Monday, March 21, 2022

Covered Bridges 200K Ride Report

Bazinga! What a blockbuster ACP March 200k brevet.  After weeks of planning, anticipation, and obsessive updating of the Weather Underground webpage, 54 riders converged to the Cadence Cycles store in the pre-dawn hours of March 19 in Manayunk in what turned out to be a day blessed with dry conditions and summerly temperatures. 

Pre-ride meeting with spooky lighting

Of those riders who clipped in, including the four volunteer pre-riders, 55 finished inside the time limit for a 95% completion rate. Congratulations and well-done to all!  Preliminary results have been posted on the website.  Please review the results and let us know if they align with your memory.  The results will be submitted to RUSA after review and will become official once certified.

Riders approaching one of ten covered bridges on the route

This was the biggest PA event on record and this was reflected in the rather expanded shopping lists both for the start (over 120 waffles and 40 half-cream cheese bagels) and even more for the Tinicum control (see below) to ensure the riders had the required fuel in their legs to conquer the 7265ft of climbing. 

Nick Manta and Gavin Biebuyck overcoming gravity on Uhlerstown Climb Road

Riders were faced with multiple inquisitive questions at the info-controls teaching them about the history of Covered Bridges in Bucks County.  Based on the photographic record, some answers were arrived at through the wisdom of the crowd. 

There is hope of getting this information control right!

The Tinicum refreshment control was expertly organized by Chris Nadovich with HR support from Oleksiy Guslyakov, Bill Olsen and Tom Rosenbauer. A big thanks to all five. It turns out that the hunger of riders was only outmatched by their thirst requiring multiple re-supply runs to keep up with demand.  Only one rider, first-timer Andrea Gonzalez, decided to abandon at that control but luckily a spousal limousine service was available for her. Chapeau Andrea for attempting this tough route.

Bill Olsen, Chris Nadovich, and Tom Rosenbauer trying their best at looking supportive

Indeed, we saw a surge of riders who finished their first ever brevet: Travis Berry, Matthew Bidwell, Guido Castellani III, Megan Collier, Kuba Jennes, TransAm veteran racer Max Lippe, Claire Lutz, and Bill Scanga.  With such young talent comes responsibility and we hope to see you all again at future events especially the upcoming 300 on April 23.

Megan Collier, Claire Lutz, and Corrie Tice with their first brevet in the bag!

Hephaestus dutifully watched over the machines and equipment of the riders but somehow neglected to keep an eye out for two riders. Max Shilvock seemed to have derailleurs that had a mind of their own leading to a tearful destruction of a vintage DuraAce front derailleur.  Max managed to overcome these challenges, however, and made it to the finish. Rudi Saldia’s Di2 decided to not even begin to work at the start but luckily Matt McLoone from Cadence Cycles was there to help him and blew fresh live into his bike’s circuits. Matt did double-duty at this event as he showed up early to open the shop just for as so we could access facilities. Another big thank you.

Jimmy Aspras once again in skinsuit on his TT-bike

Despite the gloomy forecasts all week there was no rain for any of the finishers yet there was an annoying headwind towards the end of the ride. Nevertheless all riders arrived with a broad smile on their face. The finish location was changed at the last minute to the Manayunk Brewing Company since the original finish location closed at 4pm. We were able to gather in the alley where we could display our gorgeous randonneur bikes to the other arriving civilian patrons and then dip into the Brewery for food and refreshments.  All in all a good compromise and a wonderful place for riders to exchange tall tales of their adventures and accomplishments of the day or from past events. 

Riders rolling down "Victory Alley" at Manayunk Brewing Company

My big hope is that the smiles we saw at the finish translates to a curiosity to continue with the PA series. The next brevet is coming up soon. You owe it to yourself to ride that too!

We have a great collection of photos.

By me, Mat McLoone, and Gavin:

Brad Layman:

CJ Arayata:

Oleksiy Guslyakov at the Uhlerstown Climb Road secret control:

Andreas Prandelli:

Please email me if you have more pictures to share.

-- Iwan Barankay and Brad Layman (Co-Organizers)

Chris Nadovich provided this report from Tinicum Control:

"What a beautiful day to hang out in Tinicum Park, volunteering at the Tinicum control for the Covered Bridges 200K. Despite the dire predictions of rain, we had partly sunny skies, no rain at all, mild temperatures, and little wind.

Riders looked strong and happy when they arrived in Tinicum, and became even happier as they gobbled up three and a half large trays of French toast casserole. They were thirsty too. Our big 10 Gallon dispenser, filled to the brim with artisinal water, was drained dry before half the riders were through the control. Eventually another 10+ gallons of water, three 12-packs of soda, and 3 gallons of coffee were gulped down by the 58 riders. Thanks to Tom Rosenbauer who made multiple water runs into town as we, yet again, ran dry. Tom also assisted with logging riders and cleanup.

Also staffing the Tinicum control was the inimitable Bill Olsen. Along with assisting with clean up, Bill spent some time scouting the water and bathroom situation. Sadly, Tinicum Park is still closed for the winter and all the facilities were locked. Nevertheless, this is a nice park with a nice pavilion. We will return here for some future event -- maybe when things are open.

Oleksiy Guslyakov helped with setup at the start, cleanup at the end, and in-between he staffed a secret control at the Uhlerstown Hill climb to catch anyone who tried to cheat and bypass the hill (no one did). Oleksiy told me that he had counted almost 20 riders who did not dismount -- pedaling up the whole hill. Amazing.

Oleksiy is a relatively new randonneur and it's great to see him step up to volunteer at the events. All you new riders out there -- yes you -- need to think about volunteering at some events. It's the volunteers that make these events possible. Volunteering is very rewarding. Give it a try.

I was able to enjoy the easy duty of simply running an intermediate control because Iwan Barankay and Brad Layman did the hard work of organizing the Start/Finish in Manayunk, managing the overall event, as well as developing this new course. Kudos to them for a great inaugural running of the Covered Bridges 200K. Awesome event.

Ryan Stanis reported:
“The ride was good! Made good time for the first half of the day, then really slowed down on those hills. Made it up Uhlerstown and Kitner on the bike, which was no small victory, but maybe took a little bit more gas than I should have used up. Shawn and I stopped a few times on the way in to fight off a bonk, and should’ve kept on top of water a bit better. Not used to 70 degree temps in March! Thanks again for planning such a good day!”

Jeffrey Butt wrote:
“Iwan, thank-you for volunteering yesterday. Indeed, we really got lucky with the weather.”

Gavin Biebuyck said:
“Beautiful route. Not sure which hill was hardest - maybe Kinzer. Rode too fast for 80 miles. Following Chris N’s advice, Nick and I then employed a “burst of slowness” and stopped at Free Will brewery, who were celebrating their 10th anniversary. Sun and headwinds made for slow finish. First time sweating this year! Thanks for starting and finishing us Iwan and Brad!”

Pat and Cece Gaffney wrote in to say:
“Thanks to you, Chris, Brad, and Oleksiy for all the hard work in putting the ride together yesterday. For a route that didn't look too tough on paper this one packed a punch. The climb up Uhlstertown was just a preamble to the ass kicking that didn't give up until the top of Buckwampum. I would like to say it was all smooth sailing from there but the afternoon headwinds made for a challenging finish. Thanks again, see you at the 300.”

CJ Arayata mused the following:
“Thanks" so much for the ride on Saturday! I had so much "fun" on the extremely "scenic" route. It was my first ride over 100km since 2019, and very quickly all the memories of the "fun times" that I've had on previous PA brevets came flooding back. Hah. But in all seriousness, a heartfelt "Thank you!" for organizing these newer brevets. The legacy of the club shines through these challenging routes, the well-marked cue sheets, and the overall attention to detail and execution. It was an excellent season opener, especially for those contemplating a PA SR and maybe even Endless Mountains later this year...

There were many highs on the ride. First and foremost, the record-high registration numbers and all of the new faces and unfamiliar names! Further, the sunny weather was a pleasant surprise, the rural ride theme did not disappoint, and I very much appreciated those hard-earned sweeping descents. On the flip side, I knew I hadn't eaten enough when I began to dread every bend in the road for fear of *yet another* brutal climb. The relentless wind during the second half of the course also posed its own challenge, especially on the hectic-feeling 202 trail (I didn't realize how mentally taxing the sound of traffic was until we got off the trail). My brevet finish was brought to you by my inner chainring, Dairy Queen pretzel sticks, half of a Tabora Farm donut, and entertainment in the form of Jimmy's inability to coast. In case anyone was wondering, half-eaten jelly donuts are not a handlebar-bag-friendly snack.

I'd like to thank you, Brad, and Chris for the route planning and organization work, Matt M. for opening up Cadence for us at the start, and the rock-star lunch squad of Tom R., Chris N., and Bill O. for their efforts in keeping everyone fed (and hydrated!) at Tinicum Park. Speaking of hydration, Woody and I got extremely hydrated from above on our way home from Manayunk. All of those plastic bags for my electronics, cue sheet, saddle, etc. got put to use after all!

Here's my photos from the day: As a side note, it's been great to bear witness and document the growth of the club over the last few years. Getting to ride past the old clubhouse on the way to a Philadelphia finish was a treat. The Philly Rando Renaissance has arrived!”

Coming up next is the Fleche, with a finish party at Keystone Bicycle Company in Philly on 10 April. And after that, we begin the Flint Hill Farm SR Series events with a 300K  and 200K  on 23 April.

Hope to see you all there!”

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Covered Bridges Pre-ride report

Two separate pre-rides were completed. The first on Saturday 3/5/2022 by Brad Layman, Chris Nadovich, and Oleksiy Guslyakov and a second by me on 3/11/2022.

This is a new route, first designed by Brad and then edited with deep local knowledge of the finest, and only the finest, hills and roads by Chris. 

Note: We updated the cue-sheet and RWGPS files. You must go and download the new file as it is a different URL from what it was before (file from 2022-03-13, cuesheet v14) Please make sure you have the latest version especially since the finish control has also changed: We finish a mile earlier at the Manayunk Brewing Company just after you get off the Schuylkill River Trail.  Also please note that there are no bathrooms at the Tinicum lunch control.

Brad took gorgeous pictures during the pre-ride.

A few from within Van Sandt Covered Bridge (1875)

To me this route expresses well what PA randonneuring is about. It will allow you to connect with a great group of riders, some of them novices to this non-competitive sport, others more experienced, others still well in over their head. It also lets you ride on roads, familiar or new, as part of an event where even if you are riding alone - as you may well end up doing for some stretches - you always feel part of a bigger group. It also, and finally, gives you time to just pedal and roam, perhaps the most luxurious privilege we can offer to ourselves.

Now after all this purple prose let's get to the real beef. This course is hard. Not because there are long climbs - there is one, well two - or the surface is bad - only on the Uhlerstown Rd climb - but because there are many many short steep climbs sucking the glucose out of your thighs. There is no one recipe for success but my philosophy is to let the hills come to you rather than you attacking them - it will make sense at the end of the day. Also keep eating and drinking to stay fueled.

Here are some notes specifically for this route and in the context that this may be your first ride with us or of this season:

  • Winter just ended but there is still a lot debris and road damage.  Please always look for gravel in turns and beware of deep potholes especially at the edges of the road surface.

  • Please take care when crossing the covered bridges. The saying goes that you will save a lot of time by going slowly. Please take care as surfaces are bumpy and visibility poor inside bridges.

  • There are multiple steep hills. Please make sure that you have appropriate gearing and that your shifting works down to the easiest gears. For the steepest sections a 1:1 gear ration or easier is recommended.

  • Uhlerstown Rd climb is technically challenging as it is steep and has a lot of loose gravel. Additionally there is a gate at the bottom and the top of it. With skill, you can roll past the bottom gate but not at the top.

    Minor obstacle at the bottom of Uhlerstown Rd climb

  • We recommend unclipping and walking that stretch but if you want to attempt the climb you need a 1:1 gear ratio or easier. Here are some tips of how to go up slippery steep hills:


  • Please give your bike a good look. Check brakes, tyres, tighten all the bolts, etc. If you can’t recall when you bought your chain it may be a good idea to change it. A snapped chain when going up a steep hill is something your anatomy won’t like.

  • Given the many climbs, make a plan for getting electrolytes into your system during the ride to avoid cramps and grumpiness. For me, when I start fantasizing about ham sandwiches and burgers I know I am running low on salt. 

  • You must have working front and rear lights. Rear lights must be set on steady and attached to the frame. You must also have a reflective vest (or bands) and ankle straps. I won’t let you start without these items!

  • It is going to be a delicious and nourishing brevet. Breakfast and food at the Tinicum control will be provided by the club. There is a bathroom at the start but there is no bathroom at the Tinicum control. We have highlighted multiple other bathroom options on the route and cue sheet.

  • We will gather for the finish control at Manayunk Brewery Company where you can purchase drinks and food. When you arrive roll down the alley and park your bike behind the building.

  • Please review the route. We highlighted additional stops for food and bathrooms but there are stretches with little or no opportunity for resupply. Please plan accordingly.

We look forward to serving you breakfast at the start!

Iwan Barankay

Pennsylvania Randonneurs Announces Flèche 2022

*****   Team Deadlines Reminder *****
Today (March 12) is the deadline for Captains to register and form teams for the 2022 Flèche.  The deadline for route submission is next weekend, March 19.   This is  just a reminder that captains must submit a separate list of planned controls in addition to the planned route before RBA  review of the route can begin.  Your Team Roster page indicates the route is "under RBA review"by virtue of your linking a planned route in the  team sign-up.  The actual RBA review of the route does not begin until the captain submits  the planned route AND the list of planned controls  for review.  

As of this writing, one route is approved and a second  has been submitted for review.  I'm still looking for routes & a list of controls from five teams. 

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA

*****   Original Announcement ***** 

After a two-year hiatus, the Flèche returns to the Pennsylvania Randonneurs schedule for 2022.  Original plans were to try again for a finish at the Trexlertown Velodrome for some hot laps, but we were notified earlier this spring that the track is being resurfaced and will not be available to us in April.  Fortunately our friends at Keystone Bicycle Co., fresh of their successful hosting of the November 2021 R-12 brevet, have agreed to serve as our fleche destination for 2022 and will host an outdoor brunch on Sunday, April 9 between 8 and 11. As always, Flèche teams may start any time after noon on Thursday, April 7, but in so doing risks missing on the festivities.  Teams should ideally start between 8 and 10 on Saturday so their arrival time aligns with the brunch.

Additional details are on the event website.  Key dates to keep in mind:

March 12:  Team Captain registration deadline

March 19:  Route Submission deadline

April 3:  Team member registration deadline

With a new destination, every route will be new.  I'm asking all Team Captains to start work early on their routes to avoid a last-minute crush of route reviews.

Registration details have been posted on the Pennsylvania Randonneurs website.  Start planning your routes and get your teams together now.

Andrew Mead
Eastern PA RBA/Organizer