Thursday, June 18, 2009

Shenandoah 1200K: Attention climbers: this ride is for you!

(photo by Greg Courtney)

I was the sole RMCC representative on the Shenandoah 1200K. John Lee had given the organizer a heads up that I would be there so I received a warm welcome and answers to all my route questions.

The estimates are still rolling in on the total vertical is for this ride - somewhere between 48,000 and 55,000K. No matter - it was hilly, no doubts about that! Note that I do not consider myself a climber - I consider myself a generalist - someone who is, in general, ok on any terrain.

So, while I was initially terrified by the sheer amount of climbing involved, I was also delighted to discover that the area affords a wonderful location for a beautiful ride - one filled with trees – what a concept! (the antithesis of eastern Colorado). There is even shade to ride in now and then!

The ride starts in Leesburg, VA and heads north to Gettysburg, PA, some 68 miles for the first leg. There was a welcome mist to the heat.

Of course, it was the typical 1200K brevet Cat 1 start with everyone taking off as if it were a race, sprinting around corners right from the get-go - crazy! I managed to hang on.

We all quickly settled down and formed a small pack heading to the first check point.

A ghostly ride through Gettysburg...

(photo by Greg Courtney)

The climbs are steep and therefore the drops are steep. If fact, the drops are over way too soon! Mike Sturgill (of Arizona) and I commiserated that perhaps 80 percent of the time on the ride was spent climbing and 20% descending. Quite possible!

Much of the route is on narrow back roads with pastoral views and few cars.

What's that dark stuff? Whoa! SHADE! I am thinking I like this.

More scenery. The rain is building - again.

(Photo Greg Courtney)

Once we got on the Blue Ridge Parkway we were treated to some very fast riding followed by a very long climb up a grueling hill.

(Photo by Greg Courtney)

The view from the top.

There were some 92 degree moments and there was also rain.

(photo by Greg Courtney)

A low point in the ride was taking 6 hours to pedal a mere 80 miles. We finally pulled into a gas station to repair a suspect
tire and within a minute, it was pouring!

Here Henk Bouhuyzen sits out the rain.

Who are these people anyway?

Behind me is Justin Crawford,
the youngest randonneur on the ride and below is
Juan Salazar.
Both on their first 1200Ks.

Jim Solanick, a veteran of 20 1200Ks. It is true, he just dances up the hills... making it look easy.

Greg Courtney cruises along.

Mmm, maybe I should have done a little more than that one climb to Ward to prepare for this ride? Dang!

I prefer to ride at night when it is cooler and also find that the riding in the morning is beautiful.

Morning arrives.

One of the few markers for the route. (there were 4 total, I believe.) Not quite PBP!

They had the grill going at the Mt. Airy, NC control. All in all excellent support and this way you could eat lots of food while contemplating the steep climb first thing on the return. This did not make for easy digesting!

I did not complain however - these rides are really about the food, right? C'mon, admit it!

Passing ships in the night – Matt Settle, who unfortunately suffered from numerous bike mechanicals and persevered anyway, going the other way.

Jim Solanick, just after the climb from the Mt. Airy control. We saw deer this morning. (We also saw some nasty dogs that day, but I did not get any pictures of them.)

Greg Courtney enjoying the new morning sunshine.

Still, quite roads on the last day (there were a few busy roads too).

Foamhenge – for real.

A popular stop for the casual Randonneur.

(Photo by Juan Salazar)

Here I am on yet another climb - maybe number 1835? I lost count!

(photo by Greg Courtney)

A church near the final control.

I would like to thank Matt Settle and the Randonneurs Of the Mid-Atlantic (ROMA) for organizing the Shenandoah 1200K. Yes a stiff, but great ride! Their time and efforts are appreciated and enjoyed by many, including the happy finishers: Henk Bouhuyzen, Catherine Shenk, and Greg Courtney.

Thanks for reading!
Hope to see you on the road soon

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