Three days, three big rides – including a windblown 200K

The weather was well above freezing in the Mid-Atlantic this Presidents Day weekend, and Washington area randonneurs made the most of it, though the winds on Saturday tried mightily to hold them back.

We did not attend, but 33 of our fellow randonneurs pedaled into ferocious headwinds at the D.C. Randonneurs Tappahannock 200K in Ashland, Va. It was the first ACP club brevet of the year, and MG and I wanted to ride. But, the forecast was too daunting. RBA Bill Beck’s summary is below. A total of 30 riders managed official finishes despite afternoon headwinds that gusted to 46 m.p.h. and blew at sustained speeds of 36 m.p.h.

We heard three riders got blown off the road but everyone was OK. Everyone who rode gets a hearty dose of admiration from TDR.

MG and I saved ourselves for more sedate century rides on Sunday and Monday. We rode both days with Crista Borras and Chuck Wood and friends. Sunday’s ride was the sublime “Century of the Spiral Staircase” from Hyattstown, Md. to Shepherdstown, W.V., crossing back over the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry. The pedestrian bridge at Harpers Ferry is home to the staircase, where one has to haul their bike down to the C&O Canal path below. With a tandem, it’s a two-person job!

See my Sunday photos from the ride here and MG’s here. Yes, we posted separate sets, as usual.

See my Monday photos here and MG’s here.

Monday we put on our own forecast-blinders and went into southern Maryland to ride “Half Pone Point,” a mostly mellow ride from Bryantown with the occasional steep climb away from a creek crossing. The highlight was a nice lunch at The Front Porch restaurant in Leonardstown, in a restored mansion that had a bed-and-breakfast feel. Dark clouds rolled in, as predicted, and we shortcut the ride after lunch to get home before light drizzle and tumbling temperatures turned into expected freezing rain. We managed 78 miles — not bad, and we didn’t get soaked!

We like back-to-back century days early in the season to get some miles in our legs, and we were happy for the chance to get out in decent weather.

Here is Bill’s account of the brevet, with links to results and photos.

Wind can be one of the most difficult weather conditions to deal with on bike rides. Working like a dog to go 10 mph on flat ground can be demoralizing. And it almost feels personal when the wind throws a gust that knocks you backwards or to the side. So the 2011 Tappahannock 200K was a challenge! The National Weather Service in Richmond recorded average wind speeds of 18 mph, SUSTAINED wind speeds of 36 mph, and gusts of 46 mph. After the turnaround in Tappahannock at mile 70, riders were heading straight into these blasts except for a brief respite after mile 112. My average speed over the 25 miles from Tappahannock to Sparta was only about 12 mph (on almost level ground). And on many occasions I was reduced to less than 8 mph. Everyone that I talked to said that it was the most severe sustained headwinds that they had ever experienced on a ride.

But I think epic rides like the 2011 Tappahannock 200 are important for the individual randonneur and for the group. As individuals, we gain confidence that, although adverse conditions can slow us down and perhaps make us uncomfortable, we can still finish in time if we just gear down and keep moving. And we feel more connected as a group because we know that we all share whatever characteristic it is that makes people want to come out in such conditions and meet the challenge. 33 randonneurs came out on Saturday to ride through the winds and earn “hard-core” status, with 30 getting official finishes. My helmet is off to all of you!

Thanks to Paul Donaldson, who designed the very pretty route and organized the ride, and his wife Susan, who waited at the start for late arrivals.

Preliminary results are posted at, except for eight riders who joined DC Randonneurs or renewed their memberships at the start. (Those results will be added later.) My photos are posted at

The next events are the Dart on March 12 and the Urbana 200K on March 26. I just posted details for the Dart at so please check it out since the schedule is quite short this year, and route applications are due on February 28.


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