Sunday, August 13, 2023

Pennsylvania Grand Canyon 200k Ride Report


The inaugural running of The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania brevet was completed by an impressive 10 out of 11 riders (91%). 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.

View of Pine Creek from Colton Point

Although many PA events utilize “rail trails”, this was the first PA Randonneurs event that featured extensive sections of unpaved roads and was run in accordance with the RUSA “Rules for Unpaved Distance”. Riders had to endure a relatively brief but heavy rain squall early in the ride but were unperturbed by this minor inconvenience and enjoyed the unpaved climb through Letonia and arrived (although a little soggy) to enjoy the beautiful view at Colton Point:

After the Colton Point lookout things took an unpleasant turn.  I’m  sorry to report that new Randonneur Ken Cappel suffered a crash while descending the paved road between Colton Point and Ansonia.  Fortunately RBA Chris Nadovich was nearby and a very helpful off duty nurse was driving past the scene of the crash and rendered aid to Ken.  Ken was taken by ambulance to a local hospital.   Ken was alert and in relatively good spirits when he was placed in the ambulance.   More information on his condition will be shared once available.

[...Ed] At last report Ken was resting comfortably in the hospital. His injuries were "typical" for a bike crash. When I last spoke with him, he was in good spirits. Thanks to Bill Fischer and Jon Clamp for transporting Ken's bicycle (which seemed uninjured). 

After briefly stopping at the mid-point control in Ansonia, riders started to dry out, the sun started to shine and the temperature started to climb.  All riders were able to ford Babb Creek without incident:

Andreas Prandelli fording Babb Creek

After cooling their feet in Babb Creek riders had to tackle the most challenging section of the course.  It was repeatedly relayed to the ride organizer (using various adjectives) that the steep climb on loose gravel along Ritter road was “challenging”.

Fortunately, after the Liberty Control, the course is quite pleasant.  The route to Waterville was designed by PA Randonneurs founder Tom Rosenbauer for the infamous Endless Mountains 1,200k Grand Randonee.

First finisher Jon Clamp made it around the course in under 10 hours. Jon was followed by Ello Shertzer, Ron Anderson (in Ron's triumphant return to rando after a long break) and newly minted Randonneur Matt Gruner.  Unfortunately, about 5 minutes after Matt and Ron finished an intense thunderstorm rolled through.  Steve Schoenfelder, and George Retseck in true Randonneur spirit simply continued on through the horizontal rain.  I believe Andreas Prandelli was able to seek shelter at the McConnell’s store.  RBA Chris Nadovich (having been delayed by Ken’s crash) was in the middle of the storm and I suspect had to ride in heavy rain for about the last 3 hours of the event (but finished with a smile). 

Although he may have sheltered from the early rain, Andreas Prandelli turned right (North -- back into the Canyon)  rather than left (South -- to the finish) as he joined the Pine Creek trail in Waterville. Whoops! This was just about the time the skies opened up and that wrong turn cost Andreas about 20 bonus miles of riding in the soaking rain. Nevertheless, Andreas finished well within the gravel time limit. No extra charge for the rando bath. 

Ron Anderson Writes...

A great big thank you to Chris Nadovich and Bill Fischer for putting on this ride! I had a wonderful return to randonnering after a long layoff. This course had it all: 40 miles of unpaved roads, a control named the Burnin' Barrel Bar and a stream crossing! I simply couldn't let this opportunity pass me by. It was great reconnecting with old friends and making a few new ones. A great day out!  Photos here.

Steve Schoenfelder writes...

Thanks to event organizer and route designer Bill Fischer and volunteer/RBA Chris Nadovich for an epic ride through the wilds of the Pennsylvania Endless Mountain region. 

The day started in the low 60’s and featured scattered showers mingled with puffy clouds hugging the peaks of the canyon on a backdrop of blue sky. The roads progressively narrowed until we entered the forest on rock and dirt. The woods were misty and emerald with ferns, moss, and pines lining the way. There was beauty and pain in the rugged climbs, and chaos in the dramatic descents. I was glad to have a gravel bike equipped with knobbies for this one. Out of fear, I carried way too much water on my back and never feared thirst. 

Fording Babb Creek was an experience I will not soon forget. The current was fast and strong, as I grew tired of carrying my bike while focusing on not being swept downstream. The shallows came just in time; I was able to drop my bike and wheel it over the rocky stream bed for the last few meters. 

The hard work is behind you as you roll into the Liberty control at mile 87. After that it is all rainbows and unicorns as you descent back to the canyon formed by Little Pine Creek. Well, there was that rain, and later the walls of wind and water thrown at me by a thunderstorm while navigating the last eleven miles on the Pine Creek Rail Trail. All in all, an epic and transformative event that should become a fixture of the PAR schedule.

Chris Nadovich writes...

Thank you so much for creating this route, Bill Fischer. It's simply spectacular. As we rolled up the unpaved Letonia Rd, which seemed to thread its way through every quaint little glen and dell of the upper canyon, George Retseck commented that this was now his "most favorite road".  I had to concur -- a road sweeter than Sweet Hollow, for sure. 

The joy was spoiled a little by Ken's misfortune, but I was relieved when I saw that he appeared to have "ordinary" bike crash injuries. Still, he hit his head pretty hard. The helmet probably saved his life. We await final word on the severity of his concussion, but last I spoke with him he seemed OK. 

Fording Babb creek was a hoot. Just an absolute hoot. Fortunately I didn't appreciate the brutal gravel climb that follows the creek and was able to frolic in the water without apprehension, allowing the cool waters to restore my soul, and wash away some of my concern for Ken.  

But then, yeah, about that climb up Hurley Hill, Ritter, and the rest. Yeeesh! I was forced to walk up some of the more squirrely gravel, worrying that I was expending too much energy just keeping the bike aimed up the road. I was jealous of Schoenfelder's knobbies. The climb is doable on 32mm tires, but 42mm's would make that one section almost pleasant. Almost. Still, the rest of the gravel was very smooth and easy to ride on 32's.  

When you get to the final summit, and the control in Liberty, the remaining 38 miles are pretty much all downhill. There are some spiky rollers near Little Pine SP, but by then the previous 20 miles of coasting through the forest had me completely recovered.  I'm unaware of a longer sustained descent in any other PA ride. An absolute joy of a finish. Thanks again, Bill, this route is a keeper.

We'll stay "upstate" next month for the Rusty Rail 200k that start/finishes at the Rusty Rail Brewing company in Mifflinburg. This event is orgainized by Steve Schoenfelder.

And Bonne Route and Bonne Courage to all PA Randonneurs members travelling to Paris Brest Paris!



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