Sunday, December 22, 2013

Grand Randonnée (1200k+) Roundup for 2014!

Are you aiming for your first "Grand Randonnée" next year, or one you haven't ridden yet, or maybe an old favorite?

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

Five US 1200k-or-longer events are scheduled for next year:

Cascade 1200 June 21
Colorado High Country  July 15
California Central Coast  August 7 - new!
Natchez Trace 1500k September 23 - new!
Taste of North Carolina October 9

North of the border, BC Randonneurs is organizing the third edition of their
VanIsle 1200 - July 14
There are many other (39!) Randonneurs Mondiaux-sanctioned events on four continents outside of North America.  Just one example:

Some awards for extra motivation:
American Randonneur Challenge - finish two US 1200k's in the same year
Coast-to-Coast -  finish four different US 1200k's - over any number of years
Can-Am Award - finish a US and a Canadian 1200k in the same year
A few details on each ride ...

Seattle International Randonneurs' Cascade 1200  has started in years past on the west flank of the Cascades, crossing to the undulating eastern plains where it is typically dry, sunny, and toasty, finishing up on the scenic North Cascade Highway.  The route is structured into suggested daily stages, with sleeping facilities included at the end of each stage, to encourage rider cohesiveness and a fun ride.

The Colorado High Country 1200 visits the northern Colorado Rockies and the Wyoming Snowy Range, reaching as far west as Steamboat Springs.  The route takes in quieter, in some cases less familiar, mountain roads.  There are some long climbs, and two crossings over 10,000 ft., but generally modest grades, typically of western roads.  Like the Cascade, there are recommended stages.  The overnight controls provide motel-room sleeping facilities.

The inaugural California Central Coast 1200 builds on the successful 1000km brevet held by the Santa Cruz Randonneurs in 2010.  Riders start off by crossing the Santa Cruz mountains to the Pacific, down the Central Coast through Big Sur and on to San Luis Obispo.  From SLO, there's a loop inland to reach 1000km, and a spur to reach 1200km.  Riders can take Amtrak back to the San Jose start.

The inaugural Natchez Trace 1500k takes in the historic Natchez Trace Parkway from Tennessee to Alabama and Mississippi and back, building on their successful 1000k version.  Overnights provide sleeping facilities in "group style" bunk cabins, for that extra rustic touch.  The organizers point out that you have 118 hours 40 minutes to finish the 1500km, 28:40 more than for a 1200k, so plenty of time to enjoy the extra distance.

The Taste of Carolina varies its route from year to year.  2012 offered a combo of mountains, Piedmont foothills, and a jaunt to the coast.  2013 was largely a coastal route.  2014 promises a route oriented to the scenic and evocative Blue Ridge Parkway.

 The BC Randonneurs' VanIsle 1200 is a wooded and maritime tour of Vancouver Island.  The middle segment of the ride ventures into the sparsely-populated northwest part of the island.  Organizers describe the VanIsle as a "low key" event, providing no lodging and one staffed control. Veterans of the first two VanIsle additions give it good marks as a pleasant, scenic ride!

Choosing and Riding a 1200k

While all 1200k's 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? - Every 1200k 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.

Stage-Oriented or Roll-Your-Own Ride Plan? - Stage-Oriented 1200k's are becoming more and more popular. They promote rider cohesiveness, and allow riders to regroup successive mornings.  They also allow the organizers to concentrate their lodging and food support at fewer points, making for upgraded lodging options and cost savings.

Roll-Your-Own events come in two flavors: many staffed controls with sleep options (some of which may be limited, but still a place to sleep), as Paris-Brest-Paris and the Rocky Mountain 1200 provide, or no event-provided lodging (VanIsle, Taste of Carolina), leaving you to make your own arrangements as suit you best. 

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. 

Whether you're choosing your 1200k, or planning for one you've chosen, pre-visualize how you'd ride it, and how the event structure supports that, 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 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 1200k 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!

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So, plenty to whet your appetite, and lots of possibilities to challenge you in 2014.  So start imagining, planning, oh, and training!


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