Howdy folks, last week was pretty busy round here. Knocked out some projects in the workshop (post/pics will follow). Then at the weekend completed my first 600k brevet.
I will warn you this might be a bit of a long post, so if you have recently sold your soul to twitter.com, along with your attention span for full sentences formed by real words, just have a look at the pics.
With that out of the way, let me start with a little intro to randonneuring for those of you who might not be too familiar. No worries if you haven’t heard about rando’s before, I am new to it myself.
Randonneuring is one of the oldest forms of organized, amateur, cycling. It began at the end of the 19th century when a group of “audacious” Italians rode their bike from their home town to a very distant town. The distance was quite an undertaking, so the group was nicknamed “Audax”, Latin for audacious. The “Audax” name stuck, but it is now used to describe randonneuring events that are done as a group. It can be confusing however, because one of the international governing body for randonneuring is called L’Audax Club Parisien (ACP). The ACP actually oversee the predominant style of randonneuring called “allure libre” which are unsupported, individually timed events.
The ACP verifies results, ceritifies events, present awards and keeps records of all participants’ finishing times, accumulated distances, and completed series.
The American governing body is called Randonneurs U.S.A., or RUSA. The local club for North Texas is called Lone Star Randonneurs, “LSR”. I am new member to both RUSA and LSR, completing my first brevet back in May. A “brevet” is the name for an event, which I believe the word actually translates to mean “card” which has relevance because the rider must get their card signed at various check points known as controls
RUSA and ACP present different awards for various randonneuring feats. One of which is Super Randonneur Award, or SR. This comprises of finishing a Brevet Series that includes riding a 200km, 300km, 400km, and a 600km. Since May, I have completed a 200 and 300. It is an ambitious desire for one’s first season, but I thought I would give the “SR” a shot. There was only one 600km left in the 2010 calendar, so I decided to skip the 400km for now(there is one September 18th).
The ride began in Mineral Wells, Texas on Sarturday. Following the advice of club president, half man/half machine, Dan Driscoll, I arrived the night before, had dinner with some of the other club members. It was good to finally meet some of the folks because you may or may not see them out there on the rode.
The ride began just after sun-up at 7:00 a.m. With the desire to learn from the more experienced riders, and to get to know the club members better, I rode with the group from the start and most of the first day. The group was lead out by event organizer “Scary” Gary riding a tandem with his wife Dana, aka “Backseat Barbie”.
Before I go any further, let me take a moment to let y’all know that pretty much everyone in LSR are some of the hardest, strongest cyclists I have come across. We held a good pace and no one lagged behind. Also, it wasn’t just a 30 mile ride, it was several hundred miles. I also appreciated that it wasn’t a total “boys club” as a lot of cycling teams are. The group is very evenly split between the guys and gals, and these ladies can ride hard.
The route took us south towards Glen Rose and then further south to Meridan, Texas. It was a very scenic route with lots of rolling hills.
I did a good job holding up with the group and we rolled into Hico, Texas, about 138 miles into the ride just before 5 pm. We stopped for a quick bite.
The next control was in Dublin, TX. I was looking forward to this one, because Dublin is the birth place of the beloved brown sugary beverage known as Dr. Pepper. You can still buy the original recipe DP in classic glass bottles, under the banner of “Dublin DR Pepper”. The main difference being they use real sugar instead of high fructose. To my surpise, and total delight, there was actually a variety of Dublin beverages available, my favorite being the Triple XXX Root Beer.
Some of you may be wondering why I am going on about Dr. Pepper, and even Pomme Frittes, french fries to some of you. What does this have to do with Randonneuring? Well, look at the date on the Dr. Pepper bottle, it says “Since 1891”. What else began in 1891? Well, the holy grail of all brevets: Paris-Brest-Paris. Coincidence? I think not. 1891 must have been a fine year for innovation and daring ambition. And the Pomme Frittes? Gotta pay homage to the French origins of this true form of cycling.
Heading into Dublin, I started to feel the first signs of fatigue. I was having a hard time sticking with the group, and when I was with them, it was difficult to concentrate on watching people’s wheels and minding the gaps. I decided I needed a head start, otherwise I would get dropped in no time, so set off from Dublin on my own.
I don’t know what happened, it might have been the combination of the Dublin DP and Triple XXX, but as soon as I left I felt a lot stronger. It might have been that I saved on the mental energy from not having to pay attention to the other bikes around me, so could just pedal and let my mind wander. My friend Rick from Colonel’s Bicycles, in Fort Worth, advised me when I started Randonneuring that no matter how good you feel, or how bad, it will change.
On my own, chugging along on some rolling hills, I saw the big Texas Sun go down.
Gordon, Texas was the next control at around mile 195. This was the last control before heading back to Mineral Wells.
At the beginning of the ride, we descended a hill called “Cherry Pie Hill”. On the way back in, the route went over Cherry’s sister hill(or brother, I ain’t a geologist), named Apple Pie Hill. I was feeling strong going up, which helped to fully enjoy the experience of climbing a massive hill, in the dark, with no cars and no one else around other than the Man in the Moon, and a blanket of stars in the sky. It was too dark for photography, but I will offer you this instead:
After Apple Pie Hill it was about 18 miles back to Mineral Wells. I got in aroun11:30 p.m. It is typical for randonneurs to take a break for sleep during a 600km brevet, though some crazies ride through. About 4-5 hours of sleep is what a rider normally takes. The start, middle, and finish of the brevet was out of a parking lot of a hotel. Most seasoned randonneurs will sleep behind a convenience store using a rock for a pillow, but new to the sport I opted for a comfortable hotel room. I had some dinner, showered and got to sleep. I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and was on my bike by 6 a.m. I headed out with a smaller group. A lovely couple, Peggy and Steve, and their friend Daniel were riding recumbents, and Sharon was on a regular bike. I have a new found respect for recumbents, because these folks could hall balls.
It took a little time to get my legs to work and to wake up. A vicious head wind didn’t help either, and I fell behind the group on the way to the second control.
A little more breakfast, coffee, and now a gallus tail wind brought me back to life and I was able to keep up. We went through the towns of Strawn, Gorman, and Ranger. The scenery was very pleasant, and I started feeling better, though it was probably the tail wind that restored my faith in life.
It was 35 miles from Ranger to the next control in Gordon. Temperatures were rising, and I had drained 4 water bottles. With 10 miles to go to Gordon, we went back through Strawn and we stopped to fill up with water instead of doing 10 miles on empty. Eager to get the ride over and done with, I then set off on my own to the next control. Gordon was once again the last control before finishing in Mineral Wells. I was able to get in and out of the control quickly, since I had just stopped in Strawn.
It was 32.5 miles from Gordon to Mineral Wells, and this time we climbed Cherry Pie Hill, which is much steeper than Apple as well the north face that we went over the day before. By this point it was about 92*F, and Cherry Pie is well steep and long. It took everything I had to get up and over it in my easiest gear. I knew all I had to do was get over Cherry and I could make it to the end. I managed, but I didn’t have anything left afterward, and had to basically coast in the last 10 miles, and only pedal if I had to go over an incline.
I finished the ride in 35 hours and 10 minutes, and I am now just a 400km from being a Super Randonneur. WOO HOO. I am confident that I will be able to accomplish that mile stone, and hopefully do it again next year and qualify for PBP.
Unsure of what state I might have been in and whether I was capable of driving back, my very supportive dad was waiting in Mineral Wells to collect me and my gear. After such a long distance ride you either feel like total death or you are on top of the world. I was actually feeling really good, and after demolishing some delicious Pappa Chang’s Tom Kah noodle soup, I was ready to hit the town with my pals to celebrate the holiday weekend.
Oh, and the bike rode flawlessly. I strongly recommend riding a custom Gallus for randonneuring. Dream big, Ride Fast.