Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Chamounix Classic 2020 Report

Preliminary results for the Chamounix Classic events have been posted for the 200k and the Populaire 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 RUSA certification later on and become final at that time.  

A gorgeous sunny Saturday

October 17 was a gorgeous, sunny Saturday for two PA Randonneur events, the 107km Populaire and a 200k brevet. It was also a day of many firsts.  

We inaugurated a new location, the Chamounix Hostel, as our start and finish control, a beautiful location in north-west Fairmount Park, which made for a pleasant spot to hang out and share stories at the end of the ride – socially distanced and outdoors of course! One nice feature was the porch on the front where we could see rides approach from afar so we could welcome each of them with applause. We hope to use the Hostel again as a base for events in 2021.


Woody readies the tandem as cat watches joggers.

Another first is that we drew a lot of new riders from the area, indeed across both events 55% of participants came from Philadelphia many of which participated in their first ever brevet leading to a late surge in RUSA memberships!

Finally, we had the first ever minor participating in an event as part of a father-daughter tandem:  Esme and Glenn Ammons finished their Populaire to roaring applause something made possible by a recent rule change at RUSA allowing minors to ride in the company of a randonneuring parent or guardian.  We had a total of three tandems at the Populaire the others were CJ Arayata with Woody Felice and George Retseck with Beverly Rickles, the latter finished her first ever randonneuring event.

The Chamounix Classic 200k brevet started at 6:45 with our second installment of a 30 minute free start to avoid bunching and congestion along the route.  Twenty riders clipped in for a newly designed and challenging route.  Two-thirds of the elevation gain was packed into the first half of the route whereas the second half featured a trinity of trails, first the Perkiomen Trail then the Schuylkill River Trail and Forbidden Drive at the end.

Free start registration at Chamounix

 The riders set off north-east through quiet neighborhoods to tackle the long, undulating Goshen Road to see the sunrise bathe trees and shrubs in an orange light.  At the end of Goshen Road, the cyclists had a bit of a boy-scout moment at the first information control to find the right sign to identify who is being served at that house.  It should be noted that the organizer alerted the inhabitants of that cottage during a pre-ride about the arrival of an inquisitive group of riders. Turning north, the course continued leaving Malvern to the East then climbing up Yellow Spring Road to then reach some scenic, quiet roads to rejoin a busier stretch of 401 to get to the second gas station control at the Joanna General Store.  Somewhere along that stretch Chris Bella suffered multiple flats and could not remount his tire forcing him to retire (wow, that almost rhymed!).  At the Joanna stop volunteer Nick Manta awaited with refreshments though he had to energetically flag down the first riders and only his orange PA Randonneur jersey convinced them that he was a friend to their cycling cause.  Special praise here goes to Nick as he spent many hours at the Joanna store until the last rider arrived at that control: Stephen Landis was beset by three flats, a consequence of COVID supply problems forcing him to ride with tires that were way past their prime.  

Seasoned PA Randonneurs recognized the next section of the route along Hopewell and Harmonyville Road even though this might well have been the first time they rode it in daylight. Crossing the Schuylkill via Linfield Bridge the next information control was near the northern end of the Perkiomen Trail.  This long gravel trail finally gave riders time to sink into a meditative trance enjoying the inner peace randonneuring can bring but, hello, watch those sudden turns with deep gravel. Also, at the finish several riders inquired about the demonic force that grew a hill with a 12% climb along a river trail.  The adventure continued up Station Avenue bridge to connect to the Schuylkill River Trail for a moment of silence to answer the next info question at the commemorative plaque near trail locator 311. The fast yet busy trail took them straight back to Conshohocken.  Once they fought their way through joyous patrons at the Conshohocken brewery the riders felt the burn in their legs that the Barren Hill Road climb can bring before descending to the Forbidden Drive trailhead.  The finish drew nearer after crossing iconic East Falls Bridge and mounting up to Chamounix Drive to the finish.  Pat Gaffney secured a new course record of 8:50 and only one rider missed the closing time due to a ripped chain far from a bike store in an area without cellphone coverage.

Pat Gaffney wrote: “Thanks again to you [Iwan and Chris], Andrew, Nick and Tom, and all the volunteers for another great brevet.  It was a nice mix of both familiar and new roads for me that I really enjoyed. The beautiful weather and the fact that it was basically a 2.5 mile downhill roll to get home made for a fantastic day.  I am looking forward to, hopefully, more rides starting at the hostel.”

Steven Schoenfelder emailed “Thanks to Chamounix Fall Classic 200K organizer Iwan and the many volunteers that made this epic event a reality. Sure to be a favorite on the PAR schedule for years to come, the ride featured a great new start/finish location that was both homey and historic.  The course offered scenery and challenge complete with rock hopping and gravel grinding in the latter half.  And where else can one find a 12% grade on recreational bike trail?  And did I mention the food?  The box lunches that greeted us at finish were to die for!  There is no question that I was tested, but look forward to attacking this challenge next year, hopefully after shedding my Covid nineteen (or twenty) pounds. Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero”

The Chamounix Classic 107K Populaire set off on a 107km loop at 8:45 by first cutting across the Horticultural Society and the Japanese Garden to make a short stop at a secret control competently staffed by volunteer Sue Proulx who served double duty by also baking three types of delicious brownies for breakfast.  The riders then continued pedaling onto the MLK Jr Drive where the main challenge was to avoid potholes hidden under colorful fall leaves.  The first test of endurance was to ride the full length of Forbidden Drive, a historic trail which received its name in 1899 when cars were banned, or “forbidden”.  

Riders then cycled to the first info control at Dixon Meadow House and then continued north-west to Evans State Park for the second info control. There they unexpectedly had to make their way through a kid’s birthday party to reach the information board to answer the question on their brevet cards: picture randonneurs rolling through soap bubbles and confetti whilst ducking nerf gun projectiles.  The adventure continued on rougher roads in Skippack Park then back South East stopping briefly at the Post Office info control to then reach the last stop at the Coop in Ambler.  It seems the outdoor seats at Coop were coated with adhesive as riders had difficulty leaving this cozy spot enjoying the healthful refreshments there.  

Going through Plymouth Meeting the riders joined many weekend riders on the Schuylkill River Trail just east of Conshohocken weaving their way through merry patrons at the Conshohocken Brewery and the numerous gastronomic destinations in Manayunk.  The last surprise was the climb back up from the MLK Jr Drive on the Strawberry Mansion Drive ramp and that last steep bend of Greenland Drive at the top of which the Chamounix Carriage House reappeared off in the distance and tasty sandwich boxes awaited them.  Comfortable socializing and conversations ensued which lasted until late into the evening.

Ron Anderson rests a moment at Weavers Way in Ambler

 CJ Arayata wrote: “Huge thanks again for organizing. […] It was fun to be able to hang after the 100k finish knowing I didn't have an hour+ drive to undertake. I am glad the carriage house worked out so well. Hugely promising for the future of Philly brevets...” [Some photos from CJ]

Ello Shertzer agreed. Posting on Strava: “Thanks so much for organizing this!!! It was such fun! Also very convenient to just ride 20 minutes to the start 😆”

[Mario and Iwan also have some photos]

Many thanks go to Jennifer Nelson, General Manager of Chamounix Hostel, who opened the doors of the Carriage House to us as which was closed since the beginning of the lockdown.  We look forward to using the Hostel again for future events in 2021. Further thanks also go to Sue Proulx for baking the brownies for breakfast and for being at the secret control and to Nick Manta for driving out to Morgantown to patiently supply riders with refreshments.  Last but not least none of this could have been possible without the support, advice, and guidance from Chris Nadovich and Andrew MeadChris came the night before and slept at the Carriage House just to be able to set everything up and to start the coffee brewer in time for the 200k brevet.

Chris Nadovich writes: Perhaps the person that deserves the most thanks and congratulations for this event is Iwan Barankay who pretty-much conceived of and organized the Chamounix Classic single-handedly. He discovered and booked the Chamounix Hostel and arranged for all the food, including those great boxed lunches. Iwan pre-rode both routes himself (the 200K route he pre-rode twice) and attended to every detail.  Yeah, Andrew and I gave him a little bit of "support, advice, and guidance" initially, but on the whole Iwan ran the the show, from start to finish,  and he did it like a seasoned organizer.  Thanks for a wonderful, successful event. Chapeau Iwan! 

The next PA Randonneur event is coming up soon on November 7 with a reprise of the Hawk Mountain 200K brevet, a hilly route (but aren’t all PA brevets hilly?) where arriving within the time-limit will be on the mind of each rider. 

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