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.

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