Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Grand Randonnée Round-Up for 2016!

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

Walden, CO on the third day of Colorado High Country

Six US 1200k's are scheduled for next year:

Mountain Goat from Rocky Mountain 1200 in British Columbia

And here's a smattering of foreign Grand Randonnées.
Rocky Mountain 1200July 25Canada
Tour de TasmanieFeb 18Australia
Wild Atlantic Way 2100kJun 17Ireland
1001 Miglia Italiana 1600kJun 18Italy
Great Southern RandonnéeNov 14Australia

Randonneurs Mondiaux sanctions these (and our) grand randonnées, but their website's latest event calendar is for 2014.  So ... if you find a foreign event you especially like, please reply to this post!

A few details on the US events:

The Taste of Carolina varies its route from year to year.  2012 offered a combo of Blue Ridge mountains, Piedmont foothills, and a foray to the coast.  2013 was largely a coastal route.  2014 was a Piedmont and mountain route.  But this is the first year that organizer Tony Goodnight is offering both a spring and fall edition, making his only the second region to offer two 1200k's in a single year. (Guess which was the first!) Spring's looks like a gentle route with moderate climbing.  

Dan Driscoll and the Lone Star Randonneurs, together with help from the Hill Country and Houston Randonneurs, make you feel the Texas hospitality and high spirits on this ride. It has plenty of climbing, one roller at a time, and nice countryside, from the wide-open expanses at the start through the (hilly) Texas Hill Country and the woods of East Texas. Last time, most everyone rode together in a congenial "herd."

The Cascade has historically had a start and finish on the "moister" and picturesque west side of the Cascades, with the middle portion visiting the potentially torrid east side. The organizers are working on a new route this year, with a planned distance of 1283km, and motel accommodations. Very well executed by Seattle International Randonneurs.  My Report (2008)

The Colorado High Country 1200 is most likely still the world's highest 1200k, topping out above 10,000 ft. three times.  The climbs are prolonged but fairly gentle.  The scenery is expansive, varying from Continental Divide outcroppings and forests to high sage parks.  My Pre-Ride Report (2011) - intended as a rider's guideDay 1 - Day 2 - Day 3 - Day 4

The Cracker Swamp 1200k in Central Florida is a new event, organized by Paul Rozelle and the Central Florida region.


Finish two US 1200k's in the same year.

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

Above Steamboat Springs on the Colorado High Country 1200


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: those with 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; and those with 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. 

Pre-visualize how you'd ride it - the pace, the sleep breaks - 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.

- - - 
Plenty to whet your appetite.  So start imagining, planning, ... and training!


Monday, November 16, 2015

Riding the Stove Prairie Circumlocution 202k!

If you thought you might like a Perm version of the scenic but "hilly" Stove Prairie 200k brevet, here it is: the Stove Prairie Circumlocution 202km Permanent.

I tried it out on a a bright, sunny day in November, but with snow cover which riders on September's Stove Prairie brevet did not experience.

As always, click on any photo for a gallery of enlarged images!

After a 28º start at dawn, temperatures eventually budged enough to take off some layers for the climbs over Horsetooth Reservoir.

Horsetooth - especially the Centennial Road segments - 
contains some of the stiffest climbs on the route. 

After a stop for a burrito at Vern's in LaPorte, it's up Poudre Canyon, 
pretty quiet without the rafting but still plenty of folks hiking trails.

The sunny spots of the canyon were balmy, 
but at this season, there are plenty of shadowy sections,
retaining snow from the midweek snowfall last week,
with a touch or two of ice on the road 
although the plows did a good job.

One of those sunny spots is at the turn for the climb up Stove Prairie Road 
which riders tend to think about for some miles in advance.

After the initial, sustained 3-mile climb, there's a dip before the final mile to the summit. There you can see an ambitious ski fence.

The final mile opens onto a broad swath of prairie at 7,300 ft. 
Being the north face, there's the snow cover.

At Stove Prairie School, a Winter Festival is on the slate for December 5.

The fourteen-mile descent to Masonville include two or three
stiff climbs, this being the final one.

From there, it's through red rocks country on to Masonville.

Even the final segment, looking out at Long's and Meeker,
are infused with sun, joy, and expanse.

You may have to wait until late winter for doing this ride, 
but who knows?


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Thank You, Our 2015 Brevet Volunteers!

I'll make this simple: as randonneurs we prize our self-sufficiency, but what gratitude we owe at important moments to those who've given their effort with enthusiasm, and at times crucial support to our success.

Thank you so much, volunteers!

Paul Foley

Corinne Warren

Brent Myers and Beth Long

Tammie Nakamura

Michelle Grainger, Terri Gooch with Steve Le Goff

David and Caroline Hilligoss

Tim "Foon" Feldman

Ray Rupel

We are randonneurs like you and love the chance to pay back to our sport!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Riding the CoNeKa Confabulation Jr!

On October 18, Paul Foley and I inaugurated the new CoNeKa Confabulation Jr 130km Permanent Populaire. 

There is also a non-junior version which is 17
 miles longer, but we didn't want to over-exert ourselves. Here's the route:

Wray CO to St. Francis KS and back via Haigler NE
It is patently designed as a route that includes three states- and two time zones, as Paul points out - but it also turns out to be a pleasant, quiet route, and scenic in its own way. Both Paul and I lacked Nebraska for RUSA's American Explorer Award, - reason enough to drive 2½ to three hours to get to Wray, CO.

The day we rode started out at 37° and topped out at 82°, sunny with some high overcast, and breeze (of course!).

Wray is a pleasant town in a valley with a butte. It was a good start/end point. We headed down a quiet US-34, with good, smooth shoulders, and lots of greenery in terms of irrigated crops, trees, and ground cover. The area is also breeding grounds for the greater prairie chicken, which birders travel some distance to see.

Each county we passed through has its own numbering system - this sign, in Yuma County, outside Wray, is a combo of letters and a fraction.

The prospect of a good life during our eight-mile transit of Nebraska made us feel better already.

We turn south, climb out of the Republican River valley (North Fork), and are alerted by Nebraska to make sure our livestock branding is in order.

I'm wearing my Last Chance jersey because we'll be intersecting the Last Chance route.

Paul noticed that the Kansas sign was graced by a "Don't Mess With Texas" sticker. 

We're now climbing over a succession of ridges and plateaux. It's a strongly rolling stretch, open, and exposed to any breeze that may pop up.

Irrigated crops suddenly give way to prairie and dryland crops, and terrain punctuated by these deep fissures.

Descending to the valley where St. Francis is located - the south fork of the Republican River brings us back to lusher, greener pastures. 
We're now on US-36, and the Last Chance 1200k route.

Our St. Francis control and lunch stop is the same store riders use on the Last Chance. It offers a wide variety of food choices, included fried burritos and other fried items, and cheeseburgers, Paul's choice here.

Lots of signage going on as we re-enter Nebraska ...  and a curve in the road.

It's been lots of fun for such a relatively short ride!


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Return to Stove Prairie!

In early September, I rode the Stove Prairie Saunter 200k Permanent to check out the Stove Prairie road for our September 19 brevet.

The stretch from Masonville to Stove Prairie only reopened earlier this season, after flood damage closed it in several places in 2013. 

An early start on the Stove Prairie Saunter.

No fall color change yet on my ride, but you should see splotches of color on the brevet.

75th St. near Hygiene

The Stove Prairie School a welcome sight at the end of the climb.

Heading back down, I encounter a familiar face - it's John Mangin on his way to Pennock Pass (dirt) for a loop down Poudre Canyon.

Fresh from Paris-Brest-Paris, John is wearing his FFCT (Fédération Français de Cyclotourism) jersey and his helmet still sports his PBP frame number. "X" means he was in one of the 84-hour waves, starting around 5am on 9/17.

We got to pet a friendly donkey standing in a field next to where we were chatting.

The major flood damage was in the narrow canyon midway up Buckhorn Road. They have blasted rockface to create a wider road with bike lane on this 1.6-mile stretch. There are also massive culverts.

It's a distinctly different feeling from the intimate canyon stretch before the flood, but still beautiful.

On the Stove Prairie 200k in fall of 2004. This is still an open range road.
Even after the big descents, you surmount the final "12%" grade to get a good view of hills to the south.

And there's still more canyon scenery before reaching Masonville.

We're pleased to be able to offer this scenic and challenging brevet again, and hope you enjoy it!


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Two Dozen Super Randonneurs so far for 2015!

Now that our spring brevets are behind us, 25 local riders and one visitor have qualified for the ACP Super Randonneur award, for finishing 200k, 300k, 400k, and 600k brevets in the same year:

RUSA#Rider      RUSA#Rider
7409Albershardt, Andy9094Ledru, Pascal *
1557Brining, Doug *2145Long, Beth
5897Cramer, Cathy6026Lowe, Mark
153Ellis, John Lee1679Mangin, L. John
2434Flanigan, John2129Myers, Brent
1471Foley, Paul10610Nelson, David *
1167Gooch, Terri3112Rupel, Ray
5417Grainger, Michelle1842Smith, Vernon
7751Griffith, Scott8Springsteen, Lois **
9962Haugen, Timo *9878Stiasny, Eric *
9592Hulett, Jeffrey8564Stanton, Laurie
5418Le Goff, Steve10173Turek, Michael *
9603Fraser, Malcolm *7898Warren, Corinne

* First-time Super Randonneur    ** Visitor

Some riders completed their series with brevets elsewhere. Congratulations to our Super Randonneurs!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Snapshots from the St. Vrain - Lefthand Cyn. 400k!

The foggy patches at the start of the St. Vrain Canyon - Lefthand Canyon 400k were a tip of the hat to the continued moisture-laden weather we've been having.  But the day turned out pretty well, with only seasonal showerability, and some really nice segments for riders.

Here are some quick snapshots submitted by Mike Turek, and by Brent Myers and Beth Myers, who staffed a welcome support oasis in Masonville.

Thanks to Beth, Brent, Corinne Warren for her own support oasis on the Peak-to-Peak Highway, and to Terri Gooch for stepping in at the last minute to get everything together for the rider start!

And congratulations to all the finishers of this challenging brevet, including the newly-minted Super-Randonneurs, and those who've completed or almost completed their PBP qualification!


A foggy start after all the rain  - courtesy of Mike Turek

Mike Turek and Pascal Ledru - courtesy Mike

Mark Lowe at Masonville - Brent Myers photo

Paul Foley - Brent Myers photo

Terri Gooch w/ puppy - Brent Myers photo

Mike T and Pascal L - Brent Myers photo