Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Grand Randonnée Round-Up for 2021!

It's only October and yet the snow has already been flying- so it's time to ponder and plan for next year!

This year's Grand Randonnée Round-Up for the US is easy to produce, because it's six of the eight Grand Randonnées scheduled for 2020. All of the six were cancelled, so they're coming back for a second try (including ours!). Of the other two, one actually took place in 2020, sans RUSA sanctioning, and the other isn't scheduled for 2021. I'm still flagging as  NEW  the ones whose inaugural edition will (hopefully) be in 2021.

The six US 1200k's scheduled for 2021:

July 12
July 14
August 1
September 16
Crater Lake  NEW September 17
Cracker SwampNovember 4

Foreign Grand Randonnées - The Randonneurs Mondiaux calendar for 2021 has not yet been published. After it is, I will update this space. Meanwhile, two Canadian Grand Randonnées are planned:

a BC Randonneurs 1200k (July 10)
the Manitoulin 1200k in Ontario (August 12)

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If you are riding a Grand Randonnée, 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.
Les Randonneurs Mondiaux has relaxed the requirement to complete a grand randonnée in each of four successive years. You can make up the year 2020 by riding an extra grand randonnée in a successive year.

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

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.

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."

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 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.

Crater Lake - Details to follow ...

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 2021.  So start imagining, planning, ... and training!


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