Saturday, October 22, 2022

Fall Classic - Brandywine 150/200k Ride Report

 The 2022 Fall Classic is in the books.  Eight riders clipped in for the 150k and navigated the route within time.  Of the fifteen riders tackling the longer, and more challenging 200k route fourteen finished in the permitted time; one rider suffered a ride-ending mechanical and was forced to retire early.  Results for the 150K and 200K have been posted on the website and will be submitted to RUSA after review.  Please check your result and let me know if it doesn't align with your recollections.

Pre-ride Briefing as the sun rises

The Fall Classic has long been a favorite among PA Randonneurs.  Though not always called the Fall Classic, PA Randonneurs has hosted a simultaneous brevet/populaire event in October every year since 2006 (the year PA Randonneurs was formed) as a way to introduce new riders to the sport.  Twenty-three riders finished the 2006 events, seven of whom were RUSA guests and presumably first-time randonneurs.    Twenty-four riders participated this year, six of whom were first-timers.  It appears the rationale for the Fall Classic remains just as valid today as it was sixteen years ago.

Early fall was looking quite summer-like.  Rain and cooler temps a few days prior magically transformed the route and brought out the splendor of fall colors for riders to enjoy.  Chilly morning temps offered a good lesson in wardrobe selection for the newcomers, but by early afternoon clear skies and brilliant sunshine had warmed to the low 70s.  It's hard to ask for better conditions for a fall ride.  Brats fresh off the grill and plenty of cold beverages awaited riders at the finish. Everyone looked pleased.

First 150k finisher Gary Rollman snuck in just as the cooks were sneaking a peak at the Phillies which  kick-started the grill into action.  The tail of the 150 field rolled in just ahead of 200k first finisher Ben Keenan which kept George busy on the grill.  

Iwan Barankay was the true rando recruiter, bringing his son Tibor Brankay and friend Shawn Mays for a first-time experience.  

"Big thanks to the organizer Andrew and the host George for staging such a wonderful event. I really appreciated to be able to come to this start/finish location as it is such an iconic and wonderful spot. Thank you again George for allowing us to crash your yard and for the delicious meal at the finish! Next I need to commend you both for the route. As you know I brough two novice riders who also were minors so this route was just perfect for them. Amazing scenery, quiet roads yet in excellent condition, and only very short sections on busy roads. It is also a good time to start doing brevets in PA as I feel car drivers have become much more accommodating.

I came with my son Tibor and his friend Shawn who are both very fit and strong middle-distance runners from the cutthroat Philly Public School Running League but of course are not familiar with riding such long events. We had an epic time: hard, cold hours in the morning but in amazing scenery; wonderful breakfast at the Centerville bakery; and, of course, the ever so gentle no-BS hills of Pennsylvania. Why is it that one ends up feeling that somehow one ascended more than descended during the course of the day? What stayed with us of course was the amazing weather, views, the autumnal colors, and the wonderful warm welcome at the finish. Many thanks!

Important Rando Lessons:  Remember to Eat

Tibor had this to say:  “This was my first ride and I enjoyed the way that the brevet system is set up. I had never done anything like that before, and I thought it was very fun the way that we had to get something at each of the stops. I also really liked the way that it was a challenging route, but that we could take breaks and eat or drink something good at one of these places out there, which made the event very enjoyable. One thing that was very challenging for me was the hills, especially on my bike, which made every hill very tough to get up, but I was able to finish which was very rewarding."

Shawn reflected:  "The bike ride was a splendid experience with the views and experiences all throughout the ride. It was a pleasure seeing all the people and amazing things western Pennsylvania has to offer seeing that I come from the city of Philadelphia. It was hard at times but would soon be reminded to just enjoy the route and not race to the finish line. Seeing this was my first Tour and longest ride to date it was a time to remember.”

Shawn, Iwan, & Tibor at the finish

Congratulations to both of these young men for their accomplishment.  I'm sure it will be the first of many cycling adventures.

Rick Lentz sent this after the ride:

Great job today. I enjoyed my re-visit to PA Rando country. Good seeing several folks from years past. Thank you all for putting on a nice event at the Café. 

I leap-frogged all day today with five significantly better riders than me who clearly waited up for me at the end. I had a pre-game plan to suffer easy spin on the hills and try to make up time on the descents and shortening the controle stops and consequently minimizing conversation there. These guys always caught me and disappeared up the road only to have me head out of the subsequent controles before them. In the end they rode off ahead of me a few miles after the low grade trail. Then with maybe 10 or so miles to go they not only made a pact to stick together, they slowed up and attempted to pull me in. I just couldn’t hang with them on the climbs, but I worked my butt off trying and then again working the descents to earn my keep. David Coccagna was the only one I knew in that group because he did a NJ 400 route I volunteered where I gave him an ice sock on a wicked hot day. No matter the reason, these fine gentlemen were a class act guiding me in. I sure appreciated that.

This isn't Rick's first time with PA Randonneurs.  He's ridden several Flèches over the years and was one of three riders who completed the memorable December brevet in which Cafe Metzler debuted. Bill Fischer and Len Zawodniak were also among the finishers in that memorable brevet.  All three were happy that we skipped the snow this time.

Len in his easy chair

This year's Fall Classic marked another milestone event in the annals of PA Randonneurs history: the  passing of the RBA torch.  Chris Nadovich became the third RBA of the Eastern Pennsylvania Region effective October 1.  He and my co-organizer George Metzler planned a little extra festivity (mostly unbeknownst to me) for the event.  There was cake.  There was ceremony.  In the true French tradition of the sport, Ben Keenan presented a bottle of wine in honor of the occasion!  (Thank you, Ben)  There was even an official brevet card highlighting six years at the helm.

The RBAs of PA Randonneurs

Let them eat cake
The outpouring of gratitude was truly humbling and left this RBA at a loss for words.  I had many doubts when I assumed the role of RBA.  Tom Rosenbauer set the bar quite high.  I wasn't certain I could keep the region going, much less improve anything. Event by event, series by  series, year by year, and with the help of many passionate volunteers, the club not only survived but thrived.  Core offerings such as the spring SR series, the Flèche, and the always popular R-12 series continued.  That was always a given.  New routes were conceived.  New organizers were developed.  The administrative functions necessary to stage a brevet were automated.  It wasn't always smooth sailing.  The loss of the Weisel Hostel, our longtime rando clubhouse, rocked the boat but also reminded us that change is healthy.  Thankfully, I had lots of help. 

Tom and Chris Nadovich were always ready to listen and weigh in on challenging decisions.  Few are aware of the behind the scenes activity needed to put on a brevet.  Whether determining a calendar of events, scoping out new bases of operation, developing and reviewing new routes, monitoring winter weather, and generally lending a helping hand whenever or wherever one is needed,  I can always count  on Tom & Chris to bring a wealth of experience and rando knowledge to make tough  calls.
Several new event organizers stepped up to join long-timers Chris and Bill Olsen in the ranks of "go-to" event organizers.  Bill Fischer, Steve Schoenfelder, Iwan Barankay, and Brad Layman have all contributed time and routes with the singular objective of maintaining  the traditions of PA Randonneurs.  In a volunteer, hobby sport such as randonneuring, expanding the base of volunteers willing and able to run a brevet is essential to long-term viability.  These guys also expand our geography, bringing in  Philly, mid-state and norther tier routes in addition to the Delaware River-based routes of the early days.  

George Metzler is perhaps the best brevet co-organizer around.  He's always ready to go explore new routes, open his home to host events, or cover for me when last-minute scheduling conflicts arise.  While not fully researched, I know that his house was a control on  the very first brevet I organized and is among the most visited site in all of the Lancaster County based brevets.  

Finally,  the ridership of this club confirms with each event that the effort is worthwhile. My email is generally flooded with upbeat messages after every event.  It is its own form of randonesia: no matter how challenging the arrangements before the start, it's all smiles when all the starters return safely to the finish with accolades and stories of their adventures.  It's motivating and addictive.   Thank you all for your trust and support over the past six years.  It has been an honor and a privilege to be your RBA.

The club is in good hands.  Chris is fully vetted and ready to go.  RUSA's normal approach with new RBAs is to limit them to 200 and 300k events.  Both Tom Rosenbauer and I remain involved to offer guidance, when asked.  Chris has been taking on more of the administrative tasks (apprenticeship).   He's ready to go and  PA Randonneurs will continue its planned  SR series and 1000k in 2023 as usual.   It's an exciting future. 

Next up is a second running of the Tscheschter Kaundi brevet on November 5.  Organized  by Brad Layman, the inaugural event was very popular with the outdoor finish at  Cadence  Cycling Center in Manyaunk.  Details are on  the website.  Registration is open through November 2.

Andrew Mead
- Former RBA & event  co-organizer

Friday, October 14, 2022

Tscheschter Kaundi 200k ***UPDATED with Course Notes

Update from Pre-Ride

On Oct 29, a pre-ride of the Tscheschter Kaundi 200 route was completed by Brad Layman and Ben Keenan. It was a beautiful day and the fall colors were peaking. They should still be peaking in the Philly region next week, while the areas to the west will be starting to fade.

Birch Run Rd

Overall, the course is good shape. Small tweaks were made to some cues to make navigation clearer. The RWGPS file and cue sheet (version 2) are updated.

Course notes:

The parking lot of the theater, Cadence Cycling, and Fine Wine & Good Spirits is easy to spot from Main Street. Please park away from the businesses and close to Main Street. The organizer will be set up in front of the bike shop for check-in. The closest convenience store is the Shell/Dunkin on Ridge Ave in East Falls.

Be prepared for some urban riding at the start. The first six miles are along the MLK Drive, which is closed to cars on the weekends. There are barriers at the intersection of Sweetbriar Dr, but riders can get through by riding around on the left side. After crossing the bridge over the Schuylkill, look for the pergola on the right, where we turn and get on the SRT.

After the staffed control on the South St Bridge, the route moves to city streets with bike lanes. Be careful crossing the intersection of expressway ramps on the South St Bridge - wait for green straight arrows. When turning onto Baltimore Ave at mile 7.7, be extra cautious in the bike lane because there will be parked cars to your right and trolley tracks to your left. Ride slowly when crossing intersections with trolley tracks and when crossing the tracks to turn left onto Whitby Ave (mile 8.9).

Follow signs for "Bicyclists Baltimore Pike"

After crossing Cobbs Creek we leave Philly, enter Delaware County and ride through some of denser communities of the county. Follow the “Bicyclists Baltimore Pike” signs to Swarthmore.

The next section goes through some quiet, leafy neighborhoods around Media. There are road closure signs for Rose Tree Rd which can be ignored. Look for the Giant Sequoia tree in the Tyler Arboretum around mile 23.7.

There is a Wawa on the left side of Dilworthtown Rd near mile 32. This is the last chance to resupply before Cafe Metzler at mile 64. We enter Tscheschter Kaundi upon crossing the busy Wilmington Pike/US 202.

Creek Rd

The next section follows Brandywine Creek. There is a road closure in Embreeville due to a bridge closure. Ignore the closure signs and take a right on Harveys Bridge Rd.

Brad, George, and Ben at Cafe Metzler

Cafe Metzler is easy to spot as you approach on Noble Road. Look for the garage in the back. As you approach the controle, shift to an easy gear to prepare for the steep climb up the driveway on your way out. Be sure to thank George for hosting our midpoint controle.

Once you reach Ludwigs Corner around mile 91, it is mostly downhill and then flat. The next controle is an info controle at Sheeder Hall Bridge - do not cross the bridge. A short and smooth gravel section follows on French Creek Rd. There is a bridge with steel grate surface following a corner at mile 98.3. Once you cross the Schuylkill River, follow Walnut St and Port Providence Rd to the SRT.

The route leaves the SRT at mile 122.7 and takes streets through Manayunk. Once you make the left on Main St,  follow it back to the parking lot where we started. When you turn right into the lot, look for the Pencoyd Bridge. You can use the wide sidewalk or the road to cross the bridge, but note that the roadway is wide enough for only one car so look to make sure the road is clear. Be careful of bollards if using the sidewalk. The Landing Kitchen is on the left after crossing the bridge. Volunteers will be sitting on the patio outside the cafe. If the weather forecast changes to a rainy day, we will change the final controle to the Manayunk Brewery. If necessary, this change would be announced well before the day of the ride.

Riders will need lights and reflective gear at the start of the brevet and when riding after sunset. Sunrise is at 7:36 and sunset is at 17:52.

Event details and registration are available on the website. Registration is open until midnight on Wednesday, November 2.

***Original Post***

The Tscheschter Kaundi 200 is back on the calendar for November 5. The start/finish is in Manayunk, Philadelphia. Only $20 for PA members. And it includes a stop at Cafe Metzler! The last two photos were taken in early November last year on a pre-pre-ride as I was creating the route, so there should still be some fall foliage to enjoy. Event link:

South Street Bridge

Nick M passing a secret control

Entering Lancaster County

Tscheschter Kaundi scenery

Creek Road along the Brandywine

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Brandywine 200K Pre-Ride Course Notes *** Price reduced

Update  2 ***

Its deja vu from the 1000k.  I've learned that construction on the Embreeville bridge used on both the 150 & 200k routes is set to begin this week.  While the bridge has been closed for a while and passible by bike through the barriers as Chris noted, an expedited construction schedule was announced which will likely result in significant construction activity this week.  Not wanting to repeat missing bridge syndrome from the 1000k, the routes have been updated to bypass the bridge.  It's an easy detour, but also easy to miss if you're not paying attention.   The detour departs the route roughly a mile before you'd encounter the problematic bridge.  It's not a huge backtrack if you reach an impassible bridge, but not a great way to start a brevet, either.  

Riders please make sure  you  have the latest versions of the  cue sheet.  The latest 200k Cue  Sheet is Version 4.  The latest 150k Cue  Sheet is Version 4.  Both are last updated 10/8/2022. 

Update 1 ***

The price of both the 200K and the 150K have been reduced to $35. Anybody who paid the original incorrect price has been refunded. 

Original Post ***

A Pre-ride of the Fall Classic Brandywine 200K route was conducted on 30 September by Chris Nadovich. Based on my notes and comments the route has been updated. The latest Cue Sheet is Version 2 and the RWGPS was last modified 2022-10-1 13:15:15 EDT.  Make sure you have the latest route data as there have been some important changes.  Download the latest route info here.

I very much enjoyed my pre-ride of the Fall Classic Brandywine 200K. Indeed, there is much to like about this course. Highlights include meandering along Brandywine Creek, lots of foliage, visiting THREE states, riding along numerous roads incorporating the word "Hollow," and an almost unheard of in Lancaster County 3 mile descent. (Actually 2.7 miles)

Oh yeah, and how back-loaded the climbing is. The first half is just this pleasant and flat twiddle along pretty creeks. Then WHAM! So don't slow down too much to admire the pretty scenery in the first half. You'll have many opportunities to go slow in the second half.  

There are several steel deck bridges and bad-angle RR track crossings noted in the cues. Be alert for them. Some of the descents are fast -- please don't go faster than your guardian angel. I saw gravel on a few curves, and wildlife darting across the road. Be careful out there. 

The Embreeville Bridge and road approach is closed, but I found it easy to pass through the barriers.

Maybe the least interesting part of the course in the Enola Low Grade Trail. This is flat and straight, and then it becomes flat and straight, till it's flat and straight, and then -- yeah, flat and straight.  To avoid thoughts of self harm, I played little workout games along its length, trying different gear combinations and different cadences to figure out what gave me the lowest heart rate for a given speed. Maybe you too can invent some innovative way to avoid boredom on the Enola LGT.