London Edinburgh London 1400

Ride Report from David Thompson:

It’s high time that I wrote something about LEL, now that we’re through the Granite Anvil!!

It is a tough ride, but then again they all are.  1400 km, a bunch of climbing, varying weather from south to north and back again, wind…LOTS of wind this time, but always a factor at some point in a long ride…

It’s English countryside.  Rolling at times, flat at others, sheep everywhere especially up north and through Yorkshire where you encounter a lot of the climbing, it’s very pretty but not spectacular (sorry!).  It doesn’t hold a candle to the coast of Ireland, the Rocky Mountains or parts of the Italian rides.  A coastal route could be spectacular, but not this route.  That said, it is pretty, the roads are generally good, the people are friendly (and speak English!), the cars are polite…  Will I do it again?  On those last couple of days, I swore off LEL…but who knows.  Certainly I’ll favour something else that year if there’s a conflict…maybe.  I am a glutton for punishment.  I told Hamid to kick me in the butt if I suggested doing LEL again, but then again, I’ve had my butt kicked so many times, what the heck.

I haven’t looked up exact numbers but I understand that there were about 1400 starters and 800 finishers.  That’s a higher DNF rate than normal due to the wet and the wind — wetter than usual and windier than usual.

My plan was easy – split the ride into four parts and ride 4×350 km days.  That sounds easy but with the wind slowing me down, even though it wasn’t a full headwind, I crawled through parts of the ride north.  Any cross wind starts to bother my knees and they were bothered.  My drop bags were at Pocklington (about 350 km), and Edinburgh (about 700 km).  You only get two.  On the way back, I hit Pocklington again for my third change of clothes, which would be around 1050 km… An even split.

I didn’t book hotels, expecting to sleep in the provided accommodations which are mats on gym floors.  They do an excellent job of managing that, asking for wake-up time, assigning you a sleeping spot and getting you going when you’re ready.  If I did the ride again (see, I’m already thinking that way), I’d continue to use their gym floors.

All, or almost all, of the Controls have food, lots of comfort food, all provided by your entry fee.  I ate too much, which slows you down and got very sleepy from Pocklington to Edinburgh, stopping a few times to close my eyes, get in a power nap.  I slept at the Control before Edinburgh and then only had a short rest (and shower and change) in Edinburgh, simply taking my time getting out of there.

It was daylight when I got to Edinburgh; Hamid was getting organized to leave.  He waited for me at a Control down the road, getting in some sleep, and we headed out together and finished together.  I had stopped at the side of the road a little earlier and slept sitting up on the curb, leaning on a railing…yeah, this is randonneuring at its best!  That was the best sleep I had on the entire event it seemed as I was never tired again…go figure.

Riding together, not in a hurry, we spent a lot of time at Controls.  3 hours here, 2 hours there, until finally we had to start watching the clock or we would run out of time.  We weren’t going to set any land speed records!

At one point we were descending to a Control in the rain, perhaps 10 km out, bothersome cold rain and then the skies opened.  I was right beside a bus shelter and went inside; Hamid and several other riders that were just ahead of me reversed course and came back.  It was like crowding college kids into a telephone booth.  The temperature dropped and everyone was donning additional clothing.  I led a group that were having navigational problems to the Control.  I coached a young rider into wrapping her exposure sheet around her inside her jacket.

The last day, which of course I wouldn’t have even seen had I stuck to my original plan, was the windiest.  30 mph, according to the weather-person, and in our face.  Naturally it was flat with max exposure to the wind.  We were barely making 6-7 mph headway and at that point I informed Hamid that if we weren’t able to pick up the pace, we would actually run out of time.  That didn’t occur, of course; we had a few hours to spare at the end.  We had squandered many many hours getting to that point.  Squandered?  Enjoyed?  It all depends on your point of view.

About 1 km before the end we stopped to take off our reflective gear.  Hamid wanted to be clean for pictures.  Hamid and the other rider with us left as I was stuffing my jacket into my seat bag.  I got on the bike, fell to the side, slipped down into the spiky brambles partway down a slope.  Cursing at my stupidity and clumsiness, I dragged myself up, jersey covered in green from squashed leaves, itchy as heck from the thorns, it felt like I was bleeding all over but of course I wasn’t.  Duh.  In retrospect it’s quite funny.  At the time it was simply stupid!

Ride organization is excellent.  You really don’t have to open your wallet and besides, English cappuccino is crappy.  They simply add what amounts to almost boiling milk.  Technique is lacking.  Caffeine, yes, tasty, no…too hot to drink quickly.

We got ‘er done.  We added to our 1200+ count, FWIW.  I was ready for the Granite Anvil…maybe…

Granite Anvil Pre-Ride #1

Ride Report from Charles Horslin:

I started with Randonneurs Ontario in 2015, having only ridden an imperial century and some bicycle touring experience, I think my longest ride up to that point had been a 180 km day on tour that was probably an all-day experience. I optimistically tried to complete a full series in my first season but a pulled calf muscle ended my 600 attempt. In 2016 I managed to get a full series completed, as well getting a bit faster on my other rides. 2017 started off with a miserable spring for riding and I quickly fell behind on my training plans… work got in the way of my plans for Devil’s week, but also ended up taking me out to Lethbridge for the month of June so I missed out on doing some of the brevets I’d wanted to do in Ontario. I instead focused on riding the steep hills in the river valley around Lethbridge as I was working 7 days a week, 10 hours a day I couldn’t get out for any real distance rides. My focus during this time became about accumulating climbing metres instead of saddle time. By the time I wrapped up my job in Lethbridge a heatwave had set in over Alberta and BC and I had planned a 10 day mini-tour to ride back to Calgary before flying home. For 8 of the 9 days I spent on the road the temperature was in the mid 30° with highs sometimes over 35. Luckily the air is so dry out there that I didn’t mind the extra heat at all. By the time I made it back to Calgary I’d done around 1300 km and over 10,000 m of climbing. I did this trip on the same bike I’d planned to ride the Granite Anvil with, including the same luggage setup and gearing so I figured I could probably make it through the GA, and planned to ride a conservative “full value” ride, hoping to finish around 89 hours and getting as much food and sleep into me as possible.

I also signed up to volunteer for the GA, so I was assigned to ride the first of the pre-rides with Bob Kassel. I’d never met Bob before though I’m sure we must have been on one ride together. I was lucky to have such an experienced randonneur with me and I picked up a lot of small hints and tricks from him over the next four days. Having spent most of my brevets riding by myself I’m pretty quiet during rides and tend to just enjoy the meditative side to cycling.

The GA started at 4am and we set out to begin the very gradual climb away from Lake Ontario and up to the Niagara escarpment. The first few hours roll through bucolic countryside where the humid air was heavy with the smell of corn. Luckily the air was very still and we experienced very little wind on the first day… unfortunately I lost a bit of my adaptation to the humidity in the time I spent out west and found riding in the damp Ontario air to be harder than I remember, and when the sun started to shine during our climbs up the escarpment I found myself wishing to be back in the Crowsnest pass where sweat actually evaporates and has a cooling effect! Luckily for us, Dick Felton and Peter Grant were waiting at a few points along the way with extra water as there are a couple long stretches without services on the first day. Bob and I are on opposite spectrums when it comes to eating, I constantly graze and drink water and he will have half a bottle in the same time I’d drink two. Doesn’t help I probably have 50lbs on him!

The riding into the evening on the first day was on some really quiet back roads that I’d never been on and I enjoyed it very much however I was starting to feel drained and self-doubt was starting to chip away at my spirit and it was during this point I’d begun to think that I’d never make it to Parry Sound, let alone the end of the ride. I was lucky that the control coming up was at a pizza place and I ordered up a nice pie without cheese, charged up my Garmin, drank a bunch of water and a Pepsi and was almost back to normal. We made the last push into Parry Sound along 169 and enjoyed the smoother road surface and low traffic. I think it was around 12:45 when we got there! I am fairly quick with the showers and instantly fell asleep when I got into the bed around 1:30. I think we’d planned to leave around 5am but it was probably closer to six by the time we got out the door. I ate some toast and cereal at the motel before we left, as well as a protein bar to round out the meal.

Day 2 starts with quiet roads that pass serene lakes but relentless small hills quickly become the norm heading out of Huntsville I noticed someone had spray-painted “shut up legs” on Britannia Road at the top of a short steep hill, my Garmin 500 said it was 12% but I think it over-estimates the grade a bit because I was still going 8 km/h! The quiet roads continued until Highway 60 where we had a decent shoulder for the most part through Algonquin Park. The hills in the park get a bit bigger and after every climb there seemed to be another just as high or a tad higher. The terrain seems a bit flatter in the sparsely populated countryside along Highway 127. We stopped for supper at a random country restaurant around 7pm but still had a ways to go to Bancroft. We had dodged many thunderstorms this day but knew our luck would run out before we made Bancroft. It was just around sundown, after we’d passed through Maynooth, that the lightning became more frequent and the skies just opened up for us. It was almost like a monsoon downpour. I didn’t have fenders and it didn’t matter, we were both soaked but my heavy MEC jacket kept the wind from chilling me too much. I very much regretted leaving my thick neoprene rain booties in my drop bag but I did have some plastic bags to put over my socks so I didn’t get cold toes, at least. We rolled into Bancroft around 11:30 or thereabouts and managed to get some newspaper to stuff into our shoes. A quick shower and I think I was asleep by 12:30.

After 5 hours of solid sleep we set out around 5:45 on a cool damp morning with grey skies. Day 3 promised even more climbing in the Ontario Highlands northeast of Bancroft; it delivered on those promises, there were some lovely quiet roads to start the day off with some good climbs but many large climbs, starting with one on Highway 62, then Centreview Road and finally a doozy on Siberia… and that was just the start, many more lie ahead; Schutt Hill and a big one on Highway 28 that had 2 big vicious white dogs at the top that gave chase… they both met my pepper spray and backed off but that was the most dangerous thing on the ride. After a stop at the corner store in Palmer Rapids and a refuel the rest of the day was more downhills than up, but the terrain provided many smaller hills in the Vennachar area to keep the legs working hard until Sharbot Lake and a well-earned supper. We popped in a restaurant and I had a good veggie burger. For most of the day we’d dodged numerous thunderstorms that passed by us but as we ate supper the sky opened up for 15 minutes. Luckily we’d decided to eat that meal in the restaurant instead of doing a snack-and-go. That meal kept me going for a couple more hours, thankfully it didn’t rain on us again. The energy from supper didn’t last and by the time we turned off Highway 38 and we decided to grab 15 minutes of sleep in front of a church in a tiny town called Enterprise. This was such a good idea and that quick nap gave us enough energy to make it to Napanee at a much better pace we’d managed in the hour before. That nap time bought us a few hours of sleep at the very nice Hampton Inn.

Day 4 started off with the nicest hotel breakfast of the ride and I made the most of the vegan options and put a good feed on before we set out. I was relieved that most of the climbing was behind us and that we’d have a beautiful scenic ride along the lake. To start the day off there’s a little climb over a bridge on Highway 49 over to Prince Edward county and thankfully we didn’t take the road all the way to Picton as that’s another little bump I didn’t want to climb… however Gomorrah Road had a little surprise for us hill-wise though it was quite scenic and short so I didn’t mind. We plodded through the county and stopped for a coffee near Consecon but Bob suspects we were served decaf as it had little effect on our spirits and pace. Despite this, I was still feeling pretty good for having a 1000 km in my legs and we made a nice ramble of the rest of the ride. I had a front tire flat just before the control in Colborne, luckily just a small piece of glass that made for a slow leak. The flat at this point made me glad I carried a full size frame pump as I don’t know that I’d be able to manage a 150 strokes on a mini-pump. The control was at a Mac’s so I got a Pepsi and a Cliff protein bar, which seemed to be my magic combination to keep on trucking. We ambled along the lake and enjoyed many scenic views along the ridges. We’d planned a stop in Port Hope at a burger joint voted “best in Canada” and they had a decent portabella mushroom burger so I was happy with that. With some fuel in the tank we set off for the last 65 km of the ride and we had about 7 hours to do it so with the last bit of energy in our legs we set off and endured a bit of a slog up and out of Port Hope and continued along Lakeshore road savouring the views. There’s a defunct oil-burning power plant in Wesleyville that has a tall stack looming but otherwise farms and orchards with views of Lake Ontario made up most of the next 40 km or so. The route criss-crosses a mainline railway along this stretch and there’s one rickety old bridge that looks like it was built a hundred years ago. There’s also a couple of neat little tunnels under the railway too. The ride finishes up with a gentle climb up the ridge that is the old shore of glacial Lake Iroquois, which brings us to the finish at Durham College.

I had some doubts about finishing a 1200 but with good support from Dick and Peter and a great riding partner in Bob Kassel I made it through. Having one 1200K under my belt feels pretty good and I didn’t experience any acute injuries from riding, just a general soreness and some very minor saddle sores… I think I am done with the Brooks Cambium, it just doesn’t seem to be comfortable enough for me but it didn’t hurt me enough to ruin the ride for me either. My Dill Pickle brand handlebar and saddlebags worked really well but I think I should have got a medium sized saddlebag instead of a large for rides that use drop bags. Overall the Granite Anvil route is amazingly beautiful and really shows the diverse geography around southeastern Ontario. I would guess there is maybe 10 km of really rough roads and a few kilometres of unavoidable gravel, but thankfully the gravel was pretty smooth and not a problem on 28 mm tires.

A big thanks to all involved in planning the GA route, and especially Dick Felton and Peter Grant for the support at controls along the way, and of course to Bob Kassel for riding with me all the time on my first 1200K.

Flickr Photo Album

Elephant Lake 200 Permanent

Ride Report from David Hamilton:

On August 2, I rode the Elephant Lake 200 as a permanent as part of my training for the GA 1200. This route begins in Bancroft, wends its way around Elephant Lake to Maynooth and Barry’s Bay, then circles back to Bancroft via Schutt and McArthur’s Mills. Much of the route covers the same hills – I mean roads – as the GA 1200 so I was looking forward to the challenge.

Rather than spend the night in Bancroft before the ride, I left Ottawa early in the morning and began the ride at 7:30. Almost immediately I was hit by some nice long hills to climb but these were babies compared to what was ahead of me. The weather was cooperative: sunny, hot and humid with a SW breeze, and the traffic was reasonably light. This section of the ride was beautiful. Quiet roads, good hills going up and down… I was thinking this route could easily become my new favourite. I rehydrated in Maynooth at the gas bar there and then continued on towards the next control at Barry’s Bay.

Highway 62 was busier, at least until the route turns off at Centreview Road towards Siberia Road. Again, more hills but nothing too scary. That all changed on Centreview Road. The first couple of climbs were really challenging and my granny gear got a serious work out! I thought to myself “so this is what the GA tastes like” and just kept pedalling.

I pulled into the Subway for lunch at Barry’s Bay, still in good time of keeping a 20km/h inclusive pace. Bit of a line up in the restaurant but the A/C felt great. I stayed there about 30 minutes, filled the water bottles with ice and water, and headed back out on the road. By this time, the humidity was intense and I made sure to keep drinking. Moreover, the forecasted thunderstorms looked like they would make an appearance as the skies grew cloudier and the wind really picked up.

The ride towards Schutt was relatively flat. I mean, not “flat” flat but no major climbs.  I stopped at Hanna’s grocery store in Palmer Rapids just before the turn on to Schutt Road to rehydrate again and by this time, the skies were threatening. As I started climbing in to Schutt, I heard the thunder rumbling all around me and the clouds were blackening. I knew there was the little white church at the top of the Schutt Hill and hoped I could make it there before the storm hit.

As it turned out, just as I hit the church, the rain started coming down so I took shelter under the church awning to wait it out. The radar showed some intense cells all around me but nothing sustained, and in fact the rain was just about over in 15 minutes. However, all around me I could still here thunder and see dark ominous clouds. But I was only about 47 km from Bancroft at this point and was ready to finish and cool off in some A/C.

The rest of the ride – mostly along highway 28 – was uneventful weather-wise. Traffic picked up again along this road but most of the cars and trucks gave me lots of space… good thing too as there were no paved shoulders and the sides of the road were crumbling in many places. I stopped at the store in McArthur’s Mills for more fluids around the 180km mark and kept going. There were more hills on this road too, some of them challenging, but the last km or so is a nice downhill into the town of Bancroft. The town was preparing for the annual Gemboree and there was a lot of activity with signage and such so I could imagine the crowds coming in on the weekend.

I finished the ride in just over 11 hours and was happy to have ridden several of the GA 1200 hills. Before heading back to Ottawa, I changed and cleaned up in the McDonald’s, satisfied my hunger with a mighty Angus burger, and got more fluids for the drive home.

All in all, despite the traffic on 28, this is now my new favourite 200 route. Very scenic, great roads, challenging climbs… it’s all there.