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

1 comment:

  1. Andrew and Chris (and Tom), so sorry to miss it, but it's been excellent to see the club grow and evolve during my time. It's been especially fulfilling acting as club cheerleader and witnessing the registration records being broken in the past few years with an injection of new blood. The future is looking bright, and the club is in excellent hands!