Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Les Lanternes Rouges Ride the Flèche!

by Corinne Warren, team captain

When the entirely neophyte team of flèche riders “Les Lanternes Rouges” left Canon City on the morning of May 2, the team was a little unsure of what to expect for the day. On paper, 237 miles over the course of 24 hours just didn't sound all that difficult to a team with an experienced 1200k rider and four Colorado Triple Crown finishers. And the almost 15,000 feet of climbing didn't feel all that daunting, either, when spread out over the course of the day. Boy, were they wrong.

Le départ from Canon City IHop. Thanks again for breakfast, David.

The first of four frustrating flats.
Within the first ten miles, thanks to the gravel-littered shoulders of  Highway 115, two riders incurred flats. Never worked that into the time equation! Luckily, John was always at hand with his excellent pump with the built in gauge. Fixing flats became his specialty of the day. 

Lunch at Suzanne & Ray's place.
The biggest mistake of the ride was probably the captain's focus on food and scenery. She wanted the flèche to be enticing to her team from up north, so planned (for a brevet) elaborate meal stops and took the course through the more scenic parts of Colorado Springs for aesthetic appeal. In hindsight, not the best idea, as those are time-eating strategies.

One of metal artist Starr Kempf's sculptures in the Cheyenne Canyon neighborhood.

A quick loop through Garden of the Gods was an interesting and scenic sidebar.
The team in front of Balanced Rock.

A rather lengthy lunch at the captain's mother's house and a stop at nearby Cafe Velo (home of the city's slowest barista) piled the hours on without the team realizing that the clock was ticking. Once they finally moved out of the Colorado Springs area, though, a nice tailwind helped push them to Castle Rock at a brisk pace and made up for a bit of lost time. Then another flat probably ate that time advantage.

On the road again!
 As the team reached Littleton, they realized they probably wouldn't make Golden for the planned dinner with the RMCC AntiGravity Epic Century riders. Good thing no one was trying to make a reservation! From Littleton to Golden, the ride moved primarily to the mostly-empty bike paths that line C-470; a stark contrast and welcome change from the busy city roads of the first half of the route. 

Dinner in Golden at Woody's was truly a respite and a refueling. By the time the team departed, most of the shops and restaurants downtown had closed, and the streets were starting to empty. The trek up to Boulder was quiet until hitting 93, but even then, there was not a lot of traffic on the road. Another flat slowed the group down at this point, though happily that was to be the last one. Pascal took the lead through his hometown of Boulder and as the team wended it's way through the hamlet, the captain started having mechanical issues, bringing the team to a halt more than once. The other issue was coffee; most wanted some before leaving the city, but only a few bars here and there were open – every other place was closed. Mike had the brilliant idea of stopping in at a Holiday Inn Express, one of the last businesses in town. The team was able to refill water bottles, get a cup of coffee, and grab a few minutes of rest in the lobby. Without that oasis, they may not have made it through the next leg.

Someone, somewhere in the middle of the night.
From Boulder to Lyons, the ride is a pleasant series of rollers; the temperature was cool but not cold, with a mostly-full moon casting a bit of light on the pavement. A very nice atmosphere for a group of very tired riders. The ride was now in the wee hours and the sleep stop was still a climb up Apple Valley, and many more miles away. In retrospect, this might not have been the best course to have taken, considering the time they hit Lyons. But the streets were empty, the night was beautiful, and it was magical being out on the road with no one around, which helped to power the team up the hill. From the information control at the end of the climb to the next control, the team sloughed through, working for the rest to come. Only problem: as they were more than a little behind the naps were limited to 15 minutes. But it is amazing how much a mere quarter of an hour can help when you are exhausted. Gulping down a quick cup of instant coffee, the team was off for the last leg of the journey.

 There is something inexplicably wonderful about the last few miles of a long and hard but enjoyable ride. Especially in the early morning light, as the sun slowly rises and warms the air. Fatigue takes a back seat and excitement takes over. Almost there . . . the bikes nearly pedal themselves.

By the time the team hit the park and ride, amnesia set in -  the pain and the chill and the deep fatigue disappear. Only happiness and hunger remain. And a deeper sense of camaraderie than before. Someone mentions next year – same route, same team? 

L'Equipe «Les Lanternes Rouges»

Corinne WARREN - Capitaine
Pascal LEDRU