Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Time for the Brainard Lake Breeze 100k!

The roads are clear. The temps are welcoming at 10,000 ft. It's time to ride the refreshing Brainard Lake Breeze again!

Lefthand Canyon reconstruction between Olde Stage and James Canyon Drive is shaping up, and that stretch is open on the weekends.

Still a cliff or two left to demolish.

When this reconstruction is done, this lower section of Lefthand Canyon Drive will be more sweeping, open, and park-like. Still fun to ride, though!

When I rode this perm on Sunday, June 12, Brainard was still barricaded at the main entrance, but plowed up the road and around the lake (except for this dam of snow).

Biggest roadside snowdrifts near Niwot Cutoff Trailhead.
(But the trails are in snowshoe or posthole condition.)

A convenient place to lean your bike while having a sandwich!

* * *
Same location, May 21.

* * *
And on May 1, on skis.

Still, you could find your way around with this helpful signage.

Back then the lake was frozen and snowed over.

Enough open water for anglers by late May.

And fully open now.

* * *

A good trickle of cyclists now wend their way to Brainard for a refreshing break.
A good time to join them!


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Colorado Front Range ACP Super Randonnée

The Colorado Front Range Super Randonnée is a Permanent of slightly over 600km sanctioned by the Audax Club Parisien, and approved by the ACP in spring of 2016.

Longs Peak
The rules for this format are that the route must be at least 600km in distance, and have at least 10,000m of climbing, for which you are given 50 hours to complete as a Randonneur (plus one hour for each extra 500m of climbing), or about 7½ days as a Tourist.

Satellite Map

Road / Land Use Map

About Super Randonnées

ACP Super Randonnée permanents are somewhat different from normal RUSA permanents. If you are considering riding this or another Super Randonnée, please study the ACP rules carefully. In particular:
  • Support - No personal or official support is allowed, even at controls.
  • Control Time Limits - Intermediate controls do not have opening or closing time limits. You may, however, wish to construct a plan as to when you reach successive controls, based on climbing, sleep breaks, hours of darkness, etc.
  • Photo Control Validation - Each control (including start/finish) may be validated by taking a picture of your bike - with ACP SR frame badge affixed to it - in front of a predetermined landmark (see below). If the control is in a town, you may take a picture of your bike in front of the town line sign. Some controls have an option to validate at establishments as well. If a control provides an establishment option, you can get validation at an establishment instead of taking a photo. There are no info controls. 
  • Control Photo Timestamps - All your control photos must have either a date/timestamp embedded in the photo image (a common option on today's cameras), or as part of the DCIM information associated with digital photo files. This goes for intermediate controls as well as start and finish, and allows intermediate controls to be reused in the course of a ride (e.g., if the route is an out-and-back).
  • Randonneur vs. Tourist - You may ride the route for "Randonneur" credit (time limit of 51 hours for this route), or "Tourist" credit (successive days of at least 80km). The ACP would like to encourage the Tourist option if it suits the rider's goals - for example, it may be useful for scoping out the route to ride later as a Randonneur.
  • RUSA Credit - Riders completing this route as a Randonneur also get RUSA credit, which can be used towards awards the same as other RUSA permanents.
  • R-10000 - One reason some people may be interested in riding an SR 600k is that it's a requirement for the ACP's Randonneur 10000 award.
About the Colorado Front Range SR

The Colorado Front Range SR takes in most of the Colorado Front Range, the eastern flank of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. This terrain is well-suited for a Super Randonnée as it has lots of climbing and virtually no flat terrain. It is also scenic and somewhat remote, despite being not that far from the population centers of the Front Range. This is because the Rockies rise up in kind of a wall from the eastern plains, with a 4,000-5,000 ft. difference between the Plains and the Peak-to-Peak Highway. The route comes within six miles of the Continental Divide in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Mt. Toll and the Indian Peaks Wilderness from the Peak-to-Peak Highway

This is an out-and-back route. It takes St. Vrain Canyon up to the Peak-to-Peak Highway, varying between 8,000 to 9,200 ft., then through the old mining towns of Blackhawk, Central City and Idaho Springs. From there, it's up to Echo Lake and the high point of the route (11,134 ft.) on the Squaw Pass road. The southern part of the route visits the forested areas of the Rampart Range and the foothills west of Colorado Springs to reach the turnaround point in Woodland Park.

While the route has sustained altitude, it avoids the high passes and the exposed roads above timberline such as the Mt. Evans road which spurs off from Echo Lake and reaches 14, 130 ft.

Echo Lake
Despite the route's rustic and remote character, there should be ample services for the rider to support him/herself. The turnaround point in Woodland Park has stores, restaurants, and lodging. While the halfway point may not be ideal for a sleep break, this is a good candidate.

Mining Ruins near Central City
Most of the route is through National Forest land. There are no extremely steep grades, although Witter Gulch is a stiff climb, and overall the climbing can be strenuous because there's a lot of it, and less oxygen than at lower elevations.

Upper Bear Creek from the Squaw Pass Road
Because of the arid climate, nights can get quite chilly in the Rockies, down into the 30's even in summer. Plan to bring enough clothes to stay warm on descents during chilly periods. Storms can also be very chilling, so it's important to be equipped to stay dry. The sun at altitude can burn more strongly than lower down, so use sunscreen. Assess the weather forecasts carefully before setting out on a ride of this nature. Finally, as with most Super Randonnées, beware of wildlife on the road, especially at night.

Elevation Profile - first half

RideWithGPS Route (showing services, controls, climbing)
NOTE: This route has some minor inaccuracies on the segments between Black Hawk and Idaho Springs (outbound and return), corrected below.
- - -
Black Hawk to Idaho Springs (outbound)
Idaho Springs to Black Hawk (return)

OpenRunner Route (official climb-measuring tool)

Cue Sheet (showing services, elevations)

If you are interested in riding,
1. carefully review the rules,
2. contact the route owner,
3. send a signed waiver.

If you'd like to coordinate with other riders,
you are welcome to use the Colorado Rando Google Group.

This route has not yet been ridden, so bear that in mind if you are interested in riding it.

Photo Controls

1/11 Niwot
1/11 - Niwot - Alternative photo is carvings near Niwot and 79th St.

2/10 - Lyons

2/10 - Lyons detail
2/10 Lyons - mural at visitors center

3/9 - Eldora

3/9 Eldora - town line sign (pointing west)
(This is an interesting sign, because it greets you if you've come back from the Hessie or Fourth of July Trails, or have hiked over the Continental Divide.)

4/8 - Echo Lake

4. Echo Lake - Echo Lake Lodge in background

5/7 - Brook Forest

5/7 Brook Forest Rd.

6. Woodland Park

6 - Woodland Park - Sign at Lions Park ok alternative.

Some Views En Route

Indian Peaks from Peak-to-Peak Highway

 Rampart Range with Evening Rainbow

8% Grade for 4 miles, into Deckers

Rampart Range - Morning

Descending to Buffalo Creek

South Platte River with Cathedral Rocks

- jle -

Monday, April 11, 2016



Paul Foley was gracious enough to lead the 122km Horsetooth Hop Populaire on April 3. Here is his report!

After a series of wintery storms to close out March, the April riding season started with a glorious bluebird day for twenty one riders on the Horsetooth Hop Popular.

The fresh snow on the mountains helped to highlight the deep blue sky, and enticed the group as we headed west through Loveland on 1st street.  Early on, the group road together, but slowly separated as we headed north toward Masonville.
Naturally the steep but short hills around Horsetooth Reservoir helped to separate the group.

During a short break to assist a fellow rider, John Mangin successfully completed a surprise, but completely voluntary, “Doping control” and was allowed to continue on his way without further detention.

As usual, Vern’s in LaPorte provided a wonder respite.  Although the crowd on non-cyclists was larger than usual, it was nice have a chance for a little regrouping before heading north to the cement plant and then turning east.

The trip east and then south towards Windsor saw the wind start to pick up, although it still remained rather mild.  We again took a short break in Windsor before climbing “Mount Windsor” and passing the “Crazy”Cow Dairy which, according to John Mangin, has the best cheese curds west of Wisconsin.
Although a few soft fluffy clouds could be seen in the late afternoon, the ride finished with the same glorious weather with which we started.  All in all, an outstanding day of riding to entice one for another exciting season ahead.

Friday, March 11, 2016

My Pretty Good PBP'15!

"Formidable!" a lady called out from her porch in a village outside Paris. It was close to 11pm. Rain-speckled roads glistened in the streetlights, with a dozen miles to the finish. It wasn't that I looked particularly formidable, but that, like all of us on the home stretch, we were being cheered on for undertaking this grand event.

You can make what you like out of the 6,000-rider Paris-Brest-Paris: a frenetic personal best, a scenic tour of the Ile de France and Brittany, an immersion into waves of randonneurs of many lands, chance encounters with friends, or the occasional moment of solitude with the landscape ...

My friend Tim Sullivan riding a country lane into Carhaix near the 500km mark.

My Story

I thought about what kind of story to tell this time, and how to arrange the photos. I see that most of the photos are of people, and for me an important part of PBP is the people. So I'm just going to go chronologically with occasional comments about the ride.

The Run-Up

As with any 1200k, you spend most of your time getting there, getting set up, and maybe fretting. There's this island of a few dozen hours when you're actually riding, and then you go home.

And that doesn't count the podcasts, panel discussions, and training we did in the winter and spring.

I stayed at the Novotel St. Quentin Golf National, as I've done before. It's about 3 miles from the event start, in much quieter surroundings than some of the lodging most popular with riders. You miss some interaction, but tranquility counts for something. And there are enough other riders there to stay connected. And, yes, there is a golf course.

Tree-lined avenues surround the Novotel.

Plus, you run into all sorts of people here ...

Jennifer Wise and Pierce Gafgen,
RUSA members #1 and #9
and organizers of Boston-Montreal-Boston

They give us a nice, big conference room for the bikes and bike containers.

Capacious conference room for bikes

A number of local friends from the Boulder/Denver area chose to stay here, too ...

Steve Le Goff - 1st PBP

Michelle Grainger - 1st PBP

Terri Gooch - 1st PBP
Brent Myers - 1st PBP
with invisible tandem partner Beth Long

... plus friends from far away I only see at 1200k's. 

Sunshine 1200 organizer
Dave Thompson (l.) from Florida/Quebec
with Canadian randonneur

Assembling your bike is just the start, of course. There are all sorts of other prep to do and things to think about, such as which jerseys you will wear ... and in which order!

RMCC, RUSA, and Last Chance 1200 jerseys

Then it's deciding what spares and extra parts to carry, from tires to screws.

Spare Keo cleats and hardware

Then there are the non-dynamo challenged such as myself. I have been pleased with the light output - even on the lowest setting - from my Cygolite on recent 1200k's and other long brevets. But on those I could always recharge during sleep breaks. For PBP I bought two extra lithium battery units, and carried one with me. This turned out to be more than enough.

Cygolite and extra battery

Now that all that's set, it's time to try out the bikes by finding the start venue (which has changed since last time), and into ground zero of rando activity near the hotels Campanile and Mercure.

Coach Michelle Grainger confers with her overachieving client,
Mark Thomas.

Rob Hawks, San Francisco RBA
and RUSA VP (at that point, now President).

North Texas RBA and Texas Rando Stampede organizer,
the inimitable Dan Driscoll,
with former Cascade 1200 organizer Mark Roerhig

Next day it's bike inspection and packet handout.
It has rained overnight, but only leftover sprinkles and damp roads on the way to the velodrome.

Also another chance to encounter more friends!

Last Chance 1200 veteran Henk Bouhuyzen,
after driving down overnight from the Netherlands

After inspection and getting a PBP water-bottle,
the trusty Green De Rosa waits outside,
while the packets are handed out inside the velodrome.

There was a long, snaky line inside the velodrome to pick up your packet and any attire you'd ordered. At this new venue, they were trying a new system. The wait was not a big deal, as riders after all were not losing sleep time or watching their control closing margins shrink. And you got to see riders of many lands, and hear their rando tales in many languages.

This is the only long line I experienced during the entire event.

Colorado High Country veteran
and former RUSA Treasurer
Tim Sullivan - Coronado CA

Colorado High Country veteran
Hamid Akbarian - Maryland

1200k and RAAM veteran and raconteuse
Kitty Goursolle - California

Boston-Montreal-Boston and PBP luminary
Melinda Lyon - Massachusetts

Former San Francisco RBA Todd Teachout

Longtime RUSA Webmaster Don Bennett - California
- proudly sporting his Adrian Hands Society jersey

Last Chance veteran Joel Lawrence - North Carolina

RUSA group photo on the lawn outside - nice that the sun has come out!

Back at the hotel for a nice group meal. 
The Novotel dishes are well prepared and tasty, with great service as would be de rigueur in France. 
An elegant dining experience to remember fondly during our ride.

Brent Myers, Ray Rupel, Pascal Ledru, Mark Roehrig, Steve Le Goff, Michelle Grainger,
Linda Roerhig, Terri Gooch, Mike Turek, Beth Long

The Departure!

Finally it's time to do the actual ride. 

I stop off at the MacDonald's - about a mile from the Novotel - en route to the event start, for last-minute sustenance.

Jim Bradbury and Terri Gooch also making a stop at the McDonalds.

It's a mild, partly cloudy early evening. I time my arrival to be around half an hour before my wave start time. After years of folks suggesting start waves, the ACP is trying assigned start waves this year. It is one of the most striking improvements in the event, a big contrast to waiting hours in the hot sun or the rain to get a favorable spot in the start crowd.

When they registered, riders could pick a start wave - each with several hundred riders - heading off in 15-minute gaps. If you were able to pre-register, you get an earlier crack at choosing a start wave. Folks who rode a 1000km or greater in 2014 get the earliest crack. I chose an early-evening time, 5:45pm.

I wondered how well this would work in practice. Well, it worked great!
They'd set up two, alternating, start-wave "corrals" (my term) outside the velodrome. One wave started while the next wave staged in the adjoining corral.

Several hundred may sound like a big number but it's nothing compared to the crush of a couple thousand riders. Here's my start wave - "H".

Start-wave corral set up for start-wave H.
(Signs for other waves lean against barricade.)

A few moments left, time to chat with whoever's next to you, such as this friendly Canadian gentleman.

Plenty of room for everyone to mill around.

So far the event is going just according to plan, 
at least jersey-wise!

The "H125" frame number on my helmet is chiefly for Maindru, to sort out the riders their photogs are photographing en route.

On The Ride

The wealth of pre-ride photos will now be balanced by the paucity of photos during the event, mainly because one tends to be busy riding. I do have more photos of the landscapes, villages, and citizen's roadside stands in prior reports. All those features were still there, to charm the rider.

The miles out into the countryside were low-key, with 2½ hours of daylight and mild temps. I passed a few of the ElliptiGO riders, manoeuvred around large rider bunches, were passed by zippy riders with later start-wave letters on their frames, chatted my friend Vicky Tyer riding her recumbent, and headed on into the night.

Mortagne-au-Perche - Revitaillement

Ninety miles into the route is the refreshment stop at Mortagne-au-Perche. I didn't used to stop there except to top of water bottles. But now think of it as strategic renutrifying. After all, you still have seven more hours to go until daylight, and perhaps 3½ hours to the first control.

Already busy there - it's about 11:30pm - but not yet crowded enough to cost time. I immediately see some friends, enjoying their spaghetti bolognese!

Luke Heller, Tim Sullivan, Jenny Oh Hatfield, Cap'n John Ende, Mike Dayton
at the Mortagne-au-Perche revitaillement stop

Still dark at the first control, Villaines-la-Juhel. First light coming into Fougères, at which point I'm feeling a bit wilted, things perking up by Tintéac, sunny but breezy.

Velomobiles (enclosed recumbent trikes) rocket past with a whoosh, and sometimes a wobble, on descents. I say hi as I pass them on the next hill.


Mid-afternoon, and it's the Loudéac control, where Claus Klaussen has a bagdrop site, bags grouped by country and source hotel. Since I'm not sleeping there, I just load fresh powdered drink from my drop bag and make a change of clothes (including jersey #2).

Bag Drop at Loudéac

Next to the big dining hall, Loudéac has a nice quick-eats venue (sandwiches, puddings, and the like), which I've had good luck with. Plenty of food, no lines.

After the stiff hills west of Loudeac, we joust with huge farming vehicles trundling down the highway to St. Nicholas de Pelem, and then through the small tree-covered lanes into Carhaix.

One can't help feeling a surge of energy and ease of riding, but I know it's just the easier terrain and tranquil countryside. I've been riding with Tim, who as a rule heads on to Brest. Although there's plenty of daylight left, I stop in Carhaix.


The good news is that the dining hall is not crowded, and the sleeping area is almost devoid of riders. The bad news is by halfway through the sleep break, many riders have poured in, and their snoring has taken on what seems like a competitive quality, each snorer trying to outdo his/her neighbor, each snore louder and more prolonged than the last.

These would have come in handy at Carhaix.

Heading off around 3:00am, it's chilly - upper 40's, perhaps, which is cooler than usual - but quiet and benign. As we ride up the winding L'Hyère valley, I'm wondering whether we'll run into fog over Roc Trevezel as in 2011. It was heavy, wet fog that really hurt visibility, especially at night.

Then ... patches of fog. They come and go along the serpentine route. Then we climb out of it for the ascent over Roc Trevezel. Great! Then the fog returns on the descent through Sizun - a stop for some warming espresso and pastry. More fog on the plains south of Brest. But all in all not as troublesome as four years ago.


Dawn - a perfect time to cross the scenic bay into Brest.

Terri Gooch on the non-motorist bridge into Brest at dawn.

It's a cheery, sunny morning for climbing back over Roc Trevezel.
It's coolish weather, but comfortable.

Approaching Roc Trevezel from the west

Back in Loudéac, our friend Laurie Stanton gives a warm greeting.

Laurie Stanton amongst the dropbags in Loudéac

After stopping in Tinténiac for a second sleep break - this time in a dorm room with only a couple of other riders and actual beds - it's on to the final day of riding.

Time to enjoy the charms of the route ...

Mr. Potato Head advertizes potatoes the year 'round.

... and the "vélos fleuris" greeting you in the villages.

un vélo fleuri

At Villaines-la-Juhel I stop for just a snack to save time: two pains au chocolat and a Coke. The volunteer serving them says cheerfully, "Why not three?" And I know she means it as good advice.

One of my favorite sections is east of Villaines-la-Juhel, on a ridge. Great views across the valley from atop the ridge, and you feel you're flying along.

Heading east from Villaines-la-Juhel

Predictably, the final miles into Mortagne au Perche are accompanied by drowsiness, something in the landscape or the crops. Then I meet up with Mike Sturgill from Phoenix, and it's a lively conversation on into the control. Mike has caught up with me from the 84-hour group, so he's doing just fine.

Mike Sturgill at Mortagne au Perche

We exchange photos, in front of the control venue, so different-looking from the refreshment stop towards midnight a couple days before.

Still on track jersey-wise: Last Chance on Day 3.

A plate of food, and then off into the forest east of Mortagne. 

This year they have a new approach to Dreux - avoiding the high-speed traffic of the past couple PBPs - through quiet villages and past a château.

At Dreux, I grab a sandwich jambon-beurre and a slice of camembert and head out, eating my way out of town and into the dusk. The ham sandwiches have become my new nutritional friend on this PBP, though others have touted them for years.

There are a couple of sprinkles, and some wet streets after dark winding through the village exurbs, making the final segment just that much more evocative.

As we think we must be getting close, an official waves us into a corridor, calling out "quatre kilometres!" and we are flying along on a park path devoid of motor traffic and traffic lights. In past years, 2011 especially, it was a toil taking many turns and making many stops at red lights. This year we breeze directly into the Velodrome grounds like géants de la route.

It caused me to reflect on how nice it is when the finish to a big event is serene or special, just those last few miles. 1200k's are all over the place in that respect - including the Colorado High Country - but this was a nice PBP finish.

The fared recumbents in repose.

Lots of finishers!

Blurrier-looking, perhaps, but pleased things have gone so well!

The jaunt back to the Novotel around midnight was mild and dry.
Steadier rain moved in for later riders, many of whom found it a refreshing wake-up!

Terri at breakfast and Beth just getting in - both happy finishers!

Now it's time to reminisce and critique in leisurely detail - which roadside stand had the best crêpes, or costumes, for example. Steve Le Goff has a unique perspective among us, as he's returning to his homeland to ride roads he traveled as a young person.

Mark Beaver, Tim Mason, Michelle, Terri, and Steve.

All in all, a pretty good PBP.

Riding into Carhaix

Congratulations to my fellow riders and hoping your PBP was rewarding.