Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The October Fall Classic: Chamounix 200K Brevet and 107K Populaire

Recognizing the number of Pennsylvania Randonneurs that hail from Philadelphia, we are returning to Philadelphia for a newly designed Fall Classic event on October 17.  The starting point is Chamounix Mansion, located in Fairmont Park overlooking the Schuylkill River.  We are running both a traditional Fall Classic 200K Brevet, and a 107K Populaire.  Details for both the 200K event and 107K event are on the web, including links for online registration.

A RUSA membership is required to participate in these events.  Membership in Pennsylvania Randonneurs, while encouraged, is not required to participate.  If you already have a RUSA membership for 2020 you're set.  If not, you should wait a bit.  RUSA memberships paid on or after October 1 will be valid through the end of 2021.  If you apply for RUSA membership in now, it will only be valid through the end of 2020.  Yes, this differs from the approach that Pennsylvania Randonneurs is taking, but we don't make the rules for RUSA.  

These events are being run under RUSA "soft start" COVID-19 rules. The route passes convenience stores, including the iconic Sheetz in Morgantown, but all controles are optionally info controles (bring a pencil); riders are not required to enter any businesses.  That said, all riders must bring a pre-completed waiver to the start, and must have masks at the start and finish. Masks are required if you do choose to enter any of the businesses.

The 107K route is substantially identical to the International Women's Day 107 K held this Spring. The main difference is that the start/finish is now Chamounix rather than the Art Museum area. You can read the pre-ride notes and  ride report from the Spring edition of the IWD Populaire to get some sense of what this populaire route is like.

The 200K is a totally new route. A pre-pre ride of the 200K was conducted by organizer Iwan Barankay and the "Rat Pack". Here are the preliminary notes from their first-ever check-out of this new 200K.

200K Pre-pre-ride

Though not a control, there is a WAWA of to the left at mile 26.5 as we cross US 30. Be very careful as you cross this highway.  Fortunately, US 202 and I-75 will both be crossed more safely via bridges.

A non-negotiable feature of a PA brevet that reaches this far West is a Sheetz control. Be very careful as you enter the control as it is on the left side of a busy road. (Pro tip: to refill water bottles press the unlabeled bottom-right button at the self-service fountain bar).

You continue on Hopewell and then the full length of Harmonyville Rd. The road surface on both of these roads switches arbitrarily between brand new and rumbustious with some steep technical descents.

Continuing north it is advisable to refuel at the CVS as you reach West Ridge Pike at mile 74.9 since there won’t be another easy option like this for quite some time.                                                                      
We cross the Schuylkill River via Linfield Bridge, a rare example of a surviving, 1930s, 3-span Warren-pony-truss bridge with polygonal top chord, which for us translates into a narrow bridge with no hard shoulder or bike path – be alert and make yourself seen when on the bridge.

On the Schuylkill River and Perkiomen trails, be courteous and always announce yourself when passing.  At times your GPS might complain but you always want to stay on the Perk trail.  Be alert in turns as depending on the weather the deep gravel can turn into a non-Newtonian fluid and spare a happy thought for the route planner as you go up a rather unexpected, brief 12% climb at mile 88.1.

There is an expanded 17.8 mile gravel experience (suitable for most tires) on the Perkiomen Trail (PT). You stay on Perkiomen until you reach the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT) at mile 101.2. Don’t miss the turn to go up the bridge as otherwise you end up in Phoenixville which is a different brevet altogether.

Sometimes the SRT is a time-trial fest interspersed with some more inexperienced riders exhibiting artistic sudden turns.  Stay alert and consider refreshments at the Conshohocken Brewery (mile 112.8) or carefully navigate around its patrons. Shortly after the brewery we leave the SRT turning left and go past Riverbend Cycles and then up steep Barren Hill Rd named after what it does to your virility.  As you then scream down the hill towards Manayunk make sure not to miss the left-turn into a small road misnamed “High Street” after the traffic light but before the bridge - listen to the custom cues! – to reach a pleasing former railroad bridge turned now into the Manayunk Bridge Trail to join Cynwyd Trail.

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