Friday, March 13, 2020

Grand Randonnée Round-Up for 2020!

It's March ("our snowiest month" in Colorado) and the snow is flying outside - so it's still time to ponder and plan!

A record-matching 8 US 1200k's are scheduled for 2020:

April 30
June 3
Lap of the Lake  NEW 
July 8
July 13
August 2
August 13
Crater Lake  NEW September 2
Cracker SwampNovember 5

Foreign Grand Randonnées - The Randonneurs Mondiaux calendar lists 87 (!) grand randonnées ... including: 
  • 2 in Canada (Ontario and British Columbia)
  • 11 in Australia (including the Great Southern Randonnée)
  • 18 in India (many of them early in the year, and already passed)
  • 5 in Japan
  • 1 in the UK (Land's End to John O'Groats)
  • 4 in Russia
  • 7 in Ukraine
  • 8 in the US, as shown above.
If you are riding a one of these events, some awards for extra motivation:

Finish two US grand randonnées in the same year.

Finish four different US grand randonnées - over any number of years

Finish a US grand randonnée, 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, another grand randonnée, a Super Randonnée 600, two Super-Randonneur series (with 1000k's), a Flèche, and other events within six years.

RM Challenge Lepertel  NEW 
A 1200 km or longer event in each of 4 consecutive calendar years.

And now some details on the US grand randonnées ...

Carolina Spring this year will take in the Carolina Piedmont and coastal plain, with some inlet crossings. Tony Goodnight varies the route from year to year. This year has elements like 2014's Carolina Spring.

The Northern Virginia Cloverleaf is four loops emanating from Leesburg, VA and covering VA, WV, PA, and MD. This is Hamid and Shab's first time organizing a 1200k and it promises to be a scenic tour of the Shenandoah Valley, Appalachian foothills, and Virginia coastal plain.

The Lap of the Lake 1200 is a circuit of Lake Ontario, and thus a portion in Ontario, Canada. It is based on the Lap of the Lake 1000k, which Pete Dusel has organized for years. "Please make your plans assuming this is a self supported ride."

The Colorado High Country is most likely still the world's highest grand randonnée, 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. This year all overnights are in Walden, CO, making logistics easier for most everyone. Day 2 is a loop through Wyoming's Snowy Range. Day 3 is a loop over Rabbit Ears Pass to Gore Pass and back via Willow Creek Pass.

New York - Montréal - New York is "a Long skinny loop, visiting six ranges of the Northeast Appalachians." It starts in the New York City suburbs and turns around near Montréal in Québec.

The Great Lakes Iron Porcupine 1200k tours "the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the far north of Wisconsin.  These are the lands of ancient mountains, the Marquette Iron Range and 'Copper Country.'" A combo of lush scenery and some history. This is a successor to the successful Mac 'n' Cheese 1200k in 2017.

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Crater Lake - "Details coming in June."

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The Cracker Swamp 1200km is a cloverleaf of four loops out of Tavares in Central Florida. Folks who rode the inaugural Cracker Swamp in 2016 liked the event: the simple logistics, great organization, and lots of quiet roads on this late-season 1200k.

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 variations on two themes: 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 based on your ride plan, likely 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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Plenty to whet your appetite and take you to new places in 2020.  So start imagining, planning, ... and training!


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