Saturday, July 29, 2023

Pennsylvania Grand Canyon 200k Course Notes

On 7/28 a partial pre-ride of the Northern section of the PA Grand Canyon course was completed by Bill Fischer.  By noon the temperature was hitting 90 degrees so I tucked tail and went home.  Before I wimped out, I was able to ride all the gravel sections of the course (excluding the Pine Creek Trail).  Widely scattered thunderstorms were reported on 7/27 and sections of the course were muddy.  I rode my gravel bike with 38mm (slick) tires which were nice for the muddy bits and the gravel on Ritter Road.  If the weather cooperates, I’ll attempt a complete pre-ride on 8/5 with my brevet bike and 32mm tires (assuming drier conditions).

There were no changes to the route but I’ve updated and corrected some cues so please use Version 5 of the cue sheet and the current RWGPS route which was updated on 7/29/23.

Other than the Pine Creek Trail, there are 4 significant non-paved sections:

1.       Cedar Run to Colton Pt (Mile 32-53).  This is the longest non-paved section and is a stair step climb with some short descents.  This section is better described as hard packed dirt with some short sections of well packed gravel.  There were a few muddy spots at the bottom of the descents. Note after you finish the climb and take a couple photos at Colton Point Lookout, you’ll climb a little more and then start a long descent to Ansonia.  This descent is steep and somewhat twisty.  There will likely be some mindless drivers coming uphill so keep to the right and keep your speed in check.

2.       Ansonia to SR660 (Mile 59-61).  This is a shaded climb with well packed gravel leading to a pleasant descent onto paved SR660.

3.       Stony Fork to Babb Creek (Mile 68-73) A beautiful, slightly downhill section with well packed dirt and a few short muddy sections.  At the end of this section you’ll ford Babb Creek which is currently about 12” deep.  The bottom consists of smooth round rocks which are very slippery.  It’s entirely possibly to walk this bare footed (I’ve done it several times) but it was much more pleasant tromping through it yesterday in my cycling sandals.

4.       Hurley Hill to Liberty (Mile 76-85) This is the most technically challenging section and has some moderately loose gravel on Nauvoo and Ritter Roads with a few gravel descents (don’t go faster than your guardian angel!). 

The start location is at the Jersey Shore recreational parking area off Railroad Street (3 blocks West of Bridge Street).  There is a Weis grocery store on Allegheny Street behind the parking area (and up a hill). My GPS recognized the start as 445 Railroad St. Jersey Shore, PA. 

Controls/Resupply points:

1.       Wolf General Store [Slate Run} Mile 28.  A well-stocked store with excellent made-to-order breakfast sandwiches.  If you’ve got some time to spend while they’re making your sandwich, go downstairs and see their fly fishing department.  If you’re a faster rider you may want to grab some extra food since you’re next resupply will not be until mile 65.

2.       Burnin’ Barrel Bar [Ansonia] Mile 57.  This is a country bar with excellent food but, sadly doesn’t open until 12:00.  For faster riders, I’ll be there with water (but not much else).

3.       Stony Fork Country Store [Stony Fork] Mile 65.  This is a small, Mennonite owned grocery store (there is also a small store at the Stony Fork Campground at mile 67).  They have a sign on the front door requesting patrons wear long sleeved shirts and trousers but they’ve always been pleasant to me in my cycling gear.  I believe this is a cash only establishment.

4.        Exxon [Liberty] Mile 87.  This is a veritable oasis with clean bathrooms and hot food.  You’ll be pretty tired when you get there so it’s a great place to get reenergized.  There are no tables but they have a lawn area on the East side.

5.       McConnell’s Country Store [Waterville] Mile 11and 115.  Another well stocked general store with a deli counter.  If you’re extra thirsty the Waterville Tavern is next door and has a good beer selection (or so I’m told).

As noted on the route description there is very little cell phone coverage on course so don’t plan on staying in contact with the outside world.  You’ll have coverage at Ansonia, Liberty and maybe Waterville.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Free Bridge 200K Ride Report

The SR Series this year had a lot of rainy weather. That means it wasn't very hot during these difficult PBP qualifiers. Quite the blessing. But the heat always comes eventually, and it finally arrived at the Free Bridge 200.  Close to 90F with significant humidity and still some remnants of the smoke haze from fires in Canada, it was a tough day to ride a bike. Add to that the 8000+ feet of climbing on this challenging course, and you had a nice recipe for a soul crushing experience.

An impressive 26 out of 30 riders  (87%) who clipped in day-of had sufficiently crush-resistant souls to complete the course in good time. 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.

Watch Out!

Five riders (Claire Hatkevich, Owen Kobasz, Bryan Niederberger, Ronnie Pacchione, and Ross Perfetti) rode their first 200K. No PA Rando rides are easy, but this was a particularly tough one. Chapeau to you all! Welcome to randonneuring. I promise you that you'll find future 200Ks to be easier. 

First finisher Chris Maglieri cracked the 8 hour mark by running (sic) his bike across the Free Bridge at the finish. The bridge operator scowled at him, but Chris broke the invisible finish line tape with a new course record of 7:59. 

At the other end of the train, lanterne rouge George Metzler needed to do crushed soul roadside repair, but it worked! George wasn't quite smiling at the end, but he finished well within the time limit. No need for him to run across the bridge like Maglieri. 
He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.

One of the fun aspects of events that finish at the Free Bridge are the post-event outdoor gathering options of Jimmy's Doggie Stand or the Sand Bar.  Whether your choice be a Yuengling or a Milkshake (or both per Steve Schoenfelder) you can enjoy it with your comrades in a picnic atmosphere next to the great forks of the Delaware river. 

Post ride gathering at the Sand Bar (with rando groupie?)

Ed Bernaski writes... 

Thank you for yesterday's Free Bridge 200k, I think the eBrevet is going to be a significant advancement to randonneuring. My highlight of the day was only losing 28 seconds to Chris up Fox Gap after bidding him adieu thanking him for the nice chats and of course not puking at the end of what was an exercise in heat management in the hills. Maybe my Garmin lies but it indicated almost 9400 feet of climbing with temperatures in the low and mid 90's. It was all very bad in a good way. Thanks again.

Iwan Barankay writes...

Thank you for organizing. The weather was quite okay – at first. Then the heat  really got to my head. I brought three strong riders from Philadelphia with me and they showed great skill and resilience to finish out this hilly brevet. The afterparty by the river was also a big success.   My Photos.


Iwan feelin' it

Next month PA Randonneurs continues with it's traditional monthly series of R12 events all of which will be free of charge for PA Rando club members. On deck is the gravelly, climby, ultra amazing Grand Canyon of PA 200K that includes a stream ford (which may turn out to be nothing if the drought continues).  On deck is the Rusty Rail 200K.