Friday, May 10, 2019

Riding the PACTour Tucson 600k

As part of my tenuous initiative towards variety and new things, I signed up for the PACTour Tucson 600k, April 5-6, the culmination of their Brevet Week. We had already planned another sojourn in Tucson, and only had to shift our visit a couple of days to fit in the 600k. We pulled into Tucson the afternoon before the event. I affixed the aerobars brought from Colorado to the Kestrel, in anticipation of "exposed" terrain.

Weather was ideal, 77º high predicted for Tucson, and 60's at higher locales such as Bisbee. Breezy, but sunny and dry.

The 600k consisted of their 400k route through Bisbee (used on the 400k brevet held three days before), and the Silverbell 200k route which had started off Brevet Week, and which had also been offered weekends between Desert Camps. Silverbell is a new route. (Silverbell is named for Silverbell Road, which is named for the Silverbell Mine NW of Tucson, I believe.)

400k route through Sonoita and east through Bisbee
The dark sploches are "sky islands" while the dark north-south line is the San Pedro river.

Silverbell 200k route heading out Nogales Highway and back via Mission Rd., Saguaro National Park, Marana, and the rollercoaster Camino De Oeste. The whitish blobs are copper mines, and Titan missile base (now a museum).

This ride was appealing because, apart from a few segments of the 200k and the Julian Wash Trail on the 400k, I had not biked any of these roads (but was familiar with much of the roads on the 400k loop from driving around and exploring). It was an inviting combo of newness tinged with familiarity!

An added plus was getting advice on the 400k route from fellow randos Ray Rupel and Corinne Warren, who'd ridden the punishingly windy 400k brevet a few days before, and Michelle Grainger, who had just ridden the Big Mountain Climbs week of PACTour Desert Camp. Billy Edwards had also come down for the 400k.

Not much photo-taking during the ride, but I have augmented with a couple of photos taken at other times.

The Ride! - Heading east on the Julian Wash Trail - part of The Loop of bike/pedestrian trails that encircle Tucson, we had a headwind (expected, down-valley). A small group of us was riding together.

A fanciful "gateway" to the Julian Wash trail,
Rincon Mountains (I think) in the background.
Photo from a circumnavigation of Tucson in December.

Turning south onto the climb up scenic highway 83 to Sonoita, we then also had, yes, a headwind, SW being the prevailing wind of the day. Midway I shed some layers, shortly before reaching a chillier altitude, which is the way things always work, isn't it? The projected high in Tucson was 77º (quite mild), but 60's for much of the middle part of the course, which is higher.

In Sonoita, which is part of Arizona Wine Country, according to a sign on the highway, the checkpoint country store had an ample selection of local wines on display. Also fried chimichangas behind the counter. These are like the chimmies that had served me well on the Texas Rando Stampede, so naturally I took advantage of this opportunity. I won't relate the embarrassing tumble on a curb leaving the checkpoint, which left a bloody knee gash which was worrisome, but which didn't affect the ride, but frightened away small animals.

What followed was kind of a tailwind, heading towards the mountain range at the back of Sierra Vista. One facet of biking here, in the land of "sky islands" (range and basin terrain), is that you can pretty much see yourself as a dot on the map as you wend your way towards or around them.

This first half of the day had high overcast, which was fine, clearing out later.

Highway 82 to Mustang Junction and Sierra Vista

The highest climb of the day was to Bisbee, topping out above 6,000 ft. using the old Mule Pass Road to add that few extra quality feet of climbing. Descending through Bisbee - a fascinating old mining town - was an exercise in care and braking, over bumpy, winding streets. But that's par for the course. Colorado riders will recognize the mining towns of Black Hawk and Central City in this bumpy refrain.

Nice to be able to have stopped at Santiago's in Bisbee as we did in January. But not this time!

"Has The Best Year-Round Climate on Earth"
An interesting claim!
They are at 6,000 ft. in Arizona so maybe so.

We descended through the vast copper mines on the east side of town.

A small part of the massive copper mines on the SE side of Bisbee.

At the easternmost point of the route lies Elfrida, home to the Desert Videoland Oasis checkpoint in Elfrida. It's actually a regular convenience store, too, with nice staff.

A couple of other riders were fortifying themselves for the windward climb, including Tom on the left (sporting a RUSA PBP jersey) who says he's ridden Lon's and Susan's events since the 80's.

The windward climb on the Gleeson Road was scenic but slow work.

But no doubt not as slow as for the 400k riders those few days before fighting the fiercer winds. The summit over a hill range was so picturesque with prairie grasses near sunset!

Nothing like those long shadows to make you reflective. Only seven hours to go! (For the first loop, that is.)

After this photo, I added an extra taillight to the trusty Kestrel, and donned reflective attire.

This was among the most inspirational segments of the brevet!

Dusk came on at Tombstone, and then, just north of town, the turn left onto highway 82 just before a Border Patrol checkpoint (making it easy to identify our turn). From there we had blissfully smooth pavement and light grades across the San Pedro valley to Mustang Junction.

At that point, who was to step out of the shadows but Dave Jordan, RUSA #4, with upbeat commentary and talk of RUSA things long past. A thoroughly enjoyable conversation!

Dave Jordan at Mustang Junction

Susan had told us that we could phone ahead from Mustang Junction if wanted something like a grilled cheese sandwich at the Sonoita control. So I did. Dave said he'd supplied homemade bread, so they used that for the grilled cheese.

Sonoita - Susan and Lon were stationed at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds in Sonoita, and provided the delicious grilled cheese sandwich on homemade bread and hearty potato soup, too, plus fine conversation. This is a tough stint to staff, with the wide range of rider times coming through this checkpoint, in kind of a chilly pocket, too. They were affable and charming as ever.

After putting on more layers, the climb out of chilly pocket of Sonoita was warming. The Border Patrol agent just past the Empire Ranch turnoff waved me through, after I was auto-photographed.

The descent to Vail also just fine, very light traffic, and the 18 rumble strips in the curvy section kept one alert.

The twists and turns of the Julian Wash Trail went well, too, after I tried to commit the twists and turns to memory early that morning. I'd also biked it in December, on a circumnavigation of Tucson.

Arrivée (for the first loop)!  The gracious clerk at the Country Inn and Suites came out from behind the desk and helped me into the elevator for the trek up to the motel room. Maybe I looked worse than I thought!

Silverbell 200k Loop - After a brief, luxurious snooze, it was a sauntering 200k to finish things out. The route starts out flat down the Nogales Highway past pecan groves. 

This is actually on Old Nogales Highway.
Notice the new plantings between the mature trees.

Next came climbs in a modest way west of I-19, past the Titan Missile Museum, and then up Mission Road. It is now Saturday and there are bunches of cyclists out and looking fast and cheerful.

Duval Mine Road heading up into mining country.

Mission Road passing more mines - the terrain feature ahead is from a mine.

Site of an info checkpoint on my Mission - Madera Canyon 200k perm, which I would try out a few days later. Just an excuse to stop and take a break.

Another view.
I love the expanse of sky over desert!

Helmet Peak (aptly named) skirting our route.

We then headed up Kinney Road and through Saguaro National Park (West), which was a treat, great scenery on silky smooth pavement!

The half dozen miles to get there were an adventure, however, with "enthusiastic" traffic. I assumed they were heading for the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a popular and wonderful nature establishment, but they were going for Old Tucson, a former movie shooting location, and now an entertainment venue. After passing that, all was well.

Next came the agricultural flatlands of Marana (including some aircraft graveyards which were especially interesting!), where cotton and other crops are grown, and then a survey of the Arizona northern exurbs, pleasant in their own way.

An info control in greater Tucson, planned developments flanked by desert terrain.

Fellow participants Matt and Brett resting at the penultimate control, at delightful Feliz Paseos Parkwhich has good views, and where you can see javelinas, at least judging from their webpage.

The finish went just fine, gliding back into Tucson airport territory and into the host hotel.

Susan Notorangelo, taking out a moment from busy event prep!

Lon Haldeman and the big PACTour trailer!

I thought this would be a good brevet. Despite some winds and some rough pavement, I ended up relishing and enjoying it highly.

Susan and Lon provide superb organization and that personal touch which enhances your experience. It makes you feel good on the ride. It was very nice to see them again.


Monday, March 25, 2019

ACP 2018 Results - interesting highlights

Every year the Audax Club Parisien compiles its results - with commentary from the program administrators - into a brochure. Here it is for 2018:

On the back, they list each program and when it was created.

Many of the events are domestic (France), such as the Fléchette Vélocio (for younger riders) and the Relais de France. But for the international ones, it's interesting to compare among countries, and trends. Also to see the rich tradition of event types.

BRM Events

The Brevets Randonneurs Mondiaux events are the ACP brevets we ride.
  • The US is fourth overall in number of (finishers') kms over the past six years; Japan is first. 
  • We were at 1,823,700 for 2018, but 2,219,000 for 2014, the previous PBP year.
  • The US is fifth overall (after India) for 2018.
Flèches Nationales

The Flèches Nationales events are the flèche events outside of France. In France, the event is the Flèche Vélocio.
  • Max team distance was 635 km in France, 642 km in Sweden, 639 km in Slovenia; the highest in the US was 421 km (Flèche NW). As we've seen, this reflects two different philosophies of riding the flèche.
  • Japan had the greatest number of teams (65), followed by the US (56).
  • The US had the greatest number of women (44, followed by Japan with 40), and by far the greatest number of tandems (10, followed by Canada with 2 and Sweden with 1 - no other countries had tandems).
Traces Nationales

2019 will be the first year RUSA regions (seven of them) will be offering a Trace.
  • Riders of the Trace are termed traceurs at least in the Results. 
  • The Traces Nationales were started in 2010.
  • In 2018, France and three other countries had Traces: Canada, the UK, and Romania, with team counts in the single digits (52 teams in France).
  • In 2019, additional countries are Japan and the US.
  • Totals outside of France include 15 women and one tandem, according to Sophie, who administers the Traces Nationales.
  • Team distances spanned 203km to 234km ... so no team was riding a Flèche distance (360km) under the rubric of a Trace (which is the possible upper limit under the rules).
  • As of 2018, teams are no longer prohibited from riding between 10pm and 6am, but the intent is that the Trace is a daytime event.
  • It will be interesting to see how our Trace teams and organizers fare, and how popular this event format will be.
Super Randonnée 600

These are 600 km+ permanents sanctioned by the ACP, requiring 10,000 m. (31,000 ft.) of climbing, with a time limit of 60 hours. The ACP official who created this program lives in a mountainous region, aiming to inspire riders with a climbing, backcountry challenge.
  • There are currently 59 routes, including 16 with US ownership and 9 with Spanish ownership.
  • Only 2 new routes were created in 2018, one each in US and Spain.
  • In 2018, there were 24 finishers in both France and the US (placing fourth in the ratings). Spain had 93 finishers. [One fourth of the finishers came from the Colorado Front Range SR 600.]
  • That finisher count in France made it a "very small year" for the program in France, historically a big draw for riders. Five of the 24 finishers of French routes chose the Tourist option.
  • There is a photo of riders on the Lone Star Road route in Humboldt County, CA, a route that is 30% gravel, it says.
  • These details - as with the Trace - courtesy of Sophie Matter, who created and administers this program.
On a local note, we had a huge upswing in ridership for the Colorado Front Range SR 600, with six finishers, including one group of three and another of two. Four were from out of state. Extending the time limit to 60 hours was a factor in enticing some of these riders.

- - -

It's always good to look beyond our own borders to see the difference in styles, the growth trends, and the scale of randonneuring in the world!


Saturday, March 2, 2019

Colorado Rando Awardees - 2018 Round-Up!

Here are Colorado randos who've earned RUSA and ACP awards in 2018!

We recognize you, our friends, because you have decided on this or that challenge, and through commitment, persistence, and discomfort, have managed to achieve it!

For most of these awards, you need to apply to be recognized. You don't need to purchase the physical award. What's important is the goal and the accomplishment. For some, the physical award adds a nice momento.

Some are challenges within the current year or a twelve-month period. Others recognize achievement over a number of years.

We congratulate our fellow randos for their persistence in achieving their goals!

You can see our cumulative awardees across the years here:
Super Randonneur · R-12 / P-12 · R-5000 · Others

One-Year Awards
ACP Super Randonneur
American Randonneur  
Multi-Year Awards
ACP Randonneur 5000
Ultra Randonneur
Ultra R-12
American Explorer
other awards not covered here
RUSA Distance Awards
Ultra K-Hound
Ultra P-12

Super Randonneur
Complete brevets of 200km, 300km, 400km and 600km in one year.

That's 21 of our fellow randos!

Andy Albershardt
John Lee Ellis
Tim Foon Feldman
Chris Grealish
Scott Griffith
Dustin Harding
Nate Hartokolis
Jim Howell
Oksana Kovalenko
Pascal Ledru
Beth Long
Mark Lowe
John Mangin
Brent Myers
David Nelson

Ray Rupel
Catherine Shenk
Jeremy Shlachter
Mike Turek
Don Ward
Corinne Warren

Complete a 200km or longer RUSA ride in each of 12 consecutive months.
[1] means first-time R-12 - welcome!

John Lee Ellis [12]
Paul A Foley [5]
Scott Griffith [1]
Jim Howell [1]
Pascal Ledru [1]
John Mangin [1]
Catherine Shenk [10]
Henry Snavely [4]
Corinne Warren [3]

Ultra R-12
Complete ten R-12's (need not be contiguous).

Catherine Shenk *
* ridden in 120 consecutive months!

Ride a 100km to 199km RUSA ride in each of twelve consecutive months.

John Lee Ellis
Malcolm Fraser
Earl TeBockhorst

ACP Randonneur 5000
Ride 5000km in events including Paris-Brest-Paris, a Flèche, and 200km, 300km 400km, 600km and 1000km brevets within 48 months. (An Audax Club Parisien award, not RUSA.)

None in 2018.
Paul Foley and Mike Turek in 2017.

And now for RUSA awards that randonneurs can work towards over multiple years ...

American Explorer
Cover at least ten different U.S. states and territories on RUSA rides.
New to the American Explorer award:

Malcolm Fraser

Complete at least one of each type of RUSA event, accumulating at least 5000km over a two-year period.

John Lee Ellis

Ultra Randonneur
Complete ten Super Randonneur series over any number of years.

Vernon Smith

Coast to Coast
Complete four different RUSA 1200km or longer events over any number of years.

Paul Foley
2016 Cracker Swamp 1200
2018 Blue Ridge to Bay
2018 Great Lakes Mac 'n Cheese
2018 Florida Tip to Tail 1600

Vernon Smith
2011 Colorado High Country 1200
2013 Texas Rando Stampede 1200
2013 Taste of Carolina
2016 Cracker Swamp 1200

Complete 40,000km in RUSA rides - a lifetime achievement award.

— none new in 2018 —

American Randonneur Challenge
Complete two or more RUSA 1200km or longer events in one season.

Paul Foley
Pascal Ledru

Courtesy Randonneurs USA

Complete 10,000 km or more in RUSA events in one calendar year. You can also count foreign Grand Randonnées if needed. Paul Foley's first K-Hound!

John Lee Ellis
Paul Foley [1]

A Final Thought

RUSA has created these awards over time to give you more and more diverse goals to shoot for. Maybe you don't have the personal time to achieve K-Hound mileage, but have the grit to complete an R-12 ride each month for a year in hot and cold, sun and snow.

Set your own goals, and let your imagination and determination be your guides!

You can find details on each of these awards via the RUSA Awards page
including all those who've applied for recognition.

Bonne route!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Grand Randonnée Round-Up for 2019!

With the snow flying outside, it's time to ponder and plan!

Only three US 1200k's are scheduled for 2019:

Carolina Spring May 9
Sunshine 1200k (Fla.)May 16
Hound Dog 1200 (Texas) September 28

And none in Canada, as is their tradition in a PBP year.

Foreign non-PBP Grand Randonnées - The Randonneurs Mondiaux calendar (click "ici") lists 32 other grand randonnées ... of which 16 are in India and 9 in Australia. So, some far-flung alternatives.

Being a PBP year, there is of course Paris-Brest-Paris in August.

If you are planning on Paris-Brest-Paris, is it your first time?  If so, you may want to do some extra planning, with all the riders (6,000), start time options (3), 15-minute start waves, and various sleep alternatives.  Of added importance is finding lodging, as the new start locale, Rambouillet, does not have the hotel capacity that the old start, St. Quentin-en-Yvelines, does.

If you're an ancien(ne) returning for another go, what will your goals be this go-round?  A faster time? More sleep? More daylight riding?  Notching another PBP on your belt?  Seeing old friends?

We're planning a PBP/Grand Randonnée seminar or get-together in the spring.

If you are riding a one of these events, some awards for extra motivation:

Finish two US 1200k's in the same year - you can still do that in 2019!

Finish four different US 1200k's - over any number of years

Finish a US 1200k, a populaire, a team event, 200k, 300k, 400k, 600k, and 1000k, and enough extra to add up to 5000 km in 24 months.

Finish PBP, a Super-Randonneur series, a Flèche, and other events.

And now some details on the US 1200k's ...

Carolina Spring varies its route from year to year, usually a combo of Blue Ridge, foothills, and coastal plains.  We're not sure what event director Tony Goodnight has in store for 2019, but it's bound to be interesting.

The Sunshine 1200 starts in Key West, making it the southernmost start of any US 1200k. It then heads up the Atlantic Coast, coming back through the center and ending up in Fort Myers Beach. (Riders typically take the ferry from Fort Myers Beach to Key West to get to the start.) The inaugural event in 2015 was well-run and supported, thanks to organizer Dave Thompson and support from the central and southern Florida regions.  Food and lodging are included, and provisions for transport to Key West are offered.

The Hound Dog 1200 is a new event, and an experiment in minimalism. The modest entry fee gets you a cue sheet.  The route consists of four loops from the same start/finish hotel in Greenville, TX, east of Dallas. There is no support either en route or at the start/finish hotel. The terrain is described as rolling, in a quiet area of Texas. So, logistically a very manageable event.

Choosing and Riding a Grand Randonnée

My traditional advice ...

While all grand randonnées aim to provide you a memorable experience, there are many styles of events, kinds of challenges, services, and what you get for your fee.  So investigate and find which ones suit your personal goals!

Scenic and Challenging or Social ... or Both? - Each of these events is challenging, of course, and any can be social with the right attitude and discipline.  But it can be easier to stick together as a group if the route is more moderated in its climbs, exposure, etc.  Riding with a group may be important to you.  Or you may be longing for that special, bracing experience, and willing to ride stretches alone or with a few friends who've agreed to stick together.

Your Ride Plan? - Some events provide a pretty definitive idea of where you should sleep. Others provide some accommodations at a number of controls. Still others leave you totally to your own devices.

» Stage-Oriented events have suggested riding segments per day, with overnight facilities provided at the ends of those segments. They have become more popular over the years. This scheme promotes rider cohesiveness, and allows riders to regroup on successive morning starts.  They also allow the organizers to concentrate their lodging and food support at fewer points, making for upgraded lodging options and cost savings.

» "Freestyle" events come in two flavors: many staffed controls with sleep options (some of which may be limited, but still a place to sleep), such as Paris-Brest-Paris and the Rocky Mountain 1200; or no event-provided lodging, leaving you to research ahead of time, and make your own arrangements, hopefully with a more economical entry fee.

It can be satisfying to tune your ride to how things are going, or to your own personal way of riding.  It can also be comforting not to have to think about that, and just ride well-thought-out stages. 

Pre-visualize how you'd ride the event you've chosen or are considering, and how the event structure supports or can accommodate your needs.

Services / Lodging Provided? - Are there regular opportunities to get food (either event-supplied or in stores) and shelter / lodging (either event-supplied or motels en route)?  The Big Wild Ride 1200k in Alaska, for example, advised riders there could be stretches up to 200km where you'd need to be self-contained (except for water).  This requires more planning on your part, but the reward could be a remote, scenic trip hard to match.
Effort and Expense - Finally, while it may not affect which event you choose, research the total cost of riding the event.  The entry fee may a small part, when added to transportation and lodging - and the logistics of getting to/from the start line.  International events clearly can be more trouble and expense, and some US events are easier to get to than others, too.  If it's a trade-off between economizing and the exotic, you may find the new or exotic worth the extra cost and trouble, or not.  It all depends!

- - - 
So, plenty to whet your appetite and take you to new places in 2019.  So start imagining, planning, ... and training!


Sunday, November 11, 2018

A summery recollection ... and a look forward!

As we enjoy today's second snowfall of our season ...

Pat Heller at Walden Ponds Wildlife Area today

... let us think back a couple months to when our challenges were different!

Sunrise over Olde Stage Road on an August morning, 6:45 am

Haystack in the background

On that day, there were more riders than usual so early, plying Lefthand Canyon and Olde Stage Road, just to beat the heat!

Those days will return ... no doubt with a prelude of blustery spring weather.

Of course for some us it was not a snowy day but a suntan!

Paul Foley and Vernon Smith
at Key West on the finish of the Tip to Tail Florida 1600k.
Congratulation, Paul and Vernon!

Good riding and good training to everyone!


Monday, October 22, 2018

Colorado Front Range 200km Dart 2018!

Photos from the Colorado Front Range 200km Dart
October 20, 2018

Teams Rando Rats and Les Avant Derniers
at the finish, Louisville

Team Wild Cats
Dustin Harding (capt.)
John Lee Ellis
Oksana Kovalenko
Marc Rundle
Vernon Smith

The Wild Cats visited Erie for coffee, Berthoud for lunch at the A&W, and Hygiene for tea time. Dustin added a scenic dirt section taking the back way into Berthoud, the other dirt section being Ogallala Rd. to avoid a road closure on 75th St.

 Oksana's Photos 

Ogallala Rd. + Twin Peaks

Marc Rundle, Dustin Harding, Vernon Smith

Dustin, Vernon, Marc, JLE

Carter Lake

Rd. 29

Hygiene Store

 JLE's Photos 

Cristo's Coffee - Erie
Vernon, Dustin, Oksana, Marc

Hygiene - Vernon, Oksana, Dustin, Marc

Coot Lake - Vernon, Dustin, Oksana, Marc

Team Les Avant Derniers
Pascal Ledru (capt.)
Paul Foley
Michelle Grainger
Steve Le Goff
Catherine Shenk

Les Avant Derniers are Team Lanternes Rouges with loftier ambitions. They visited Jamestown for brunch and Ft. Collins for a tasty lunch, where lanterne rouge rider Mike Turek visited on his birthday.

Team Rando Rats
John Mangin (capt.)
Nate Hartokolis
Jim Howell
Corinne Warren

Team Rando Rats headed north from Loveland to Owl Canyon and then into the scenic Red Mountain area, making for 22 miles of dirt.

Après Dart Dinner
Murphy's Taproom, Louisville