Friday, April 28, 2023

Eastern PA Fleche 2023 -- Ride Reports

Preliminary results for the 2023 PA Randonneurs Flèche are available on the website along with finish line photos.  Barring any issues, results will be submitted to RUSA and ACP soon and will become official eventually. The process takes time.  As usual, don't expect your Flèche certificate from the ACP until next Spring.  Think of it as your reminder to register for the 2024 Flèche. 

Of the five registered teams, four teams started, three teams finished. Of the 25 Registered Riders, 18 started; 13 finished (72%).  The reason for the high DNS/DNF rate was the weather: 100% chance of rain, heavy at times, pretty much all night long. And some wind. And some cold. And scattered darkness, becoming 100% dark. Not a very "inclusive" weather forecast. But there's a certain, special kind of person that finds challenging "Rule 9" conditions to be irresistible. These people are called "badasses". 

Patrick in happy anticipation of a Rule 9 opportunity

Four teams,  Romancing Flatlanders, Coast Cycles, Flèche and Bones, and Annie's Arrows, comprised such badass type people and ventured out, undaunted, on Saturday morning. Come what may. 


The Romancing Flatlanders -- still pretty dry at this point.


Two of the four teams started from the NYC area, one from Washington DC, and another from Quakertown, PA.   Even without the presence of NYGTF this year, the NYC and DC starts represented a wide dispersal of start locations, very much in the spirit of the Flèche event. Great job, captains, crafting such spatially diverse routes.

But some of that diversity ran afoul of nature. As the storm came in from the West and lingered at the shore, teams that routed to the West hit the storm early and then ran back into it again as they approached the finish, but seemed to have some respite from it in the middle. On the other hand, one of the teams, the Flatlanders, seeking the mild terrain along the shore, found themselves located in the middle of the lingering storm. Facing the prospect of grinding through endless rain and wind all night long, the Flatlanders abandoned after about 200K of this Type 3 "fun". 

The other three teams were soaked too, but not quite as relentlessly at the Flatlanders, and these three were able to make it through to the end. Sunday morning the clouds vanished and the sun came out.  Finish photos show happy faces basking in sunshine, belying what they went through to make it there there.

Hard partying after the Flèche

Getting volunteers to run the flèche can be difficult because people want to ride the event and that pretty much precludes them from helping out.  An exception to this rule is Ben Keenan, who, after riding all night through the rain with his team, took a brief nap and then helped the organizer clean up and stow gear after the finish party.  

Brad Layman helped out at the Flèche finish with some set-up/clean-up and also with shuttling some tired riders to their homes or cars. Brad and his wife Amanda recently completed the Boston Marathon (Chapeau!) and Brad didn't feel up to riding the Flèche sandwiched between that big run a few days earlier and his upcoming preride of the 400K (where he will be organizer).  This is what it looks like when Brad "takes it easy".  Thanks Brad!

Cecilie Gaffney, originally destined to serve as the power-stoker in the Gaffney sub-team component of aka More Cowbell had an illness that prevented her from riding. Nevertheless she found the strength to show up with tomato pie and pastries for the finishers and well wishers. Thank you Cecilie.

Also helping with the clean-up were CJ Arayata and Ryan Stanis.  CJ also helped get the word out that well-wishers were needed at the finish to cheer the arriving teams, and he delivered this Rocky Statue Pep Squad to the porch of Chamounix Carriage house. For the most part arriving by bicycle, the RSPS deployed a staggering array of coffee production apparatus so as to coffeeneur without walls as they awaited the finishers.  As they sipped coffee and cheered the teams, I wondered if any of these pep squadders, many of whom rode in on dyno-hub powered, headlighted, randoesque looking steeds were starting to get rando curious? Vous avez l'équipement. Avez-vous la ténacité d'être un randonneur?

Outdoor coffeeneuring by the Rocky Statue Pep Squad

Breakfast was provided in large part through the volunteer efforts of RBA emeritus Andrew Mead. Andrew drove in from Lancaster, measuring cup in hand, and proceeded to make pancakes and sausage for all comers. 

Iwan Barankay writes...

Thank you for setting everything up at the hostel. The fresh pancakes were particularly amazing. They should put it on the package: "Tastes best after riding 12 hours in heavy rain."

Coming up next in the PA Randonneurs calendar is the ACP SR Series that continues with a 400K and simultaneous 200K run out Chamounix Carriage House. All the details are on the website. Hope to see you there. 

Monday, April 3, 2023

Water and Wind 300K Ride Report

The Water and Wind 300K was a little too true to its name. Rain in the morning, rain (T-storms) in the evening. There were 50 mph wind gusts. Tornado watch. Yeah. It may have been 1 April but the weather wasn't foolin' around. Tough day.

But somehow our randonneurs were tougher. Fully 37 out of 38 riders who clipped in day-of completed the course in good time. Combined with the four pre-riders (who had some rough days, too), this is 41 out of 42 riders finished, or 98%.  Congratulations and well done to all. Preliminary results have been posted on the website.  Please review the results and let us know if something is not quite right.  The results will be submitted to RUSA after review and will become official once certified.

Approach to the Gap from the South wonderfully devoid of traffic.

Everyone that clipped in at the start knew they were in for some "interesting" weather. For almost a week the prediction of rain and wind on Saturday was unvarying. Fortunately, the rain held off long enough to allow a dry start, but within minutes raindrops were felt and the wind started to pick up. Again fortunately, it was primarily a tailwind, speeding the riders northward toward Delaware Water Gap. The first riders crossed this 90 mile stretch in only 6 hours with the rest of the group following in relatively short order.

 The Delaware Water Gap control was staffed by George and Bev Retseck who made sure riders were properly fed and hydrated before they began the second and more challenging half of the brevet.

As riders reached George and Bev, the weather became quite nice, with bright sunshine and temperatures reaching 70F.  Those of you who DNSed for fear of bad weather missed a real gem of a mid-day. Although there were noticeably fewer blooms observed in Cherry Valley, North of the mountain, signs of Spring was visible everywhere, the cold morning rains forgotten.   This delightful weather continued as riders reached the 200K point, near Easton. It continued to be nice for most of them up till when they began the difficult climbs to the South of Easton through Wassergass. 

Riders and locals enjoying the beautiful weather at Wassergass

But even as the earlier riders climbed through these hills, we could see something nasty chasing behind them. The skies darkened and trouble soon arrived in the form of T-storms. A tornado watch was issued. When the rough-stuff hit, riders sought shelter all along the course. There was no way to ride through that brief but intense downpour. Some riders knocked on doors to beg entry, some cowered on porches. And then there was Nick van der Kloot who seems to have sat out the whole thing eating pizza in a restaurant, arriving at the finish happy and dry.  What? There was a thunderstorm?

Riders sheltering from the not so nice weather in Wassergass

 While the riders were struggling out on the course, Volunteers kept guard on the home front.  Recent events have led us to keep an eye on the cars parked all day at Chamounix. The parking lot guard force was led by event organizer Iwan Barankay, with his fearsome assistants Nick Manta and "Tuxedo".  Also taking a shift watching cars were Nicole Mitchell, Eric Wright and Anton Lindberg. Thanks to the brave watchfullness of these volunteers, riders can rest easier out on the course.

Nick and his assistant keep close watch over the cars

After zooming around the course as first finisher and grabbing some sleep, Ben Keenan volunteered to help with the clean-up in the morning. Nicole, Sophia, and Darren also lent a hand, and most riders gathered their bed sheets before they left, which made it easier. 

Over the years we've had several riders complete our big events on a fixed gear bicycle, but I don't recall anyone doing this on a fixie without brakes.  That has now changed, Greg Lang finished all 11166 and 1/2 feet of climbing, and descending, all with a single gear, without coasting, and without braking (other than with his legs).  Some question whether this is "safe". In a world obsessed with "safety" that some believe must be guaranteed by third parties,  I for one am encouraged by talented and independent minded folks like Greg who provide their  own safety on the bicycle by means of sharp eyes, a quick mind, and two strong legs. Chapeau Greg!  

But, yeah, if you are an ordinary road biker, it probably isn't safe for you to ride a fixie without brakes on the road, and maybe you shouldn't ride one with brakes, either. I mean, you can't be too safe.  These brakeless, gearless bikes have no place on American roads. Ban them.  Keep track bikes on tracks where they belong. Leave dangerous on-road fixie riding to licensed professionals. 

Greg Lang (on a fixie with no brakes!) enjoying the beautiful day. What rain?
(Simulated ride with a professional rider. Don't try this at home.) 

Photos taken during the event are collected here.

Ello Shertzer writes:

Wow, what a day. My Wahoo was acting up all day, and I felt like the weather was just playing a big April fools joke on us. In Easton right before the Wawa I got a gnarly nail in my new tire, but luckily when I pulled it out the sealant did its job. I was riding with Tommy when that big thunderstorm rolled in and we were on Mountain View Drive with no shelter in sight, just that big wide road with trees on either side. We rang the doorbell at a house or business that had a no trespassing sign, and it’s probably a good thing that no one was home. We ended up deciding to continue riding until we could find shelter, and when we saw some people sitting out on their porch on West Rock Rd, that was our opportunity. They were very nice and in awe of our efforts, and they let us hang out on their porch until it was time to get moving.

Thanks Iwan for organizing this ride! Thanks also to George and Chris and everyone else who volunteered and pre-rode!

Ben Keenan writes:

Everyone that finished (or started) that ride showed courage and guts, and thanks a million to everyone that shared the miles. You are all awesome! There were many memorable segments, some beautiful, some hard, some maybe both at the same time. Seeing mist rise off the Delaware, riding along Cherry Valley Road as the sun came through for a while, trying to hold it together without much success in the hills after Easton. I think the hills that got me the worst were the final short but wall-like ones on Church Road and Harts Lane just before getting to River Road. Thanks as always to the volunteers (Iwan, Nick, Chris, Brad, George and all others) for a well-run event and a great day. Days on the road are the best, and hope to see everyone out again soon.
Ceci and Pat Gaffney write:

Thank you Iwan for organizing the brevet yesterday. It had all the elements of an epic adventure; warm rain, hot sun, gusting winds, cold hailstones, and deeeep puddles. Overall we had quite a pleasant day until the last 25K. Thanks to Chris, George, Beverly, Nick, Anton, and any other volunteers that I am missing who helped us all get through the day. See you at the 400!

 Brad Layman writes:

That was one for the ages. While the namesake Water and Wind Gaps were beautiful to ride through, it was the water and wind brought on by the weather that gave us the most to talk about. First, before the ride started, everyone was sharing what kind of gear we were planning to bring, balancing our hopes of staying warm and dry with the limited storage space we'd have on our bikes. Then at the finish, all the talk was about the crazy storm that rushed in at the end of the day. Extra kudos to everyone for surviving that storm and finishing the ride. I think we will be sharing storm stories for a long time to come and I'm glad I was there for it. Thank you Iwan, Chris, George (and Beverly), and Nick for putting on an excellent event. I hope to see everyone at the 400 next month!

 With the first two events of the SR series in the books,  events that were by all accounts challenging, it's time to take a mid-SR series break with the funnest randonneuring event of all, the Flèche. The date for adding teams has past, but there's still room for riders. Besides being the most fun you can have on a bike without sleep, the Flèche is a required event for the R5000 and R10000 medals. More info here

Are you going to PBP. Certainly you'll want to bring some PBP trading pins with you. These are available from the PA Rando Store, or can be purchased at any PA Rando event. 

And of course, for you to go to PBP, you need to complete a Super Randonneur series.  The PA Rando SR series is a tough one, but people who finish the PA series have had good results at PBP. There are two more events, the Four-States 400, and the Jim Thorpe 600. You can finish these, yes you can, but only if you start them. Sign up soon! 


Chris Nadovich

RBA, Eastern Pennsylvania