Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Pagoda 200K Ride Report

Miles, Joe, Greg and Elias
celebrating at the Pagoda (photo by Matt)
With the growing concern about the Corona virus pandemic casting a shadow of uncertainty over future events, a brave group of 24 randonneurs clipped in to attempt one of the most difficult 200K routes in the PA Rando menu, the Pagoda 200K brevet. Despite the anxious context and difficult course, 23 of the 24 starters finished under the time limit for  a 96% completion rate. Congratulations and well done to all, especially our first time riders Matthew Harman and Miles PowellWelcome to PA Randonneuring! I can promise you that it will get easier.

Preliminary results for this first event in our ACP Super Randonneur series, have been posted on the PA Rando website.  Please review the results and let me know if something doesn't agree with your recollections.  The results will be submitted for ACP certification later on and become final at that time.

The weather was clear and cool, climbing into the 50s mid day with plenty of sunshine. Several of the riders finished in shorts --- some even in short sleeves. There was enough wind to be annoying, but not the gale force winds that stole the brevet card from Gerry Montague's hand in 2019. This year the wind was weaker. Gerry held tightly to his brevet card and finished in great style.

Difficult climbs can move riders to poetry, it seems. The muse of rando inspired Iwan Barankay to compose this haiku...
Social full distance
We swallowed hills like Hemlock
Pinchflat spring ice-cream
I see what you did there, Iwan, with swallowing Hemlock. Some of those hills do indeed promote thoughts of self harm.  And "pinchflat  spring" refers to a possible flavor available at the Longacres Modern Dairy controle?

Joe Ray had this to say about the day and the quality of the food offerings...
Thanks for putting on a great brevet yesterday!  There were a number of sections on this one that I had completely forgotten from last year, notably the climb to reach the dam [Powder Mill] and the knee-breaker after crossing it [Hemlock]. It was really good to share the suffering with Greg and Miles for the whole route and have Matt join us for the  second half and finish as a group. The views on this route are terrific, with quite a few very noble-looking farms on top of the overlook on skyline/pagoda and other mountain vistas. The banana milkshake at Longacre was fantastic (as expected), but this was my first Wawa waffle egg sausage and cheese sandwich and I’ll give it a “pretty good” (better than the turkey hill thing a couple hours later).  
The difficult course with near 10,000 feet of climbing and an unfair lack of easy descending roll-outs pushed several riders close to the time limit.  I say any finish is a solid finish on this 200K. On this topic Bill Olsen writes...
Thanks for scheduling the challenging PA SR Series again this year. The 200K Included just the right amount of climbing.  Enough to quickly get me back into shape, but not too much that I exceeded the allowable 13.5 hours. 
The Pagoda 200K course has many high points. There are six major climbs and many stunning vistas. In contrast to these scenic wonders, considering the 2020 version avoids traffic and reaches the SRT by routing directly through some squalid sections of downtown Reading, there are also some low points on the course. The lowest of these low-points is Little Wunder Street (really an alley) where riders must get down into the gutter.

Little Wunder riders go down into the gutter

Fortunately there were no punctures or other unpleasantness reported by riders transiting this "interesting" thoroughfare.

Perhaps the biggest surprise  of the day was the peloton of cigarette-smoking, Big Wheel riders descending from the Pagoda on Duryea Drive.  They must've been at it for a long time as many of the passing brevet riders reported seeing them descending and being hauled back up top by pickup truck.

Big Wheelers descending Duryea drive in high gear
And they say randonneurs are crazy!?

One disappointing aspect to the 2020 edition of the Pagoda 200K was the closure of the Cask Taphouse and Grill at the start/finish. The closure appears to be permanent, a consequence of economic factors, not related to the pandemic.  There are other nice pubs and restaurants nearby, but nothing so close and congenial as was the Cask.  Because Cask was closed, PA Rando was unable to provide the finish food we had in the past: a variety of excellent flatbread pizzas from the Cask menu. Instead, we had more typical bike rider food: fruit and pre-packaged snacks.

As things stand at the moment of this writing, the remaining ACP Super Randonneur events are still going ahead as scheduled. It may be necessary to modify the start/finish and overnight accommodations  in order to comply with prudent safety requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Because of the extra requirements, we'll likely need more volunteers than usual. Please contact the RBA or myself if you can help day-of-event (and thereby qualify for a social distanced pre-ride). 

Prudent restrictions and required actions or prohibitions are being considered.  We have no crystal ball and must make decisions based on what is known at the time.  Our current plan is to hold events as scheduled.  We will continue this approach until circumstances dictate otherwise.  We are evaluating each event individually.  Should cancellation become necessary, we will do our best to assure that information is quickly communicated.  Pay attention to this website.  Follow the Facebook group.  Follow our blog.  
Stay safe.
Chris  Nadovich
Brevet Organizer

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