Sunday, October 17, 2021

Fall Classic 200/154K Ride Report

Preliminary results for the 16th annual Fall Classic 200K brevet and 154K populaire have been posted on the website. Please review the results and inform me of any necessary corrections.  The results will be submitted to RUSA in the coming days and become final pending RUSA certification.  Sixteen riders clipped in for the 200K,  and six started the 154K.  All riders in both events finished in good time for a 100% completion rate of the very challenging brevet and populaire.

Riders gather before dawn at the Hugh Moore Park pavilion (photo by Andreas Prandelli)

This the second running of the "Neo" edition route with an Easton Start/Finish. The last time we ran this out of Easton was in 2018.

Sadly, the hoped-for Fall foliage wasn't quite at peak, although there were plenty of fallen leaves. Even without the full Fall colors, riders generally reported that the Neo-classic was just as scenic ever. Scenic, of course, is bike rider code for a steady diet of hills to consume, the climb up Glendon hill at mile 0 being an appetizer for the many hilly entrees ahead. 

A PA Fall Classic vista (photo by Brad Layman)

The start of the 200 was moved an hour and a half earlier than the 154K to allow the two events to finish approximately at the same time, and to avoid too much night riding at the end. This change was very fortunate as rain developed late in the day and into the night.  Riding in the night or in the rain are bad enough separately, but doing them both together is more than twice as hard.  Perhaps the biggest problem nighttime drizzle creates is the impossibility of reading the directions on a rain soaked GPS or  cue sheet.  This issue sent several riders a little astray in the soggy gloaming of the early evening, but Tom Dermody had it the worst. He was  cursed into a bonus tour of the Hexenkopf Hill country just a few miles from the finish.  I guess he still was hungry for more hills? 

When the visibility became limited, some riders exercised maximum caution and restraint. The 154K  lanterne rouge George Brandt commented that once he realized he wouldn't be setting and speed records, he rode as slowly and carefully as possible to try to avoid a mishap in the deteriorating conditions. He ended up crossing the finish safe and sound with less than a minute to spare. 

An alternative strategy for dealing with the foul weather was simply to ride fast enough to miss it.   First finisher John Park  stayed almost entirely out of the rain as he cranked out a sub-9 effort of 8:57 on the hardest 200K in the PA rando repertoire, setting a new course record for this "neo" classic route. With all due respect to John, it should be remembered that Scotty Steingart holds the overall Fall Classic record of 7:42 set on the very similar "classic Classic" course.

With additional due respect to John Park, smart money had expected speedster Brad Layman to be first finisher and set a new course record, but soon into the ride Brad discovered that his freewheel was a little too free -- the pawls were not catching -- and he thought he would need to abandon. Utilizing the under-appreciated "phone a friend" option in the rando toolkit, Brad called Iwan Barankay and received expert bike mechanic consultation and coaching. Whether a full disassembly and cleaning of the freewheel was accomplished roadside without any tools -- or maybe he just squirted some water and oil into the thing. Whatever he did, it worked. Brad was able to finish the 200K at a "mere" sub-sonic 9:14 clip.  

Despite the day's challenges, the exhausted riders still found camaraderie was in ample supply at the finish, with many riders enjoying a picnic provided by the club at the Hugh Moore Park pavilion. After a few bites of a burger and a some ginger ale, I heard many a tale of bold adventure recounted by rejuvenated riders that seemed ready to hop back on their bikes and ride on. 

There were plenty of leaves (photo by Brad Layman)

Many thanks for the volunteers who made the event possible.  Patrick and Cecile Gaffney provided a pasta salad and a yummy cake. Patrick recently recovered from a terrible bike accident.  Pat was looking nicely healed despite his recent ordeal, but photos he shared showed that his poor bike is not so well.  Self described "randonnette" Susan Proulx staffed both the start control registration sign in and the finish control sign out, keeping the brevet machinery flowing smoothly and allowing the organizer to run around blathering gibberish with nervous OCD. Susan also helped with set up and clean up. Rando veteran and Bar-B-Cue novice Bill Olsen took over grilling operations and helped with the clean-up at the end of the event.  RBA emeritus Tom Rosenbauer repaired a last minute problem with the SPOT trackers and came down to the park at the end of the day to help with the clean up. 

Note about the SPOT trackers. It appears that the SPOT company has introduced a new "maps" feature that makes the old tracker URL links obsolete. If you have a SPOT tracker and you shared your tracker link with PA Randonneurs (or anyone else), you will need to log in, sign up for the new "maps" and obtain your new "shared view" tracker link. You can then update the tracker link in your PA Rando account settings -- or just email it to me and I'll update it for you. 

Pat and Cece Gaffney write...

Thanks again for organizing the ride yesterday. What a lovely ride. It had been quite a while since we have done that course and selective memory made some of those climbs a little more brutal, Mountain View Road comes to mind in that regard.  The fall colors and Halloween decorations provided great scenery and the post ride picnic was very welcomed at the finish. Thanks to Chris and Bill for manning the grill.

Joe Ray writes...

As recently as yesterday I had approached this brevet as “let’s see what happens” - very non-committal. The weather forecast, my knee aching both had me thinking negatively. Well I was wrong on both counts. The rain was heavy for a time, but the vast majority of today was glorious; my knee gently reminded me from time to time that I needed to be careful, but that was all. Bottom line this was maybe my favorite fall classic edition yet. Glad for all the socializing afterward and especially for all the work you and the volunteers put in.

Interior of the Frankenfield Bridge, one of several covered bridges on the Classic route (photo by Joe Ray).


Join us again next month on 6 November for a 200K brevet starting out of Philadelphia,  in conjuction with the 6/7 November Philly Bike Expo. The event is being hosted by Keystone Bicycles,  a bike shop owned and operated by 5 Pennsylvania Randonneurs! Yes, that’s right. The volunteers at Keystone Brevet Co., as they will be known for the day, are very much looking forward to hosting you for the start and finish of this brand new event that heads westward to Chester County.  Find out all about it at the event web page.

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