south to the turn on South Bay Road was our reward for the work into the wind. South Bay Road was newly under reconstruction, but with good gravel and well packed. From there through Port Severn and Big Chute was wonderful riding truly northern Ontario scenic with occasional windy sections and mostly very good roads. Eventually we were back to our out-bound detour, which we reversed and then straight ahead about 5km to Coldwater.

From Coldwater south to Ridge Road east of Barrie there are some good short climbs but eventually you have to descend to Lake Simcoe. What a ride! The leg warmers came off and we got in some good downhill, with the wind, cruising. This is where “livin’ the dream” came into play. Ridge Road into Barrie entailed some cross-wind work but heck, that was the home stretch.

We finished up at 6:50. Richard came in shortly afterwards but he told us that he’d ended up way off route so he becomes a technical DNF, unfortunately. He had a good day on the bike though and enjoyed the riding — that’s what really counts. I heard later from Hugh that they’d finished up at 8:35.

A good, safe day and weekend for all riders.


Markham – Woodville 200 km Brevet

Ride Report from Vaune Davis:

A great time was had by all on the Markham Woodville 200 km…with one new rider Adil as well as RO vets Stephen Jones (organizer), Albert, Vaune, Phil and William. No one set any records on this 200 km… but for me, socially, it was a ‘personal best.’

Albert and William reversed course to help Phil, who had a mechanical early in the ride, hence their less-than-blistering finish time. Vaune, Stephen and Adil clocked in at 10:46 after stopping for a sit-down lunch and leisurely breaks at every control. Hopefully our strategy of ‘not-killing-Adil’ will lure him back for another brevet. Adil’s lightning quick humour more than compensated for his newbie pace. This man is surely capable of making a paceline giggle through the night. And he ate up the highest compliment I bestow on fellow riders, a term meaning ‘gluteal cavern.” Phil, just building his early-season conditioning, finished 45 minutes later with self-confidence intact, taking first place for enthusiasm.

Conditions were cold with a blustery north-west wind that added to the challenge but did not overwhelm. Lots of short steep hills through the Oak Ridges Moraine. And a new cycling horror for me: wheel-eating “tar snakes”… ropes of tar used to seal parallel vertical cracks in the asphalt along many of the roads of Kawartha Lakes and Durham Region.

Carthew Bay 200 km Brevet

Ride Report from David Thompson:

There were five of us signed up for the Carthew Bay 200 km — me (Dave), Liz, Arthur, Fred and Stan.

We rode out at 8 a.m. and finished together at 6:26 p.m. In between we were mostly together except that I stopped briefly just before the Carthew Bay Control to add air to my front tire which had a very slow leak, and Arthur, who dropped back a couple of times between Controls to attend to telephone calls. I replaced that tube at Carthew Bay, never finding the source of the leak.

It was a beautiful day, albeit cool. Approaching Alliston early in the morning as I drove down, the temperature hovered just above 0C. It quickly warmed up once the sun came out but never got much above 10C, the wind making it seem colder. At Controls we shivered if we were in the wind, needing to be riding to generate some heat.

There was a very strong wind mostly from the North in the morning, with a little East mixed in and then NorthWest at the end of the day. The northbound section from Alliston was straight into the teeth of that wind, but we were fresh. West from Barrie to Carthew Bay and then East to Barrie again, the wind had a mostly neutral effect although we were did ride a little faster heading west. By the time we were heading East to Big Bay Point, however, we could tell that the wind had shifted, not boding well for the long ride West later in the day. South to Bradford with the wind at our backs, we sailed along. We regrouped at Bradford and headed out together, intending to do some drafting, but that proved to be quite difficult. With the quarter headwind we took up too much of the road.

The rollers coming back to Alliston were a welcome respite from the wind. We finished up tired and happy, another great day on the bike.

It really is a pretty ride through farmland, Barrie, small towns and views of Lake Simcoe. Judging from the stubble in the fields, crops are behind this year but that may be just my perception.

This ride was my very first brevet with Randonneurs Ontario, in 2009. I think that this was my third time. I’ll do it again.

Fleche 2013 Report for Team “The A Train”

Ride Report from Renato Alessandrini:

Inspired by testosterone and the Duke Ellington song “Take the A Train” our team had the lofty aspiration of riding for 581 km in 24 hours. Five strong riders (and two strong alternates) committed for the challenge. We were attempting to break the Ontario Fleche record for the longest distance ridden in 24 hours. We prepared and trained well having several team practice rides. We even had night rides and one all night ride with plenty of hills to prepare for the daunting objective. We chose our route carefully with a relatively flat profile and in a predominantly west to east direction to catch favourable westerly winds.

The day prior we all packed ourselves and 5 bikes into my Ford Expedition equipped with a large bicycle rack. My son drove us from my house in Courtice to Windsor where we stayed at the Days Inn. That night we went to a local saloon called The Bull N’ Barrel where we admired the scenery, ate smoked meat and drank some beer. There was no pasta on the menu for carb loading so we had to improvise. We had some laughs and luckily Brian was able to hit the target once and dunk the girl in the tank. The rest of us couldn’t hit the side of a barn with the baseball, but not due the lack of trying. We all went to bed early to prepare for the ambitious ride in the morning. Our clothes, bikes, food, etc. were all organized next to our beds in each of our rooms.

In the morning it was cool and cloudy but not raining. However, the usually incompetent weatherman was right for a change and instead of prevailing westerly winds we were faced with a stiff east wind of about 15-20 kph. Not discouraged by the persisting headwind we started out of Windsor upbeat and energetic. Our paceline started immediately to shelter us from the wind. At times we organized into echelon formation to combat the crosswinds. We were able to maintain a good speed all the way to Wallaceburg then we turned northeast along the scenic St. Clair River parkway to Sarnia and then eastward to Strathroy. The route was so flat that we could almost look back and still see Windsor some 200 km back. Rolling as a smooth train on asphalt southeast from Strathroy towards Lake Erie the slight rolling hills were a welcome change. Our team was still in good spirits and seemingly energetic however Mother Nature was relentlessly blowing air on our faces. After 300 km of unyielding headwind our A train finally broke down at the Subway store in St. Thomas. Tired, sweaty and dressed in tight brightly coloured spandex we looked like we just got back from week-long kinky costume party! All of us were secretly battling with fatigue from the extra effort required. Albert, a very strong rider, told us that he could not go on. Mother Nature had its first victim. It was getting apparent that our lofty goal of 581 km was in jeopardy however it was understood by all before the ride that the primary goal was enjoyment of the ride and safety and not the lofty record attempt. To most people, a 24 hour painful endurance event and the word enjoyment are mutually exclusive.

Still determined to push on, we turned up the effort and speed toward London. The sun set and night evolved with its celestial darkness and solitude. Luckily the temperature did not drop too low so we did not have to battle with frozen toes or hands. Our generator hubs were lighting the road marvellously and we each kept taking our turns up front in the paceline. Mother Nature had taken pity on us and the winds finally died down to below 10 kph. Naturally, we all were exhausted. Dave’s stamina had significantly deteriorated but not into a full bonk. This was easily his longest ride of the year and although he was a powerhouse in the first half of the ride his tank was now almost empty. Being both the organizer of the ride and oldest (but not the wisest) of the group, earlier I tried to slow Dave down. I did this by shouting “piano !!!!” to him during his turns at the front of the paceline (“andare piano” means “to go slow” in Italian). Stephen, Brian and I now took turns at the front while Dave refuelled and recharged at the back. It was now obvious that 581 km was not going to happen this time.

The long overnight ride from London to Cambridge seemed to go on forever but in reality was only about 115 km long. There were no stores, no people only the serenity of the night with the rare automobile wheezing by. We finally arrived at the Tim Horton’s (where else!) in Cambridge at 2:45 am. Stephen who is an exceptional strong steady rider finally showed a kink in his armour. After eating, his head quickly dropped into his arms on the table where he lay motionless for almost an hour. I was so tired. I accidentally spilled an entire cup of hot chocolate all over Dave. After cleaning himself up, Dave had a nap in the same position as Stephen. Brian, who was a tour de force riding his stealthy carbon Parlee bicycle mounted with speedy 808 zipp wheels, was sprawled on a bench seat with his feet dangling. I could not decide how to rest so after using Stephen’s sleeping technique for 20 minutes, changed and copied Brian’s sleeping technique on an adjacent bench. We eventually got rolling again just after 4 am.

The route after Cambridge consisted of rolling hills as we pushed on eastward toward Oakville. The sunrise was a welcome sight. Dave had recharged and pulled us onward to our new goal of just over 500 km. A sense of relief and euphoria was felt as we approached the end of the adventure. We decided to have breakfast at Denny’s in Oakville so we turned around and rode back a few freebie kilometres. We were so tired that even eating was a challenge. Dave and I could not finish our food but Brian helped us out with his ravenous appetite. Delighted but drained we took the Go train with our bikes in hand back to Oshawa where my son drove us back to my house. It was finally over, everyone healthy, no accidents, only sore butts. Even though our target was not reached it was another awesome cycling experience. Yesterday I decided I would not do another fleche attempt, however today I suffer from yet again another bad case of randonesia. I am already planning for next year’s event.

Various Definitions

Randonesia: When somebody parties so hard and so often that they cannot remember who they were with, where they were, or why they were partying.

Randonesia: This is the official account of Audax Randonneur Indonesia.

Randonesia: Forgetting how bad a ride was. No matter how much any given rando sucks, you find yourself looking forward to the next one.

Erin Mills New Hamburg 300 km Brevet

Ride report from Kathy Brouse:

The Erin Mills New Hamburg 300 brevet was a great ride yesterday for the 13 participants. It was a cool day to start with and it stayed that way until the sun came out for a few hours in the late afternoon. The first 72 km of the ride is uphill to Erin, lots of hills and climbing the Escarpment. The dreaded 3 km uphill climb on gravel road turned out not to be too bad as the road had become very hard packed since last year when it was freshly laid gravel and sand. This was especially good news seeing as it had been raining hard the night before.

Going west from Erin, the Hillsborough Hills roll west for some time and then the route continues south and west Maryhill, Bloomingdale and on to St Jacobs, then south to New Hamburg. We cycled past so much lovely farmland and passed so many Mennonites on the road with horses and buggies. What with the hills and the headwinds coming from the north and the west, the ride was challenging. A large group of us met up at the Subway shop in New Hamburg and sometimes a tuna melt is the most delicious food item in the world. Bob, Jean and Paul were finishing up their lunch when Marti and I arrived and the group of 4 – Arthur, Fred, Bob and Stan rolled in just after us. This was Bob McLeod’s first 300 km brevet and he shared some interesting memories that will stay with him, like the Peloton style bonding experience that only men can do along the side of the road! One can only hope they were sheltered from the wind at the time!

I experienced a brush with fate when I touched the back of Marti’s wheel on Charles St., a busy road going in to St. Jacobs and came flying off my bike and skid along the road in front of an oncoming car that was able to swerve around me as there was no oncoming traffic. Miraculously my body was not damaged, other than the huge bruise I am now sporting on my left thigh. We were able to untangle my bike, the handlebars had twisted around and were jammed under the cross bar. The handlebar tape is ripped, the left shifter bent, but otherwise I was able to ride home. It was a very close call and today I am singing the Hallelujah chorus, or I would be if I wasn’t so tired and sore! Thanks Marti for your kind support after that incident. I will be replacing my helmet before the next ride. As Paul says, it contains some bad karma now!

The trip to St. George was beautiful, everything so green and the sun came out as we rode along the Grand River to Blue Lake Rd and to St. George. Some good memories on the last leg of the journey include the big blue heron that we startled on Marlborough Townline and the beautiful big sunset that was happening as we turned on to Britannia Rd. Then it was a quick stop to adjust the night lights, don warmer clothes and full speed ahead to the finish. From the brevet cards dropped through my car window I see that Mark N and Stephen finished the ride together in just over 12 hours with Guy Pearce pulling in next, an hour and half later and then Henk.

The wind is howling outside my window as I compose this ride report. In the last half hour I have seen rain, sleet, hail and now it’s snowing. I am so happy not to be on my bike travelling through that open expanse of farmland today! Yesterday was warmer and less windy. Now, that calls for another Hallelujah!

Some photos from Stephen Jones:

Linda’s Loop 300 km Brevet

Ride report from Liz Overduin:

There were 12 riders who came for this ride – for two of them it was their first ever 300. For Linda and myself, it was the first time we had done this ride, which was a big deal because I plotted and planned this ride in honour of Linda (hence the name – Linda’s Loop). Even though the weather forecast was predicting rain and strong headwinds, that did not take away from the anticipation of the ride. We started out with tailwinds and crosswinds, but by working in groups, we handled that no problem. It was a little cool – but we were mostly prepared for that – no problem. We enjoyed an awesome meal in Grand Bend, with some having fresh pickerel, some having bacon and eggs. We all agreed that a swim in the lake was not necessary. A wonderful tailwind blew us to London and then on to St Mary’s. Coming out of the Pub in St Mary’s (with some of the group having shared 2 pitchers of beer with their hamburgers), we were thrilled to see that the northwest wind had turned to southwest, and the clouds had broken up to allow sunshine. Even though I got a flat tire, Linda and I agreed that this was a near perfect ride and it was rides like this that made us all love Randonneuring. It was looking like we would make it home before it got totally dark – what a bonus! The wind really started to pick up and we were going over 30 km/hr without effort. The sunshine was covered by dark clouds and it wasn’t long before the torrential downpour began. We were 40 km from home and we didn’t really care about a bit of rain. Until we made a left turn. At 31.8 km from the end, everything changed. Our pace line of four became a scattered scramble to keep the bike upright, on the road and away from each other’s wheels. It was insane. We could barely maintain 10 km/hr and we wondered if it would be safer to walk with the bikes. At times I was shivering so hard that I wasn’t sure if the bike was wobbling because of the wind or due to my shaking! Because the ride started and finished at my home, I can tell you that coming home never felt so good. Three cyclists had finished the ride hours earlier and along with two spouses, Cindy Fisher and Ann DeBruyn, had got the fire blazing in the wood stove, sausages cooked, salads/desserts set out, and tea ready. They helped us take off our wet clothes, sat us down in chairs and gave us dishcloths soaked in hot water to cover our hands and toes, which I discovered is a most wonderful feeling. Unfortunately the conditions were more than they could bear for 2 of the riders who found shelter and needed to be picked up – good on them for getting as far as they did – they have a story to tell – cold piercing rain, 80 km/hr winds and night time riding! The tea sipping turned to beer and wine, beds were set up for those sleeping over and logs thrown into the fire to keep everyone warm and cozy. Eventually I went to bed, and as I was falling asleep, listening to my fellow cyclists talking and laughing while sitting around the wood stove, I thought to myself – “this is why I love Randonneuring!”

The Hills of Hockley 200 km Brevet

Ride report from Kathy Brouse:

I think the Hills of Hockley is the most challenging Toronto chapter 200 km (actually 209.5 km) ride. But, it is also the most scenic ride as it winds its way through the most picturesque part of the Escarpment, the Hockley Valley, Simcoe county and the Holland Marsh… 2131 m of climbing to Orangeville and then the lovely run through the Hockley Valley with the stopover at the charming Hockley General Store.

The day was sunny and beautiful throughout, some south wind just to create a little more challenge. 7 riders participated in this ride and everyone finished. Having ridden to Concord from Etobicoke, William went on to complete the ride first in 8:40, but we all know that William has superpowers so it is as expected! Great to see Linda P again this year and this time Paul did not get a flat. Did I mention before that on the Gentle Start, Paul attempted to patch the hole in his tire with a $20 bill?!

Every time I run up the stairs at work today I will be reminded of the Hills of Hockley!