Monday, September 8, 2014

Brandywine 200k Ride Report

Preliminary results for the Brandywine 200k have been posted at:  
...Results will be submitted shortly, and become final, pending RUSA certification.

What a difference a day can make.

George sent me an email in late June to let me know that he would not be able to take on his head chef role on September 6 due to a family conflict.  I declined his offer to use Café Metzler solo and set about the process of changing a brevet date.  With the help of RBA Tom Rosenbauer and the RUSA organization, the date was shifted to Sunday, the 7th. 

Fast forward to September 6th.  I arrive at George’s house a little after 5am with the intention of completing the final course checkout ride.  Neither of our schedules allowed both of us to spend a day together doing a full course checkout ride.  I wasn’t overly concerned as collectively we’d ridden or driven the route on numerous occasions, but the fact that I’d not seen the entire route in one outing bothered me.  The 6th was my last opportunity. 

Morning temperatures in the low-70s were forecast to rise to 90 in the afternoon.   More troubling was the humidity which was extremely high and predicted to give rise to strong afternoon thunderstorms as a cool front passed.  I reasoned an early start would allow more time in relative cool and allow me to finish before the storms arrived.  George’s day allowed time for him to tag along for the first 10 miles, but he’d have to turn back at that point and I’d be solo the rest of the day.  We set out at 5:30 and spent our time together working on a menu for Sunday.  My cue sheet was damp within the first 5 miles and the early start did little to mitigate the effects of high heat and humidity on my efforts.  Progress was slow, but steady.  I kept hoping the cool front would arrive.  The first rain drops started falling on me as I was checking in at the information control.  The finish was a mere 20 miles ahead and I knew the route well.  I was enjoying riding in the cool rain for about a mile.  Then the deluge began and I had trouble seeing the road ahead, both due to limited visibility and that the road was turning into a stream.  The thunder began and I headed for cover.  It would take 2 more hours for me to reach the finish.  Approximately 4 inches of rain fell along the route in those 2 hours.  Localized flooding was significant.  But at least I felt good about the route and the cue sheet.

Sunday morning broke with temperatures near 60, a high forecast in the mid- to upper 70s, clear skies, and low humidity.  What a difference from the day before.  Twenty-three riders showed up for the start, including several new faces, all anxious to get started on what promised to be a beautiful day of cycling.  A few brief words at the start and they were off. 

George and I watched the SPOT trackers for a while as we finalized the cooking plans for the day.  As expected, the group made good progress in the early miles and was soon enjoying the scenic Brandywine river valley.  With many preparations remaining, we estimated first finishers at 9 hours and set our schedules accordingly.  The SPOT trackers saved us as first finishers Matt Farrell, Jim Holman, and Don Jagel rolled into the driveway about half an hour earlier than our initial predictions.  Riders trickled in for the rest of the afternoon, usually 2 or 3 at a time.  All relaxed and recharged at the Café while sharing their stories from the ride.  All 23 riders returned safely for another 100% finish rate.

Patrick Gaffney rode solo on a single speed while Glenn Ammons went a bit further and covered the distance on a fixed gear.  Patrick’s solo ride left honors for best tandem finish to Vadim Gritsus and Katherine Joubin who piloted a beautiful Co-Motion tandem.  Not surpisingly, they really loved the early miles in the Brandywine Valley and found the Susquehanna River hills very challenging.  Vadim commented that their granny gear had never been so fully exercised on a ride.

CJ Arayata notched yet another PA 200k and commented, “. . .what a beautiful day! Low humidity and low UV, but plenty of sun and mild temperatures. Kudos to Andrew for his self-sacrifice the day prior, and thanks to both him and George for a great new course. Being on such familiar roads for the first segment was a treat, as was passing some West Chester Cycling Club riders who keep successfully dodging my invitations for these brevets.
My knee pain started at mile 25 or so, and I kept saying that if it got any worse, I would throw in the towel. Thankfully, it managed to stay in check, one controle at a time for the next 100 miles, until I rolled back into Cafe Metzler. Jud, Eva and I stayed together for most of the day, until Eva had flatted on her 650c tri-bike about 12-ish miles from the finish. I couldn't stop to wait fearing my knee would tighten up, so I continued on, only to get passed by Joe and Mike. Slow and steady, but another successful PA 200k on the books.”

CJ’s pictures are available at  Thanks to CJ for bringing along now newly minted randoneuse Eva Van Stratum who completed her first brevet.

From rider Jon Erwin, “Thanks for a great route though some very scenic country. We really enjoyed the route and the bar-b-que!” Jon’s ride and pictures can be seen at

Completing his first PA brevet was Alexander Kojenikov.  He too found the Pennsylvania hills far more challenging than the hills in his native Ukrain.  Alexander hopes to ride PBP next year and believes riding in PA will better prepare him for the rolling terrain of France.  We wish him luck.

Jim Holman writes, "What a delightful and enjoyable course with plenty of great, low-traffic roads.  Highland Rd was a really nice way to start the ride.  Loved riding through the hollows!  Also a real challenge, especially after the Chadds Ford controle, with hills that just kept coming at you one after the other.  Very pleasant and comfortable weather conditions, if a bit breezy in some places - am wondering if you consulted a crystal ball  many days (weeks?) in advance to reschedule the brevet and make sure we did not get Saturday's dreadful conditions (sorry Andrew ).  Thanks for another great ride, and many thanks to Andrew and George for designing the route, organizing the ride and serving the delicious food at the finish." 

Jonathan Erwin writes: "...Thanks for a great route though some very scenic country. ... really enjoyed the route and the bar-b-que! ..." Jon's  RWGPS upload including several pictures is at:

Joe Fillip writes: "...What a spectacular addition to the PA Rando calendar! Thanks to Andrew and George for all of their hard work in devising this wonderful new route. (Having absolutely beautiful weather on ride day didn't hurt, either)...."

RBA, Tom Rosenbauer writes: "... Thanks for a great addition to the PA Randonneurs routes -- several of those roads were truly great destinations.  I've found that over the years, you can't go wrong with any road with the name "Creek"  in it.  And after yesterday, I'd add "Hollow" to that same category.  That Scalpy Hollow is a real gem!..."

As always, I have to express my sincerest appreciation to George and Erin Metzler for hosting this event.  By my count, this is the 7th visit to Café Metzler.  It sure makes for a fun brevet.  George also deserves credit for the enjoyable part of the route.  He showed me the initial miles shortly after the 2013 Silver Spring brevet.  I was hooked from our first scouting ride.  From that seed sprung the Brandywine 200 route.  I think it’s a keeper.  Finally, thanks to RBA Tom Rosenbauer for entertaining my initial question about changing the date and handling the ACP and RUSA paperwork to make the change.  Without his efforts, the brevet would have been held on Saturday. 

Andrew Mead

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