Monday, August 20, 2018

Midnight Express Ride Report

Preliminary results of the inaugural Midnight Express 200k have been posted on the PA Rando website.  The results will be submitted to RUSA in a few days and become final pending ACP certification.  All riders who clipped in to start finished the route and 20 of 22 finished within the time limit for a 91% finish rate.  Well done to all.

Finishers showing RUSA medals (and handlebar bags), photo by George M.
PA Randonneurs celebrated RUSA's 20th Anniversary with something different.  Instead of the traditional early-morning start, riders clipped in and rolled out at 7PM to embark on a 200k adventure on a new route.  Skies were overcast, but the rain held off and skies cleared somewhat allowing moonlight to guide the riders for a while.

Riders first encountered volunteer Ivan Umble along the route at a Secret Controle.  Just checking on you guys.  Anyone who looked at the route map would understand the need for this check.  It has been a while since we've had a secret control it just seemed to add more interest to the ride.  In an effort to expose riders to a wide array of route controls, the brevet also featured an Open Controle and an Information Controle.  Variety is the spice of life.

Secret(?) Controle, photo by Greg K.
From it's inception, the Midnight Express route was conceived as one to be ridden at night.  Roads that are heavily trafficked during the day become private pathways at night.  Some of the roads experience bumper-to-bumper traffic during the day, even weekend days.  During an late night recon trip as I was developing the route, I encountered exactly 3 cars over the course of 45 miles of riding which gave me hope that the concept would work.  Based on rider comments afterward, the route was a success.  Riders avoided typical August daytime heat.  Not so lucky were the volunteers on the course checkout ride.  The checkout ride was conducted during daylight hours two weeks earlier, starting in a cool rain, but finishing in sweltering heat and humidity as afternoon temperatures reached the mid-90s.  Temperatures for the brevet remained around 70 for the entire evening.  Rain held off until the morning.  It was definitely nicer for the brevet riders despite some early morning rain in the closing miles.

The route was challenging as is typical for Southeastern Pennsylvania routes.  Also as is often the case, an unknown talent shows up and aces the route.  First-timer Jason Blome blazed around the route to become a randonneur and the first finisher.  Jason is no novice; he owns a nearby bike shop and logs many miles every year.  Night riding is one of his favorite types of riding and what piqued his interest with this event.  Hopefully he will join us again.
PA Randos at Port Deposit Controle, Photo by Greg K.
In addition to Jason, riders James Hultquist-Todd and Gary Wilpizeski became randonneurs, each finishing their first brevets in fine fashion.  How many randonneurs can say that their first brevet was an overnight event?  Congratulations to you all!

We saw a new entity at this brevet:  The Philadelphia Dynamo Headlight Society.  It seems that CJ Arayata has been promoting nighttime riding and secretly recruiting unsuspecting cyclists to join the ranks of randonneuring by hosting overnight adventures to various eateries around Philadelphia.  In addition to CJ, Society members included Shawn Bowles, Luke Elrath, Alex Manta, Ryan Stanis, and Gary Wilpizeski.  Could CJ be planning a two-team Fleche campaign for 2019 ?

CJ sent an interesting link showing his progress around the course.

Keith Spangler sent this concerning his ride with long-time PA Rando Bill Slabonik:  Andrew, thank you for giving all of us the opportunity to ride the Midnight Express.  When I downloaded our ride results I was shocked at the "mph" ~ 11.  We normally ride that and make the finish so it must have been the stops and the three missed cues we made early on.  Anyway, we had a great time riding together again.  Like I mentioned, I'm focused on a solo tour of the Gulf of Mexico so maybe I can revisit brevets.  Please share my appreciation with George for a great experience!  Keith
Keith and Bill rolled in about 30 minutes after the time cut-off, wet, tired, but smiling.

Post-ride relaxation.  Photo by George M.
This event would not have happened without the encouragement and brainstorming contributions of George Metzler.  He and I have cooked up a few interesting events over the years and this one was no exception.  It started as a "what if" when RUSA announced the 20th Anniversary celebration and grew from there with our usual quest to do something totally different.  Thanks George!

George has posted his collection of photos on the web.  Check them out.

Thanks also to pre-ride volunteers Paul Currie, Rich Lucchese, Chris Nadovich, and Gilbert Torres.  These guys all rode about 5 bonus miles without complaint as I re-routed on the fly during the course checkout ride. Gilbert stationed himself at the West Chester controle Saturday evening to offer a friendly face of encouragement as riders set off into the nighttime darkness.  Had the cue error not been discovered, riders would have faced a difficult loop around in early morning darkness.  As it was, only a few bonus miles were reported on the brevet.  Even though he could not make the pre-ride, long-time PA Rando Mike Lutz arrived at the finish at 5am to help with breakfast.

Next up is the Hawk Mountain 200 starting in Ephrata, PA on September 8.  Details are posted on the PA Rando website.  Registration is open.

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA

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