Thursday, January 24, 2019

Grand Randonnée Round-Up for 2019!

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

Only three US 1200k's are scheduled for 2019:

Carolina Spring May 9
Sunshine 1200k (Fla.)May 16
Hound Dog 1200 (Texas) September 28

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

Foreign non-PBP Grand Randonnées - The Randonneurs Mondiaux calendar (click "ici") lists 32 other grand randonnées ... of which 16 are in India and 9 in Australia. So, some far-flung alternatives.

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 (6,000), start time options (3), 15-minute start waves, and various sleep alternatives.  Of added importance is finding lodging, as the new start locale, Rambouillet, does not have the hotel capacity that the old start, St. Quentin-en-Yvelines, does.

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?

We're planning a PBP/Grand Randonnée seminar or get-together in the spring.

If you are riding a one of these events, some awards for extra motivation:

Finish two US 1200k's in the same year - you can still do that in 2019!

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

Finish a US 1200k, a populaire, a team event, 200k, 300k, 400k, 600k, and 1000k, and enough extra to add up to 5000 km in 24 months.

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

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

Carolina Spring varies its route from year to year, usually a combo of Blue Ridge, foothills, and coastal plains.  We're not sure what event director Tony Goodnight has in store for 2019, but it's bound to be interesting.

The Sunshine 1200 starts in Key West, making it the southernmost start of any US 1200k. It then heads up the Atlantic Coast, coming back through the center and ending up in Fort Myers Beach. (Riders typically take the ferry from Fort Myers Beach to Key West to get to the start.) The inaugural event in 2015 was well-run and supported, thanks to organizer Dave Thompson and support from the central and southern Florida regions.  Food and lodging are included, and provisions for transport to Key West are offered.

The Hound Dog 1200 is a new event, and an experiment in minimalism. The modest entry fee gets you a cue sheet.  The route consists of four loops from the same start/finish hotel in Greenville, TX, east of Dallas. There is no support either en route or at the start/finish hotel. The terrain is described as rolling, in a quiet area of Texas. So, logistically a very manageable event.

Choosing and Riding a Grand Randonnée

My traditional advice ...

While all grand randonnées 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? - Each of these events 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.

Your Ride Plan? - Some events provide a pretty definitive idea of where you should sleep. Others provide some accommodations at a number of controls. Still others leave you totally to your own devices.

» Stage-Oriented events have suggested riding segments per day, with overnight facilities provided at the ends of those segments. They have become more popular over the years. This scheme promotes rider cohesiveness, and allows riders to regroup on successive morning starts.  They also allow the organizers to concentrate their lodging and food support at fewer points, making for upgraded lodging options and cost savings.

» "Freestyle" events come in two flavors: many staffed controls with sleep options (some of which may be limited, but still a place to sleep), such as Paris-Brest-Paris and the Rocky Mountain 1200; or no event-provided lodging, leaving you to research ahead of time, and make your own arrangements, hopefully with a more economical entry fee.

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 the event you've chosen or are considering, and how the event structure supports 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 1200k 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 event 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 take you to new places in 2019.  So start imagining, planning, ... and training!


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