Monday, February 8, 2016

February R12 Results - Little Britain

Preliminary results have been posted at:
Please let me know of any corrections or other issues.  Results will be submitted shortly, and become final, pending RUSA certification.

Winter brevets are tough for everyone involved.  Organizers have to consider weather, its impact on riding conditions, and possible last-minute route adjustments.  Volunteers may have to endure frigid temperatures at rider sign-in or while manning a secret checkpoint.  Riders have to produce extra effort stay warm and accept that a 200k when temperatures are below 40F is much more difficult than one when temperatures are in the 70s and that completion times will be longer.  Yes, winter brevets are TOUGH, but the inaugural Little Britain brevet was perhaps moreso than usual.  That 13 randonneurs started and finished the Little Britain 200k in February is a true testament to the mettle of these randonneurs.

The adventure began two weeks earlier when a snow storm dropped anywhere from 24 to 30+ inches of snow in the area.  A course check-out ride tentatively scheduled for the following weekend suddenly seemed impossible.  Mid-week reports on the local news continued to show roads not yet plowed in many areas, including portions of the route.  Alternate routing and even a change of the brevet venue was considered.  We brushed up on our meteorological skills and tried to look ahead to the next weekend.  The weather finally warmed, roads cleared, Matt Farrell and George Metzler provided a little first-hand observational intel, and the pre-ride got a green light.

I cannot thank Bill Fischer enough for volunteering to handle the check-out ride even though the I had to bail out at the last minute.  We were aware of some likely problem areas and had detour options in place.  Unfortunately, I failed to consider all places that might not receive road maintenance and Bill was forced to hike-a-bike for a way through deep snow.  He was smiling as usual when I met him at the finish, but I could tell it had been a tough ride for him.  From his notes, I worked on a couple new detours and some other tweaks to bring the total mileage back into reason.  I didn't think anyone wanted to ride a 130 mile 200k in February.

Another mid-week storm brought over an inch of rain and warm temperatures on the Wednesday before the brevet.  Suddenly I began to wonder whether some roads might be flooded or if the whole route would turn into a skating rink when cold weather returned Thursday evening.  A windy day on Friday helped, but apparently not enough to make for worry-free riding.

Temperatures at the start was 23F according to the car thermometer.  Riders gathered and were checked in.  George Metzler helped me with the start so we could get everyone moving on time.  Thanks, George!  A few cautionary notes, a promise that there would be icy patches, and an urging for extra caution, and the riders took off into the cold morning. 

From reports I heard, there were indeed several reports of icy spots along the northern loop.  The worst of these being a stretch of road after the second control that was completely iced over and was blocked by a fuel truck sitting across the road.  Knowing the route, I can only suggest that a chance to walk along that section should be considered a blessing since Hill Rd is a tough climb under the best conditions.  The first 100k offered adventure and I'm sure some wished for studded tires at time. Watching the SPOT trackers, I noticed that several riders took advantage of a return to the start location to adjust wardrobes and enjoy a decent lunch before tackling the southern loop.

Wind from the southwest picked up in the afternoon presenting riders with a headwind for the long, southbound leg to Little Britain.  Sadly, the wind calmed in the late afternoon and deprived everyone from an anticipated tailwind assist back to the finish.  Thankfully, temperatures warmed a bit and road conditions on the southern loop appeared generally improved over the northern adventure loop. Against all challenges, all 13 starters persevered and finished for another 100% finish rate.  Thankfully, aside from a few small spills, all seemed in reasonable shape.  Everyone agreed that the route was deceptively challenging in its own right.  The winter chill (the high only reached 40) only made it tougher.  Congratulations to all of the finishers on a hard-earned completion.  Greg Keenan also scored his second RUSA R12 Award with this finish.  Congratulations Greg. 

Bill Olsen showed a true never-give-up spirit and finished the ride on a disintegrating pedal.  There's a reason he has so many brevet completions to his name.  Now we can only wonder whether there will be a spare pedal set residing in his seat pack for future events.

Patrick Gaffney arrived with a very nice-looking custom rando bike for a break-in ride.  It must be a great bike as he and Gavin Biebuyck were first to arrive at the finish on event day in spite of adding a few bonus miles which they attributed to "not paying attention."  Other finishers arrived in groups of two or three, opting for the safety of group travel after sunset.

Our finish control was located in a pizza restaurant that happens to have a great beer selection.  Volunteer Jeff Butt set up shop to greet the returning riders and to sample the offerings to assure suitability for our returning the riders.  Warm food and cold beer seemed to bring all back to life.  C.J. Arayata even drove up so finishers would be greeted by a group of friendly faces.

Your safety is the number one priority on an Eastern PA event.  Please mention any safety hazard you might have spotted or near-miss incident your saw.  A couple riders have already mentioned some slips on the ice. And an alternative to Nottingham Rd is in the works, which had a limited shoulder and some fast traffic.   As with any new route there's always room for improvement.  Please forward any observations or suggestions for improvement.  So far it's pretty clear that this route is a bit much for a winter brevet.  As for the mystery cue (1st on Liberty), it was part of a temporary bypass around a snow-covered Lakeview Rd. which I do not plan to leave permanently in place.

Rider Guy Harris decided to tackle the very fixie UNfriendly route on his fixed gear bike and writes:  Never once hated you as you predicted at pre-ride meeting upon seeing my choice of bikes. Most of the climbing was on lightly traveled roads suitable to paperboy. When I needed my granny gear it was about as fast as my companions in their granny gears! All in all a great reminder of what riding in Lancaster county is all about.

Looking ahead, we return to the Quakertown hostel for the traditional SR offerings beginning with the 200k on March 19.  Guy Harris and Bill Olsen will be handling the organizational responsibilities for those rides, but can always use extra hands.  If you are willing and available to help with any of those events, you can direct questions to the organizers or me and sign up on the Volunteer Page.  If you are considering organizing, drop an email to Tom or me.  We'd be happy to explain the responsibilities and help in any way possible.

Andrew Mead

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