MG and I had not planned to ride the D.C. Randonneurs 200K brevet last Saturday from Urbana, Md., but our schedule opened up and we were glad to get the opportunity to ride! A total of 67 riders came out and we enjoyed a cool but sunny day riding over the big hills to the Antietam Battlefield and back. We did not ride the February club 200K, so this ride represented our first qualifier for Paris-Brest-Paris, and we were glad to get it behind us.
It was easy to feel excitement in the pre-dawn air at the start of the D.C. Randonneurs 200K brevet Saturday morning. The air was cold and the skies were clear as randonneurs arrived in droves at the humble Waffle House just off the interstate in Urbana, Md., to undertake the first spring event of the spring season.
The inaugural brevet is always a much-anticipated ride, made even more palpable by the fact that this is a Paris-Brest-Paris year. For those of us headed to the grand old randonnee, the ACP 200K qualifier is the first tangible step toward qualifying and adding getting on the PBP start list.
The scene was one of many familiar faces. I greeted Max Prola, who comes out in PBP years, Mike Martin, and Ron and Barb Anderson, from Hamilton, N.J.
Over at the check-in tables, Dave Berning, Charlie and Katrin, and Fred Robbins were getting everyone squared away. We’d find a few other folks we’ve gotten to know out on the road, including Dave Goodwin, John Fuoco, Linda McAdams and Bill Alcorn.
That’s one of the magical things about the brevets. You’d never get a group ride together like this by yourself. But here we all stood, cards at the ready, chains lubed and tires pumped, ready to climb mountains and swoop through valleys together.
A total of 67 riders joined esteemed RBA Bill Beck in the parking lot. After his gentle urgings that we buy something at the controls, and to call if we had any problems, off we went into dawn’s early light.
MG and I saw many of our rando buddies coming and going. They’d sweep past us on the uphills and we and fellow tandemers Chuck and Crista would swoop around them on the downhills, at least until we got tailed off the front group on a series of sawtooth rollers on the way to our first control in Union Bridge, Md.
We saw the group climbing the next hill for awhile, but each time they got a little farther away until they were gone. Joe Brown, Lane Giardina and Mike Ross rolled up to us and we arrived at Union Bridge just as the first group was pulling out.
MG and I went on alone to Thurmont, fighting a steady little northwest wind, our hands gradually warming as temperatures climbed into the 30s. The long six-mile climb up Rt. 77 is always a challenge and we did our best to stay focused. Gradually we were overtaken by some riders from behind, including Paul Donaldson, Maile, Ben, and Bennett — and our buddy Jeff Radan, who was patrolling the course on his motorcycle!
The descent to Smithsburg was thrilling and unnerving as always. We had some new, stiffer wheels built since the last time we descended and they were a marvel in helping us hold our line on the steep curves.
The next objective, the Earl’s Market control at mile 64, was a bit too far and we were fighting the bonk when we arrived. MG and I found it cold and breezy outside. We lit out after just 20 minutes after wolfing some snacks and drinks. The staff at Earl’s was as nice as could be and we were glad for their hospitality.
A turn south toward the KOA campground control took us out of the headwind and we warmed up rapidly, enough to change to lighter gloves and shed some headwear after buying a brownie and getting our KOA sticker on our control cards.
Our next objective was coffee and food three miles later at the Sheetz in Williamsport, and it was there that we took another long break of about 20 minutes. My espresso and chicken wrap, and MG’s latte, were the best we were going to get on this rural route and we enjoyed it as much as we could.
The group of Maile, Joel, Bennett, Alec Burney and Linda (and one other fellow) rolled past and we went off in chase of them, making contact just before the information control in the Antietam battlefield. We rolled into the Battleview Market with only 31 miles to go, but with two extended climbs and a bunch of rollers ahead.
We ran through the control fast and got back on the bike — today was all about movement. We wanted to finish with just an hour or so off the bike. Crista and Chuck caught up to us at the top of Trego Road, just as we made the turn toward Gapland.
A little extra effort kept us with them over Gapland, and we commenced trading turns over to Marlu Ridge. We got extremely lucky and caught a green light at the intersection of Mountville Road and U.S. 15 on the other side of the Ridge and we all just kept on going, the barn in sight.
The only thing stopping us was a mechanical, and so it happened. We turned onto Fingerboard Road and for no reason our timing chain rolled off. Our mechanic warned us the rings were getting worn, but I never knew what happened if they got too worn. We found out just four miles from the finish!
Luckily the chain was intact and after reinstalling we were off. Crista and Chuck nicely waited for us and we rolled in with a 9:55 overall time, with 1:14 off the bike. For us, it was a nice result on a hilly course.
There were many friendly faces at the Ledo’s Pizza, where the staff took good care of us with endless pizza, and we made sure to grab one of Bob Sheldon’s yummy brownies! Thanks Bob.
Our thanks go to Bill, his volunteers, and to our fellow riders for making the day so fun. We’re looking forward to many more fun miles with you all.