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.

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