Saturday, June 8, 2019

PA R12 Series Continues: A Victory to Remember

The R12 events resume with A Victory to Remember 200k brevet on June 15.  A course checkout was completed on June 8 and the cue sheet has been updated with a few tweaks.  The route is in very good shape with a surprising number of the roads having been repaved within the past year. 

One segment of the route has signs indicating it will be closed for repaving June 13 - 25.  Knowing that paving schedules often change, I am leaving the route alone for now.  In the event that you reach the construction location next Saturday and the road is really closed, then you'll need to take the following detour.  It adds only a few tenths and is downhill almost exclusively.

The decision point occurs at mile 14.9.  You will be on White Oak Road at this point.  If the road is closed, then:

14.9  R onto Stively Rd
15.6  L onto Winter Hill Rd
16.7  TL onto Old Rd
17.0  X PA-222/Beaver Valley Pike onto Main St in New Providence

You can view the detour here:
https://ridewithgps.com/routes/30221548

Registration is open and will remain so until midnight on Thursday June 13. 

Hope to see you there!

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA


Monday, May 20, 2019

Philly - Pagoda - Pocono 600K Ride Report

Preliminary results for the fourth and final ride in our ACP Super Randonneur series, the Philly - Pagoda - Pocono 600K brevet, have been posted on the PA Rando website.  Although several riders claimed this event was one of the most difficult PA 600K events ever, I think this may be the toughest bunch of randonneurs ever, as 27 of 28 starters finished under the time limit for a 96% completion rate. Congratulations and well done to all. Please review the results and let me know if something doesn't agree with your recollections.  The results will be submitted to RUSA for certification later on and become final at that time.

Sixteen riders completed the full 200/300/400/600 Pennsylvania Super Randonneur series in 2019, seven of them for the first time. The honorees are:
Charles J Arayata (2)
Jimmy Aspras (3)
Iwan Barankay
Gavin Biebuyck (5)
Shawn Bowles
William Fischer (3)
Cecilie Gaffney (4)
Patrick Gaffney (4)
Vadim Gritsus
Greg Keenan (5)
Nicholas Manta
Chris Nadovich (3)
Steven J Schoenfelder
Ryan J Stanis
Gilbert Torres (3)
Nicolaas van Rhede van der Kloot 
Many of these riders are using this early PA SR series completion as a qualifier for Paris-Brest-Paris. There is no doubt that each and every one of these PA Super Randonneurs has what it takes to complete PBP in fine style.

Additional commendations and special accolades go to Jimmy Aspras, who completed the entire PA SR series on a fat bike. Chapeau to Jimmy and his compatriots. When I asked Jimmy whether the fat bike afforded him any advantage on the gravel and dirt sections of the course, he agreed that it did help, but "other times it was just really heavy."

Some riders had trouble with punctures. First finishers Ann and John Jurczynski had six flats on their tandem. By fortunate coincidence they were re-united with their drop bag at the Wind Gap controle and could stock up on tubes. And Joe Ray wins the rim-abuse award, riding a flat tire the last few miles from the Free Bridge to the final controle in an attempt to finish by the cutoff.

Riders take a break at the Wind Gap Controle
Volunteers for the 600K deserve special thanks. With the loss of the Hostel, the organization of this year's PA SR series required entirely new routes and venues. As we were intent on maintaining event quality at the high level established by Tom Rosenbauer in previous years, the daunting reorganizational logistics would not have been possible without the hard work of several volunteers. Pennsylvania Randonneurs owes a debt of gratitude to all those who helped out along the way.

Specifically at this 600K, the volunteer support began early with route auditing/editing/vetting by Gavin Biebuyck, Matt Farrell, and Janice Chernekoff. Pre-rides by Chris Nadovich, Bill Olsen, and Steve Schoenfelder were assisted by volunteer support. Tom Dermody escorted the pre-riders through his home turf near Philly and then all the way to Reading, where he scouted some alternative routes for future events. The pre-riders had staff support at the Rocky statue, including Patrick Gaffney and CJ, who were bearing gifts in the form of iced coffee and brownies -- much appreciated! On event day, Tom and Sue Proulx were staffing the Rocky controle.

The start controle was opened, stocked with groceries, and set up by Matt Farrell with some help by Bill Fischer. Matt's support at the start was critical as the organizer pre-ride was pushed to Thu/Fri, meaning that Matt had to open the start venue all by himself and stand ready to run the event if need be. After setting up the start, when the organizer survived the pre-ride, Matt moved on to staff the Gibraltar controle. An additional good deed for Matt was somehow retrieving a lost document from the women's rest room in Gibraltar and returning the document to it's owner at Fleetwood.

The northern portion of the course, beyond Wind Gap, was staffed by roving purveyor of spring water and bananas, Len Zawodniak. Len clocked 276 miles on the course, supporting and monitoring riders all through the Poconos. I believe that the high completion rate for this difficult event was partly due to Len's volunteering.

The other reason for the high completion rate was the skillful staffing of the overnight controle by Andrew Mead. I heard numerous compliments from finishing riders recounting how Andrew helped them through their struggle to find some replenishment and return to the bike a second day. Andrew also staffed the finish for some hours, and has toiled behind the scenes with me on many different logistical issues, pulling together a totally new SR series in a PBP year.

The finish controle was staffed by Bill Olsen, Eric Keller, Andrew, and myself. Bill assisted with the pre-ride, did a grocery run, and served as the impartial, late finisher arrival umpire -- unbelievably Bill's eyes are so good he can see riders finishing all the way to the Free Bridge.  Myself, Bill, and Greg Keenan did the final clean up and gear packing at the Holiday Inn. 

Yours truly also did a lot of volunteering for the series. No doubt some people will be thanking me in words, in writing, or in beer for my effort. To that, I say: "you're welcome". Thanks enough for me was seeing all the tough bike rider friends who finished a worthy 600K. But to really thank me, to really, really thank me, you (yes, I mean you) should volunteer for a PA Rando event. In fact, we could really use an organizer/start/finish volunteers for the July event (Hawk's Nest).  Contact Andrew or me for more information.
--
Chris Nadovich, Event Organizer

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Philly - Pagoda - Pocono 600K -- Course Notes

The following are some important notes regarding the course.

mile 36 -- When leaving the bike trail around Lake Galena, the road up from the lake starts immediately as VERY SOFT GRAVEL.  Don't ride on this. DON'T RIDE.  Don't attempt to make the right turn here while riding. Don't! Dismount, turn right, and walk up the gravel road till you reach a surface you can safely ride. I walked all the way to the top (TL Creek Rd) before I remounted, despite the fact that I have super amazing gravel skillz and 38mm tires. You ain't better than me. DON'T RIDE.

mile 37.7 -- You will need to temporarily become a pedestrian again to go straight across US202 using the pedestrian crosswalk.  Then immediately return to the road.  Don't follow the bike trail yet.

mile 39.5 -- After crossing US202, turn right onto the bike trail. To be precise, this is the multi-use trail off US202 to the left while heading south, not the "bike lane" physically on US202. The multi-use trail is generally nice, but it does require you to follow pedestrian rules at every crosswalk. Please use the buttons and follow the signals. Cars are generally sensitive to the presence of bikes at the crossings, but keep your eyes peeled.

mile 53.9 -- OK, pay attention, especially if you don't know this stretch of Germantown Pike, which passes through one of the busiest Interstate Highway interchanges in the country. Traffic should be relatively light early Saturday, but there will be traffic,  fast traffic hostile to bike riders, despite the ludicrous "Share the Road" signs that indicate PENDOT thinks this is a fine route for bikes.

The fun begins with the left turn at the traffic light at the end of Walton Rd. Choose the middle lane here, allowing you to make the left and get immediately onto the right lane/shoulder. Be cautious about cars entering from side streets and driveways, or right hooks by passing cars, but this right lane/shoulder is usable all the way to the controle.  So far so good.

mile 54.4 -- Don't remove your reflective vest at the controle. Keep it on at least another 0.7 miles.  Remaining super visible on the upcoming leg is important. If for some reason you've removed your vest earlier, put it back on.  Also, now would be a good time to review the terms of the waiver you signed before the ride.

There is still somewhat of a shoulder after you exit the controle, but now you want to start establishing yourself visibly in the right lane. By the time you reach the main mall entrance, the shoulder vanishes. Here you really must be fully occupying the right lane and signalling vigorously a desire to move left to the next lane.  At the Dunkin Donuts the road is five lanes wide and maybe you've made it to  lane 2, second from the right, in 5-4-3-2-1. Almost there. You should try to move left again.

When I say try, I mean try. Don't do anything erratic. With those eyes in the back of your head make sure there isn't fast overtaking traffic before you move left. You want the through lane to Germantown Pike East, which is lane 3, third from the right, in 5-4-3-2-1.


Lane 3 is your best route
At the TFL near Starbucks you will feel like a corpuscle sucked into the atrium of a beating heart that is this interchange. If you've managed to make it safely to lane 3, establish yourself forcibly and visibly. Don't make any quick moves or do anything stupid. Ignore any shouts or horn blasts.   On the other hand, if when passing Starbucks you are still stuck on the right edge of the road by lane 1, perhaps now's the time stop for a salted carmel macchiato, regroup, and try again.

If you are now bravely in lane 3, Germantown Pike East, just hold your line and follow that lane under the three overpass bridges: I-276, I-476, and a railroad bridge.  Should you not be in lane 3, there will be trouble. The two right lanes peel off to the PA Turnpike, and I-476 south.  Not what you want. Even worse is the rumble band that separates exiting/merging traffic between lanes 2 and 3.  It's hidden in the shadows under the middle bridge. B-b-b-b-b-b-bad, bad, bad to ride on. You really want to be in lane 3 all the way.

When you pass under the railroad bridge, you've made it! Make your first right into Metroplex Corporate Center. Phshew! Now you can relax. The next 100K is mostly car-free bike trail. 
  
mile 66.8 -- There is likely to be a regatta on the river the day of the 600K. They usually close Kelly drive to most traffic beyond the first boathouse (Temple U).  From hereon it make a lot more sense to ride your bike on Kelly Drive than on the trail, as the trail is full of regatta spectators.

mile 126.4 -- Perkiomen Ave has been under construction. It's difficult to know what state it will be in during the 600K. Real Soon Now they will finish the paving. If that happens before the event, you will have a beautiful, smooth Perkiomen Ave to ride on. If not, you will need to figure out where the safest lane is. During the pre-ride, the lanes were in varying states of completion. We chose the light traffic rightmost lane (still unpaved) rather than the paved inner lanes. In some spots we were forced to use the sidewalk to avoid being detoured.

mile 195 -- The section from Wind Gap to the overnight controle will be ridden at night. The roads are dark, twisty, and narrow. Please bank enough time earlier in the brevet so you aren't pressured to ride faster than your guardian angel through this difficult section.  Be especially cautious of the descents, as there are many potholes.



Tuesday, May 7, 2019

2019 PA Flèche

The 2019 PA Randonneurs Flèche is complete and soon to be in the books.  Preliminary results are available on the website along with finish line photos.  I expect many postcards to arrive over the coming days and can then complete the assembly and verification of each team's documentation of proof of passage before making everything official.  Results will be submitted to RUSA at that time.  As usual, don't expect your Flèche certificate from the ACP until next spring.  Think of it as your reminder to register for the 2020 Flèche.

Nine teams started. Nine teams finished, each fully intact for an impressive 100% finish rate.  This is quite an accomplishment given that most teams spent much of their time riding in the rain.  A tenth team signed up, but some last-minute scheduling hiccups forced team restructuring of Teams Les Chiens Errants/Lost Pups 2 into a single team.  At least they all got to ride together.

The weather impacted our Velodrome finish venue by precluding hot laps on the track.  The FERPS, not to be denied, circled the track apron for a victory lap to make up for not encountering ANY snow on their adventure this year.

Overall the Velodrome had many positives and generally met the organizer's expectations for a first-time new venue.  We learned a few lessons and identified things to do differently next time.  I welcome your suggestions and feedback to help make a decision on a return next year.

Thanks to volunteers Keith Spangler and Nigel & Joyce Greene for pitching in to take care of the soggy riders on Sunday.  Special thanks to Velodrome manager Kelli Bertoni for working with us to make this possible.  Finally, a big thank you to Chris Nadovich who originally suggested the velodrome as a Flèche finish venue and offered constantly encouragement as I navigated the obstacle course necessary to turn a vision into reality.

Team reports follow and will be updated as they come in.

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA



Flèche Mob
Flèche Mob had four riders this year-- Geoff Burge, Jeff Lippincott, Gilbert Torres, and me (Rudi Mayr). Mario Claussnitzer was there in spirit as well, though work obligations kept him away (and, presumably, dry).

Jeff took charge this year, designing and checking the route and handling all the paperwork. I must say it was an excellent route, more of a loop than the traditional Flèche point-to-point.

When we started from a Denny's in Bethlehem at 9:30 AM Saturday (9:00 official time), it was not raining. I had had a Philly cheese steak omelette (good!) and coffee (awful!). We were supposed to leave there at 9 AM sharp, but we weren't actually underway until 9:30.

We rode through Bethlehem itself, crossed the Lehigh River, and then over South Mountain, getting our biggest climb out of the way early. Still no rain, a hint of sunlight, warm. But it soon got darker and the rain started. I don't know how long it rained.

At the end of our first hour average speed was 13.0.  Average speed climbed after that, got well over 14 after a few hours, and didn't really start to fall again until dark. 

Jeff had a slow leak in his rear tire, and his pump wasn't much use. We couldn't find the cause of the puncture. Turned out his replacement tube was very skinny and the valve stem was too short to get a presta pump on it.  Rookie error!  We were able to screw a schraeder adapter onto it and I converted my MT Zefal pump to fit, and we got the tire inflated. I patched the old tube while he put his bike back together.  I thought we'd better get Jeff an inner tube that fits, so I got my phone out... then decided to hold off on the googling since we were rolling again and soon to get to a controle in Norristown where I thought we'd find a bike shop anyway.  Went over a bump and heard the distinctive rhythmic sounds of a smart phone bouncing out of my handlbar bag and hitting asphalt.  I immediately stopped and went back for it but it was a busy road and had to watch a half dozen cars go by before I could go out into the road and get it.  I watched in horror as two of the cars ran right over the phone.  I picked it up, saw the screen all shattered, and chased down my team.  

At the Norristown controle I realized my phone was still working (and it turns out only the glad screen protector was shattered -- the actual phone was/is fine (doh!). From there got on the Schuykill River trail. Jeff's tire was still leaking, so we stopped again. Next thing you know an old friend of mine said out of nowhere, odd coincidence, small world. Anyway, this time I turned Jeff's tire (Schwalbe Marathon Plus something, a pretty much indestructible tires) completely inside out, and finally found the little bit of wire stuck all the way through it.  Gilbert had pliers that pulled the wire out. But then the tire wouldn't seat right because I'd turned it inside out-- the wire bead had twisted somewhere, got funky.  But Gilbert got that sorted out as well.  The tube I'd patched previously, with the longer valve, was easier to deal with. Tire inflated, I patched the second tube while Jeff was putting his bike back together.

The party was nice. Crowded, but not bad. Scenic. Easy riding.

At 4 PM we reached the 75 mile point, an hour in the bank. That's good, but not as much as I'd have liked.  Starting to want a longer rest stop, dinner and maybe a beer, but it seemed unwise to stop while it was light; we knew the night would be long and probably rainy, so we kept riding as long as the riding was good. We kept our stops pretty short. A bowl of chili at Rutter's was dinner. It was good.

Just after mailing out first post card controle at Lititz, by now it was quite dark, a car appeared out of nowhere on an intersecting street, going much too fast, unclear at first whether it was stopping (we had right of way).  This caused me to brake and swerve a little --really, a very little, but still a bad move-- Jeff was close behind and I knocked him right off his bike.  Landed on his head.  Helmet smashed.  He sat at the side of the road for a minute or two while Gilbert stuck his helmet back together well enough (the liner snapped back in) and we inspected the bike (no scratch on it!) and Jeff (no road rash, nothing broken) and then he got on his bike and we got underway again.  We were all a bit shaken by that, Jeff more than the rest of us.  Doh!

For an hour or more it kinda felt like it was starting to rain; I'd feel something against my skin, or hear something hitting my helmet, vest, goggles,etc, but it was all gnats. The gnats gradually got mixed with occasional raindrops, and as we were getting into Palmyra there was no doubt, this is rain.  So we stopped for a longer rest. I don't remember what kind of sandwich I ate there, but it was good. Okay, ANYthing would have been good.

Leaving Palmyra we were close to two hours ahead of schedule, but now we rode more slowly due to the rain, dark, and general fatigue.  The roads were covered with saturated earth worms, large frogs bouncing all over the place or just sitting frozen in the headlights.  Trains went by, really loud, really close, and oddly you could rarely see them or know which way they were going.  Just this disembodied sound. Over the hours that two hour 'lead' shrank steadily.  Original plan had been to get to a diner at Leesport PA no later than 5 AM to hang out and burn two hours; we didn't get there until 6:30 and since it wasn't an actual controle we just kept riding.  Final controle was a Turkey Hill in Fleetwood.  The last leg of the ride went smoothly, and we finished at 8:30. Strava says the ride to just 23:00 hours.

That's not the whole story by far, but it's all I can remember right now.

Amazing, how everyone was in such good spirits at the end! Everyone I talked to said they'd had a good ride, and I believed it. We too had a good ride. Wet, though (doh!).

I'd like to thank my teammates, the organizers, the volunteers, the Velodrome staff. Everyone was great. I didn't like the rain much, but it didn't ruin our ride, though it kinda ruined the post-ride banquet fur me. I really wanted to hang out and talk to people, but I also wanted a shower and dry clothes... and once I was dry, I didn't want to stand around in the rain. Doh!


Fistful of Xanax 2019
The day began with Vadim Gritus pulling up at 4:45am in a rented Chevy Silverado pick up truck: “Sorry, Mike: I know you wanted the Ford F-250 – but we’ll have to slum it up to Pittsfield in this thing.” Inauspicious beginnings.

Vadim had put together an ad-hoc bike rack in the bed of the truck – and quickly hoisted my bike up. Once secure we were on route for the 2.5 hour drive to the start in Massachusetts – where we would embark on a brand new route, previously untried.

We drop the truck off at the Enterprise depot in Pittsfield just as they open,  leaving a plethora of brand new bungee cords on the counter that we’d used to keep the bikes steady. Then it was onto the start at McDonalds - meeting up with Gil Lebron and Chris Slocum. After a quick breakfast we were on our way – contemplating how long it would take to get out of the city.

Weather is gray and foggy – but temps are relatively warm. Our first break is at mile 13.5 for a photo opp at the New York/Massachusetts border. We would have a relatively long and steady descent for the next 20 miles – so we put our rear lights on – to make sure we were visible to each other if no one else. Our route for the next few miles would also double back on the roads we’d driven to Pittsfield - so there were familiar landmarks.

We cruise to our second official control, Village Pizza in Red Hook NY at mile 57; a few slices, salads and sodas – and we we’re good to go; done in about 30 minutes. At this point we are doing well timewise; things are humming along. This route promises lots of rollers but no serious sustained climbing. We pass Poet’s Walk State Park. All of us note the name.

At mile 62, we cross the Hudson to Ulster County. In Kingston, we pass Jim Glass Corvette on our right. I joke about hooking Vadim up with my buddy Jim – who can get him that 71 fiberglass special. He winces and says apologetically, ‘but, the G-Wagon will get lonely if I start spending time with Jim’s toys. Better to stick with what I have.”

Something about these New York State small towns: passing through was a treat. Lots of churches in Kingston; some amazing graffiti in the back of a gas station – with ebony and ivory, I kid you not, riding a tandem. Some of these towns are a little on the down and out; rougher around the edges. Lots of abandoned houses and others not in the best shape. Still, it’s fun experiencing new neighborhoods we’ve probably passed through at one time or another – but never really seen.

Getting into New Paltz, Gil realizes his 2nd water bottle is empty. At this point it’s warm enough – and it won’t be possible to get to the third control without more water. We see a farmer’s market/stand on our left (Walkill View Farm) and pull in; Chris and Vadim following. This turns out, as many a farmer’s market does, to be a fantastic detour. Vadim goes for the apple cider doughnuts and coffee; Gil the iced tea. I buy everything under the sun trying to capture the energy I’m lacking – from blueberries and pears to a $7.99 apricot bar from Spain. Chris humors us – as we all know the price of an unscheduled stop as enjoyable as it is.

We decide there will be no need for a full meal at the next control 25 to 30 miles away – and we should plan on a touch and go. But upon arrival at El Rancho Mexican in Goshen, we order huge meals – and stay an hour. Vadim and I are disappointed they don’t serve coffee – and cancel desert choices because of this – while Gil and Chris nurse a couple of beers between them. The waiter tells us we are the first people in months to, gasp, ask for coffee – and due to a drop in demand they’d stopped serving it. Goshen.

Lots of pics taken here – because this is another time out of mind stop; quirky small town mixed with decay - but a still interesting energy you can’t ignore.

On to Hackettstown and mile 170. Getting there we pass single runway airports; have trail roads turn into mud and puddles – or just dead end. Gil was the star here: he led the charge on his 32s through dirt trails for miles long stretches, re-routing as necessary – even if it meant some cyclocross time. Yep, the bikes were over our shoulders – as we waded out of impassable rock strewn trails.

We hadn’t meant to trail ride but as this was a brand new course, roads appearing to be paved on google maps turned out not to be. it could have been much worse. As is, we spent maybe 10 miles on less than standard roads.

Another stop at Owen’s Station Crossing at mile 125 or so; putting on reflective gear; taking care of nature’s calling.  

We near the NJ border at mile 130.5 – and we’re in awe. Very pretty back roads as the sun goes down. NJ is/has been a home to all four of us and it’s as if we’ve never seen it before – at least not from this angle. One last re-route as to avoid another gravel pass from possible dead ending.  

We pass through Andover and Whitehall, successfully negotiating gravel in the relative dark. Gil says portentously: ‘the real test is going to come tonight – with the rain.’

The rain starts around 11pm; softly at first but builds steadily. Never gale force, it is moderate and steady. I made the mistake of not donning rain gear right away. As the temperature dropped, the rain gear couldn’t compensate for the already soaked clothes beneath. This heralds in the deepest part of the journey, riding in the dark and rain.

One more unscheduled stop at a Quickchek for about 30 to 45 minutes.  

Air conditioning here is a nightmare because of being water logged; it’s chilly outside and too cold inside; the vestibule between the entrance is the best bet. Gil gets a salad; Vadim some chili. Leaving there the water accumulation in driveway crevices is at least an inch.

Our controls at Hacketstown are closed as we get in around midnight. McDonalds still has the drive through open – and Gil begins to bargain with the manager to let us in. We’re met with an unequivocal ‘No.’ Chris is the voice of reason urging us to move on. We find a Wawa, staple of NJ randonneuring, less than a mile down the road. We do the usual for about 45 minutes and head out - to our secret weapon of choice: a hotel about 30 miles up;

Vadim had booked a hotel approximately 10 miles out from the penultimate control – if only for a quick stop to take a shower. We all laughed when he’d told us earlier. Oh, who would need it. He proved to be the hero for it saved us from having a much worse experience in the rain. At around 2:45 we arrived. It takes forever to sign in – and get the necessary change for the dryer. The woman behind the counter begrudgingly parted with $5.00 of quarters – warning us her manager was going to give her the business for having done so.

We crank the heat in the room; Gil strips the bed for most of the sheets. The plan is to walk around toga style – while wringing our clothes out and taking them to the dryer. We settle in for about 45 minutes of rest. I set the alarm for 4 and use two chairs as a makeshift cot. Gil and Vadim take opposite ends of the bed – while Chris is on the floor near the door.

Leaving there around 4:30 I notice one of my front lights isn’t working. I pop the battery and out comes a stream of water. My Cygolite Expilion 850 had been through worse – and lived to tell the tale. But we all have our breaking points. And the steady, coldish rain has pushed us in the direction of ours. Gil was adamant, leaving the hotel, that this would be one of his last tours of duty; he’d done his bit for queen and country and could look forward to greener pastures whatever they might be. Most likely he’ll change his mind – but it’s never guaranteed.

Travelling down a water logged main road before making a u turn, Chris takes a fall; there is a block of small wood, impossible to see with the cascading water and lack of street lamps. Gil murmers under his breath: ‘This is what I was afraid of.’ Fortunately, Chris and the bike are relatively unscathed - outside of a cracked rearview mirror.

Onto to the penultimate control in Bethlehem at mile 205. We arrive a little after 6am. Vadim, our Captain, is adamant no one gets off their bikes here - while he goes for a receipt. We need to make it to the finish by 8 – and though our momentum is fine, you just never know…..

But we make good time – passing through Allentown – which looks only a little like the Billy Joel song from 30 years ago. Lots of rough edges – but also new residential construction, the kind you grow used to seeing in bigger cities these days; a sign of economic rebirth lacking character and denoting a kind of sterility – ultimately making for a mixed blessing. Still, in that state that comes with travel, I contemplate moving there as an alternative to what I know too well. It would at least be different.

We climb into Trexlertown. Vadim rings his newly installed carbon fiber $70 bell – that allows his bike street legal status in NYC- and we rejoice. The welcoming committee as we enter the velodrome was great to see. (Many, many thanks to the volunteers.) Chris Nadovich takes our picture – and then it’s all you can eat and some socializing with other teams - before the ride back home. No victory laps this rainy morning around the velodrome for us.

I’ve never experienced an ‘easy’ Fleche; some have been more drama free than others. We muddled through with rain on this one – and tried to keep our mutual spirits up – because it was, truly, a beautiful ride on new roads. Watching the water cascade down the streets reflecting any light it could was transcendental in that way sleep deprivation and heightened senses allow for. Still, this ride was work: struggling to scan the road always revealing itself too slowly; riding brakes on even the mildest of descents due to the very limited visibility – and the fear of catching a pot hole and going down.

Much like life, the Fleche is about getting through – and trying to have some fun in the process. 


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Fleche Logistics and Notes ** Updated **

Some notes regarding the fleche...

*** Update 1 ***

We will have a limited supply of soap and some towels available, but if you plan on using the shower at the velodrome, it's best that you put some toiletries in your car to be sure.

The parking area in front of the barns is actually taped off, not coned off. You will need to move the post with the American flag to let your car into the PA Rando Parking Paddock.

To be admitted to the Velo Fair on Saturday without having to pay for a wrist band, just say to the security guards that you are with PA RANDONNEURS, that you've just parked your car, and you'd like to get in to use the bathrooms.

No riding on the track is allowed on Saturday. Also, no riding on Sunday if the track surface is wet.


*** Original Post ***

There will be very limited sleeping space at the velodrome (two cots) Sunday. If you think you'll need to sleep a bit after the ride, put a sleeping pad and bag in your parked car, or book a room at a nearby hotel. Be sure the hotel understands your arrival time. 

There will be an area marked off with cones/caution tape in front of the the barns for Fleche overnight parking.  Because the Velo Fair Flea Market is on Saturday, it will be FAR simpler for teams to  park their cars on Friday (or earlier) compared to Saturday.

Park by these barns. There should be yellow tape marking the area.
If you need to park on Saturday, let PA Rando know when you will be arriving so that we can have someone there to facilitate your access through the Velo Fair crowds.

The parking by the barns is to the right of the track, as viewed from the road. But the finish of your fleche ride is the entrance to the left of the track, as viewed from the road. Arriving teams should take the left side entrance and follow the path to the left of the concessions. The tent covered area near turn 4 is where finish refreshments will be set up, and where you can enter the track itself for a victory lap.

ALL FLECHE RIDERS must provide a signed RUSA and Velodrome waiver to the RBA before Teams will be permitted to start.  

Sunday, April 14, 2019

New Blue Redeux Ride Report

Preliminary results for the third ride in our ACP Super Randonneur series, the New Blue Redeux 400K brevet, have been posted on the PA Rando website.  Despite the challenging ride, 28 of the 31 starters finished under the time limit for a 90% completion rate. Congratulations and well done to all. Please review the results and let me know if something doesn't agree with your recollections.  The results will be submitted to RUSA for certification later on and become final at that time.

CJ Arayata writes...

On paper, the 400k should have been a smooth day: A rolling course vs. the extended climbs of the 200 and 300, just a bit of rain but otherwise favorable weather, quiet roads for the outbound leg, and a shifting tailwind assist for the entire second half to finish it out. But it ended up being a particular tough day for me, mainly due to the long stretches early in the day without real food available. I ended up in a hole I never  fully dug myself out of for the rest of the ride. I sat and watched as our crew (Nick, Ryan, Jimmy, Paul W., and guest star Steve S.) happily devoured sandwiches, hoagies, pizza, and ice cream, while I was struggling to eat half of what I bought at each stop. Ouch. 

On the Road

That being said, the course tweaks and the nice weather made the daytime riding pretty nice. I enjoyed the fog over the Blue Mountain ridge in the morning, we saw a family on an S&S tandem climbing with a baby trailer, and we happily whiled away the miles on the rail trails free from cars. Riding along the super-nice Warwick-Ephrata trail made me wish I was just on a short afternoon ride! The Foodery in Phoenixville was an excellent choice (thanks, Steve!) and we had a much-needed recharge of our mental batteries, which at this point was much more important than the physical refueling.


The Philly Gang
Paul's rear hub was making some bad, bad noises through the ride, which  Nick tried to calm down with some freehub oil, but unfortunately Level Rd. was where his hub/drivetrain met its fate. Lamenting the loss of our fallen comrade, we rode slowly through the night to Quakertown, where we met the nicest convenience store clerk in history... I think we proved ourselves much more personable than the usual clientele at 2 AM. We picked up Vadim here and cruised to a FINISH. To the riders who find my cycling form impeccable but my finishing times "disappointing", I would like to offer my  most sarcastic and insincere apologies.

Pictures here. See you for the 600k!

Pat and Cece Gaffney write...

Hi Andrew and Chris. Thanks to you guys and all the volunteers for your work on the 400 this past weekend. It was a great course and the stretch from Bowman’s Town to Blondies was not nearly as bad as we remembered. Fresh legs and cooler temperatures can really flatten out some hills.  Thanks again, see you at the 600.

Vadim Gritsus writes...

Thank you for a great event!  It was, no doubt, one of the most difficult rides for me. The scenery was beautiful and the route was planned very safely. Having a ride this difficult this early in the year can truly test one”s limits. Looking forward to the 600k, now that the bar has been set!

Fort Indiantown Gap Military Base
Iwan Barankay, writes...

I wanted to thank you for putting together another memorable event.  Just briefly some thoughts...
  • Favorite stretch: Evansburg StatePark
  • Most envious moment: seeing happy people sitting for a leisurely dinner in Phoenixville.
  • Insight: Next time take chain lube (thank you Anton) and a tubeless patch kit (thank you Anton again) 
Looking forward to the 600K!  -----------

Coming up next are the Eastern PA Fleche ending at the T-Town Velodrome. After that, it's the final event in our ACP Super Randonneur Series, the epic Philly - Pagoda - Pocono 600K. See you there!
--
Chris N

Monday, April 8, 2019

New Blue Redeux 400K -- Pre-Ride Course Notes (Updated!)

*** Update 1

The revised cue sheet and RWGPS route have been posted. Be sure you have version R1.

The major change was from mile 182 through 195. The use of the harrowing PA724 and PA23 (a.k.a roads of doom) has been eliminated in favor of Wall St through Spring City. Better I hope. Also, the Phoenixville controle is now an open controle on Bridge St in downtown Phoenixville. There are no traditional convenience stores on that street, but many establishments (of all sorts) are sure to be open. There's an ATM if you can find it. An "interesting" experience is nearly a certainty as you attempt to have your controle card signed or stamped someplace amidst the Phoenixville nightlife on a Saturday night. Tattoos need to have the date, time, and brevet name, or they don't count. Wild stories aren't sufficient; photos or it didn't happen.

-- Chris N

*** Original Post

On Saturday, 6 March,  Bill Olsen and I  conducted a pre-ride of the New Blue Redeux 400K course. As a result of information gathered on this ride, there are some course changes. Expect a revised cue sheet and RWGPS to be published soon. Watch this space for updates.

PreRide Course notes:

It was a most excellent cool-nice-cool Spring sandwich of a pre-ride. We started out in chilly drizzly fog, ended in the clear and chilly early morning hours, and caught some sunburn from the many pleasant hours of warm sunshine during the mild daytime temperatures. We can only hope that the day-of-event weather is just as agreeable.

Flowers and trees are definitely in bloom. Both of us had some trouble with alergies. Consider adding some non-drowsy antihistamine to your kit. 

The course itself, similar in structure to Blue Mountain 400's of yesteryear, seemed somewhat easier to me than those past versions. There are some tough climbs, of course, but they aren't as frequent or relentless as the climbs incorporated into the 200K and 300K this year. If old-farts like Bill and I could finish this 400K with ample time in the bank, then I think most anybody can.

Mile 2.1 -- We found the wooden bridges on the Two Rivers trailway to be quite slippery when wet. As the group will still be together at this point, please be careful to hold your line on the bridges, especially if it's been raining, and to go through the chicanes and bollards with ample space between riders.

Mile 7.9 -- By now most riders should be familiar with the trail entrance here. As the cue says, it's just past the electrical substation, which is lit up. The paved parking lot at the trail entrance is not lit. There are several trail like paths here.  The real trail is the middle one: a paved path that doesn't have a private drive or do not enter sign.

Mile 52.6 -- The controle at Blondies is an old favorite for a sit-down meal. The food is great, but many riders might feel it's too early in a 400K to be sitting down for a meal. No worries. Bill and I didn't sit down. We did, however, use the convenient outdoor seating area (with bathroom access) to strip layers and refill water bottles.

Mile 68.7 -- Instead of Blondies, consider the Boyer's Food Mart at Orwigsburg. It's a little hard to spot on the left (by the Santander bank), but it's a great place to grab something to eat. Juices by the entrance, fruits and baked goods just beyond. Bill bought 5 fruit pies for $1. There's a bathroom immediately after the checkout.  Girl Scouts selling cookies. Jersey barriers for drying clothes.

Mile 87.5 -- There's a Turkey Hill just off course to the right. This has been the controle in the past. It's the last service you'll see for quite a while. If you haven't stopped at Blondies or Boyers, you pretty much have to stop here for something. That said, since you'll soon be bumping along on the rail trail, maybe you shouldn't fill your belly too much.

Mile 93.4 -- Who's riding a fat bike? They'll be happy with this horse trail. Everybody else will have a saddle sore 911 bumping along a few miles on the pock-marked gravel and dirt surface. Hang in there. When you reach the "No Horses" sign things get much better. Until they don't. There's a short stretch of soft gravel at the very end from the AT iron bridge (99.1) to route 72.  Keep pedalling steady through the soft stuff and you should be OK. But riding a fat bike on a 400K doesn't seem so silly now, does it?  Nevertheless, Bill was on 23mm tires and he says: "I had no trouble".

Mile 117.8 -- There are at least five pizza joints in Palmyra. Take your pick.

Mile 143.1 -- Follow the cue directions to get through on the left side of the parking lot. After this bit of confusion the Warwick/Ephrata opens up to a very, very nice multi-use trail.  The whole thing is quite pretty with trees and other interesting touches. Most of it has a wide, very smooth, crushed stone surface. If you have any of those pies left over from Boyer's, this is the place maybe you'd want to picnic for a while. Maybe take a nap.

Mile 173.4 -- I think it's easy to miss this right turn onto Harmonyville Rd, especially in the dark, but beyond here there's no excuse for missing any turn.  Until the unmistakable tee left onto Laurelwood (181.8), you pretty much remain on Harmonyville Rd, which is marked as such.  There are lots of twists and turns and crossings, but it's really just still Harmonyville Rd. Even after you reach the town of Harmonyville, you still want Harmonyville Rd.

Mile 191.2 -- We didn't like riding on PA724/23. Didn't like it at all. This section of course will be changed. Make sure you use the new version of the route soon to be posted.

Mile 195.5 -- Downtown Phoenixville is hoppin' on a Saturday night.  What a hoot. Look out for drunks on foot and drunks in cars.

Mile 201.8 - 202.1 -- Germantown Pike road surface is terrible. Take the lane and be on the lookout for potholes, rapid-fire, on this descent. Hold on to the bars firmly with both hands, yet somehow signal a left turn. The beginning of Skippack Creek Rd after the left is even worse (if that's possible). Very bad surface.  Even worse than the Swatara Horse Trail.  Take your time to pick through it and then suddenly, poof! ... beautiful, smooth pavement begins again.  There are a few potholes on the park roads (204.5), but not nearly as bad as the beginning of Skippack Creek.

Mile 224.6 -- We had trouble finding the Speedway Controle. Part of the problem is that you will approach it from the back, so you can't really see it till you are right there. And the roads are more like shopping center driveways than actual roads. The cues and GPS will guide you correctly. Trust them. Be aware that you do NOT cross route 309. Once you pass the St Luke Bone and Joint place on your left, you'll see the Ciocca Service Center lit up. The Speedway is just to the right of Ciocca.

Like this, but at night.
Mile 233.4 -- You've been on the Saucon Rail Trail for a while (a wide, fenced-in path through the woods that is a little rougher than the Ephrata, but a lot smoother than the Swatara) when you'll see, straight ahead, an uncompleted trail section that's blocked off. The detour takes you left into the parking lot of Saucon TWP park and library. Keep in mind that you're trying to find the far end of that straight, uncompleted section, so you generally want to keep the woods close to your right. GPS and Cues are good, but there are so many confusing paths and it will be dark. Your first goal is to make it through the tunnel by the library. Once you get through that, keep the woods close to your right and don't miss that right turn back into the woods at the soccer field.

Mile 243 -- Countryside Lane. The final big climb. The erudite Bill was reminded of Ulysses, Episode Two, “Nestor”, where Mr. Deasy pays Stephen his wages and shows off his savings box. Deasy lectures Stephen on the satisfaction of money earned and the importance of keeping money carefully and of saving it. Deasy remarks that an Englishman’s greatest pride is the ability to claim he has paid his own way and owes nothing. Stephen mentally tallies up  his own abundant debts.   Bill says, "Chris and my greatest pride on this ride was we rode every climb! (Couldn’t say this about the 300K ...or probably the 600K!) "