Monday, November 24, 2014

Evergreen Escapade Permanent # 865

     Vernon Smith and I had the pleasure of riding Andrea Koenig's Evergreen Escapade earlier this November before the snow started to fly.  In fact, two days after our ride the roads were covered in snow.  At the outset of our ride, I was simply hoping to finally finish an R-12 series after my third attempt.  Little did I know that we were to be the first to complete the Evergreen Escapade as a permanent ride, other than Andrea.
     This ride has great variety as it starts near downtown Denver, climbs to the Peak to Peak highway, passes through the gambling towns of Black Hawk and Central City, stops in Conifer, and finally returns to down town Denver via Evergreen and Golden.
     We had a nice warm up through the streets of the Highlands neighborhood of Denver and Wheat Ridge before starting the long climb up Golden Gate Canyon.  I was surprised with how this climb felt to be never-ending, with only some mild undulations for temporary relief.  Fortunately, we had great weather with favorable winds up the canyon.
     Passing through Central City, we had been warned about streets that banned cycling and worked hard to avoid these.  I even went so far as to seek directions from passers by on the street, but they were visitors from Canada and thus offered no assistance.  We avoided any citations from the local law enforcement despite the steep climbs through Central City.
     Moving on toward Evergreen involved generally rolling terrain, prior to some very steep climbs heading up to Conifer.  The road to Conifer was quiet but steep in many a section.
We were rewarded for all our work to this point with a long down hill back to Evergreen and down Bear Creek Canyon to Morrison.
     As the sun was setting, we returned through the Highlands neighborhood and finished with a celebratory dinner at Subway.
     In summary, the Evergreen Escapade is a challenging 200K with enough climbing to keep one honest, but rewards of great downhills and a central starting location.  Even before we had our bikes in the car, Vernon was questioning when we would be able to ride it again.  I guess we will have to wait for the snow to clear.
--Paul Foley

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Grand Randonnée Round-Up for 2015!

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

2014 in Retrospect - 2014 was a great year for US 1200k's and Grand Randonnées in general.  We had five 1200k+ events, two of them new: the Natchez Trace 1500k and the Central California Coast 1200k (both of which got great reviews!).

The Promise of 2011 - 2011 was the first Paris-Brest-Paris year in which Randonneurs Mondiaux would sanction events.  The response: five non-PBP 1200k's worldwide - all in the US - most of them new, including the Colorado High Country.

It's a different 1200k landscape for 2015.  Only two US 1200k events are scheduled:

Sunshine 1200k (Fla.)May 14 - new!
Taste of North Carolina October 8

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

Foreign non-PBP Grand Randonnées - Many folks, including myself, will be scouring the globe for new and interesting 1200k's.  There are events in Korea (third edition, I believe) and Belgium/France, for example.  As I find out more, stay tuned.  (The Randonneurs Mondiaux website should be posting a listing of events, but it is flagged by Web browsers as infected with malware, so a word to the wise.)

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 (5,000), start time options (3), and various sleep alternatives.

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?  (Some of my fellow US randonneurs I only see at PBP!)

I will be posting a series of tips - here is the first (what do to in 2014) - and we'll plan a PBP/1200k seminar in the spring.

If you are riding a 1200k, some awards for extra motivation:

Finish two US 1200k's in the same year - you can still do that in 2015!

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

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

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

The new Sunshine 1200 starts in Key West, making it the southernmost start of any US 1200k so far. It then heads up the Atlantic Coast, coming back through the center and ending up in Fort Myers Beach.  The event should be very well run, as organizer Dave Thompson has also been at the helm of the Granite Anvil; that and support from the central and southern Florida regions.  Food and lodging are included, and provisions for transport to Key West are offered.

For us it is an early 1200k, about the same time as the Texas Rando Stampede is held.  It is meant to be gentle, with comfortable temperature range and minimal climbing.  The "downside" of little climbing, of course, is that it can be rough on the derrière!

The Taste of North 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 was a Piedmont and mountain route.  We're not sure what event director Tony Goodnight has in store for 2015, but it's bound to be interesting.

Choosing and Riding a 1200k

My advice from 2014 ...

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!

An Alternative? - If you're looking for a major challenge but not dead set on a 1200k or longer distance, there are plenty of 1000k brevets out there, many of them scenic and challenging, with various levels of support.  And most 1000k's fit neatly within three days of riding.

- - - 
So, plenty to whet your appetite in 2015.  So start imagining, planning, ... and training!