September 17, 2016 – Chenaux 200 & 38s

Ride Report from Dave Thompson:

What do they have in common?  Read on…

Stepping back a bit, prior to the Manitoulin 1000 I changed out my bag setup, opting for a new frame bag that I’d bought and carrying a waterproof stuff sac on my back rack.  For all the other rides of the season, I’d had a conventional cycling bag on my rear rack and also had a largish bag on my handlebars.  That provided plenty of room, plenty of wind resistance and I carried a ton of stuff on the mountainous 1200s.  I wanted to change that for the Italian Miglia 1600.  More climbing and warm weather; surely I wouldn’t need as much storage space.

The new frame bag worked well — it is suspended front to back from my top tube.  It isn’t huge but it did the job for tools and misc stuff.  Clothing went into the stuff sac at the back.  The only thing that I was missing was a readily accessible top tube bag (on top of the tube) for wallet and minor things.

So, I knew what I wanted to carry, bag-wise, on the 1600.

I also wanted to try new tires — Grand Bois 38s specifically — that I’d bought prior to Manitoulin, but decided at the last moment not to use them. Before heading to Italy, I mounted the 38s; never having ridden on them.  I gave them a test ride of a few km the two days before the 1600 and put 28s — my usual tires — in my drop bags “just in case”.  The 38s felt good, albeit something like riding a full suspension bike.  With pressures between 50 & 60 psi, that might be expected.  These are also very supple walled tires, further exacerbating the “bounce” or, if you will, bump absorption.

Those 38s were wonderful in Italy.  The roads were very rough and they just ate up the bumps.  I had no problems whatsoever; I absolutely love the tires.

The day before the AGM Chenaux 200, just before I left for Ottawa, I realized that I should really mount my fenders as it was supposed to rain.  Clearances were tight, so tight that I had to reverse the bolts in the front fender so that the screw heads were inside the fender vs the screw end/nut.  Was that too close?  Nawww…

Starting that 200, I hadn’t been on the bike for almost a month.  My bike rode in the car, packed in its case, the entire time that Sandy and I travelled in Italy.  Lots of driving, a little walking, not much exercise.  Good food, good wine, I put on, as I figured it, about 5 pounds of mozzarella!

We started the ride at 8am — Guy, Dick, Alan, Bill, Bojana, Peter, Vytas and me — and I soon dropped off the back.  I always do that.  My time off the bike was catching up to me.  I was really dragging.  I figured that if this was what a month off the bike had done to me, this was going to be a long, long day.

It got worse.  I decided to stop and check my wheels.  The front wheel would barely turn.  Assuming that it was the brakes, I checked those — nope.  Then I realized that it was the front fender.  The front light had slipped down a little pressing the fender down (they’re both attached by a common bolt) and that few mm caused the tire to rub on those screw heads at the crown.  Luckily I had the necessary tools — Allan and box-end wrench — so I moved the light and fender up and away I went.  Great!

I soon caught up to others and was able to enjoy the ride.  We all finished within an hour of each other — first ones around 5:45 pm.

This is a very pretty ride; I highly recommend it.  Yes, we did get rain.  We also got incredible views of the Ottawa River, crossed over to Quebec, took a ferry trip back — I had my $3 fare ready — and finished up in Kanata.

It’s relatively flat, a perfect AGM ride.  Controls are nicely spaced.  The penultimate Control, just before the ferry, is a bar info-control.  The question is “what is the price of a quart of Molson Ex”.  Not to be outdone, Peter Grant had to prove the price by buying one and consuming.  Dick shared and made a shandy which didn’t quite go down well … probably the beer by itself would have been better!

Guy was a perfect organizer, giving us lots of tips before the ride covering services along the route and ensuring that we all had our $3.

This is a ride that I’d definitely do again!  I would love to do it in better weather — wouldn’t you know, Friday and Sunday were sunny; Saturday we had rain.

Oh yes, there was a nice section of heavy gravel that had been “added” within a few days of the ride.  Bill Pye had done the ride a week earlier as a Permanent and the gravel wasn’t there.  Of course my 38s ate it up!

So, how does one add excitement to rides?  Well, use a different setup for each one.  You’ll never get bored.  New bags for the 1000.  New tires for the 1600.  Add fenders for the 200.  What next?

There is a postscript.  When I got home, my front tire was flat.  It had a significant hole on the inside, not on the tread-side.  I couldn’t figure out what caused that, and after all, I’d done the 1600 in Italy with the same tires and tubes and had only deflated and inflated them in between.  Not finding anything, I remounted with a new tube; perhaps it was a fluke.

Sure enough, yesterday, after riding the day before, the tire was still inflated.  I’m sure it was a fluke.

This morning that tire is flat … back to the drawing board!

Miglia Italia 1600 km 2016

Ride Report from Dave Thompson:

This ride was not without drama …

The ride turned out to be more difficult than I expected.  It wasn’t the length, it was a combination of the routing changes and the heat.  Some complained about the rough roads, but I’m sure that they didn’t change much.  What did happen is that the more onerous climbs and the heat slowed us down, pushing our best laid plans aside …

We queued up early to get out early.  Given the planned way of releasing the cyclists, we could have been leaving close to midnight but instead were rolling at 8:30 p.m.  Our little group was comprised of me, Jerry, Hamid and Victor from Colombia.  As usual, Hamid clung to the back of one of the groups and left us behind.  I needed to stop for a second as my light connection had come loose.  That happened a couple of more times until I hit a Control and was able to use my pliers to fix it for the rest of the ride.

We planned to get to Vallombrosa the first day.  While the distance seems long — 562 km — the first 400 km being flat and windless (night start and night time riding), makes short work of that first 400.  I’d used 2010 as my baseline and that year I’d made Dicomano, just over 529, by 5:30 p.m., having started around 9pm the previous night.
We did get away before 9pm and I fully expected to be a little slower, but the heat got to Jerry during the day and the climbing to Dicomano was much more difficult.  As a result, we didn’t get to Dicomano until after midnight; crashed for an hour at that Control (spending two hours there) and then did the 34 km to Vallombrosa.  That climb from Dicomano to Vallombrosa was also more difficult than 2010, further pushing us back.
We didn’t get to Vallombrosa until daylight and we then got another hour’s sleep at our hotel. Hamid was with us at that point; he snoozed in the lobby.  With everything pushed forward by at least 6 hours, that set the pattern for the ride.    Instead of having dinner in each town with an early start the next day, we were getting in late and having breakfast at the hotel.

Following that pattern, we checked into our hotels in Bolsena around 4am, San Gimignano after 4am, Deiva Marina at 9am.  Instead of finishing Monday evening around 120 hours, we finished Tuesday noon at 135, against the 140 hour time limit.

We pushed our luck in several places.  We got to the Deiva Marina Control right before closing, 8am.  Jerry was wiped.  He could hardly walk, let alone ride.  The combination of heat the day before and climbing doing him in.  With the heat, he couldn’t eat much, further slowing him down.  He couldn’t even ride 5 km downhill to the hotel let alone continuing on without sleep.  I let him sleep at the Control for a bit and then we rode to the hotel.  I made a strategic decision that he needed more sleep and we left there 3.5 hours after the Control closed.  As a result, we missed the next Control close by about 1/2 hour, which is OK in RM rides as long as you make it up later, and were basically back on track by the next Control.   We did leave that next Control 1.5 hours after it closed, giving Jerry some time to catch a snooze on the grass.

Shab and Hamid were at the hotel.  Hamid was about to head out.  Shab helped us, making sandwiches and later carrying our bikes and us back uphill to the Control (that’s legal, it’s a Control).

At one point during that hot afternoon Jerry was ready to throw in the towel, close to heat exhaustion.  I talked him into continuing — “Jerry, eat some more grapes, pour that water over your head vs drinking, let’s go a bit further”.  I knew that once it cooled down, he’d be OK, and he was. Having had to leave him behind at PBP the year prior due to an Achilles problem, I didn’t want to leave him again.  I’m very easy on my water and at one point we were riding side-by-side and I was pouring some of my water on his head.

However, those delays almost did me in.   I’m very susceptible to the cold and I’d left my heavy jacket and other cold gear with Shab, at Deiva Marina thinking that we wouldn’t have to ride the night through.  Besides, I hadn’t had to use it to this point anyway.  That was a mistake.  By the time we got to Castelania, close to midnight, I knew that I was going to be in trouble.  There wasn’t going to be anything open until 6am and we still had a hundred or so km to go.

We stopped a couple of times and I broke out my silvery exposure blanket and we slept on the grass.  It was the only way that I could retain enough heat.  A couple of hours before dawn, I knew that I could make it through and we continued, welcoming the dawn and quickly shedding our clothing as it heated up again.  We lost at least 4 hours at that point, perhaps 6.  We should have easily made it by dawn.

I was disappointed in the ride on several levels.  First, my recollection was that it was easier than PBP.  I believe that the 2010 routing was easier than PBP.  On that basis, I had talked Jerry into doing the ride.  The routing changes made it more difficult and the heat compounded the difficulty.  That messed up my well laid plans for night stops.

On the other hand, both Jerry and Hamid finished.  Hamid finished around 2am the night before and was there to welcome us at the finish along with Shab and Sandy.  He had a great ride.  It was a tough ride for Jerry; I’m sure that he was cursing me at times; but at the end he was happy that he’d checked that box.  If anything, it was memorable!  When we left Controls late I knew that we ran the risk of a DNF.  That didn’t worry me so much — I’d already checked the Miglia-done box in 2010.

Those routing changes bypassed some of the scenery that I was expecting but perhaps we were simply hitting some of that scenery at a different time of day.  The ride-supplied food was cut back, not as good, but again, perhaps it was the dinners at the overnight destinations that I was missing.  The ride support wasn’t as good — in 2010 the ride support motorcycles were everywhere, not so this time.  My perception is that the organizers cut costs significantly, but that might be just my perception, as I was in a different place in that spread out peloton.

As it was, there were only 10 people who finished the ride after us out of 310 or so finishers.  Of course that’s not counting the DNFs, about 80.  Another 90 had signed up for the ride and were DNS.  That’s a lot of money left on the table!

While I was doing the ride, tired and with rough roads, I told myself that I wouldn’t do this one again.  Of course that’s now changed … I’ll be back!

Italy is offering three other rides in the next three years – one from Rome south to the Amalfi coast; one that takes in the islands and one hitting all the highest peaks in the Alps… I don’t know about that last one but the other two are intriguing!

One more note — I took a chance and rode with Grand Bois 38s on this ride, rather than my usual Continental 4-season 28’s — I loved them!  They really helped on the roads.