DC Randonneurs Wilderness Campaign 200K: Summer in Spring?

The D.C. Randonneurs kicked off the spring ACP brevet season last Saturday, Mar. 17, with the new Wilderness Campaign 200K from Bristow, Va., just south of the Manassas area. This new route traveled south to the Civil War battlefields near Spotsylvania that, in 1864, saw Gen. Grant inflict what would be a slow but mortal blow to Gen. Lee’s ability to sustain the fight, even though there was no decisive victory won by either side.

Ready for the start of a new ACP brevet season.

A total of 38 riders started the ride and all but one got an official finish. Morning temperatures in the 50s would rise to about 80 under bright skies. The warmth caught out more than a few of us, who had to stop to peel off layers as the morning fog rose.

For the first time in years I rode a brevet without MG — shocking, I know! She was off running the marathon in D.C. this day; see her result here.

Way to go, MG! She got a lot of congratulations from friends and co-workers. I note that people seem to understand the marathon much more than randonneuring — 26 miles is a terrific accomplishment, but what we do is somehow unfathomable. Our biggest event, PBP, attracts 5,000 people, which is a fraction of the participation in a major marathon, so I suppose we are still a niche sport.

I last completed a brevet on a single bike in 2007, so this was a rare occasion for me. Being faced with the choice of a racy bike or one of my sport-touring setups, I took my trusty Ritchey Logic race bike. It was my first brevet bike back in the 90s, and I was pleased to find it a fast and comfortable ride after all these years.

Compared to today’s real race bikes, it’s something of a throwback, with steel tubing and fork, standard spoked wheels, triple crank, Brooks saddle and a quill stem. I had it repainted and modified to take fenders a few years ago and the bike remains my favorite, if not the most versatile.

Ride organizer Nick Bull sent us off at 7 a.m., just before sunrise, into a light fog. The terrain is very gentle in that area of Virginia, with mostly rolling hills and many flat stretches. The group stayed together for the first two hours at a pretty fast clip — the main pack averaged close to 19 m.p.h. over the initial 30 miles.

Through the morning fog.

There was some breakup into smaller groups from there to the first control at mile 48. This was a good development as cars backed up behind the big group during the early miles, afraid to pass on windy roads and visibility obscured by fog.

I had ideas of riding with the front riders but gave way to common sense and fell in with riding pals Alec B., Scott S. and with newcomer Rick R. from North Carolina. Eric P., who is gearing up to ride again on our fleche team, Table for Five, joined us at lunch in Spotsylvania. We rolled out together and the five of us rode as a group to the finish.

Alec at our first control at Locust Grove.

Some DCR courses, especially the longer ones, feature epic stretches across hilly ranges in the Catoctins and Shenandoah Valley area. This one was different. I could see how thousands of troops on foot and horseback could maneuver in this area, though from what I read, the forests were a major challenge.

Scott and Rick under bright sunshine at the Bloody Angle information control. Thankfully, none spilled today.

After lunch at the Court House Cafe, mile 68.8, we pushed to keep up our speed, but didn’t rush through our final stop at the country store in Bristerburg. The sun was unfiltered by clouds and the sun was toasty for a March day, which is a good problem to have.

Many blooming trees along the way.

One last stop in Bristerburg.

The finish back in Bristow was something of a outdoor picnic at the Caribou Coffee, where Nick kept to the DCR tradition of having pizza, soda and sweet treats waiting for returning riders. We lingered to take photos and share stories after a long, if not very cold, winter doing our own rides.

Hey, I’m having a great time on this brevet!

First time riders Barry and John R., among others, rolled in and got their deserved pats on the back for a successful maiden outing.

Many thanks to Nick and his volunteers for a fine event.

Club RBA Bill Beck’s report is below, with links to other photosets and blog posts.

We’ll be back on tandem at the DCR 200K brevet in Urbana, Md. on March 31. It was fun to ride solo, but I much prefer randonneuring on the big bike together. We hope to see you there!

Bill’s Report:

38 riders took advantage of the absolutely gorgeous weather yesterday to ride the new Wilderness Campaign 200K ACP Brevet. It appeared that everyone had a great time, and 37 riders earned an official finish. It was around 50F at 7AM when the riders rolled out of the parking lot, and rapidly rose to around 80F by mid afternoon, with clear blue skies.

Because of the warm weather we’ve had this spring, the route was much more colorful than would be expected in mid-March, with blooming pear and crab-apple trees, as well as lots of daffodils. A GPS track of the route is at http://connect.garmin.com/activity/159009125.

Thanks to Nick for organizing the ride on a route that he originally designed as a permanent route. Thanks also Tom Reeder, and new member George Flanigan for registering riders at the start, and to George Moore for registering riders at both the start and finish. And special congratulations to all of the riders who completed their first brevet!

Preliminary results are posted at http://www.dcrand.org/dcr/results.php?page=display-results&year=2012. My photos (and a few from Greg C) are posted at http://www.flickr.com/photos/wabeck/sets/72157629610433769/. (Please let me know any missing rider names in the captions and I’ll fill them in.)

I also posted two video compilations, one from the first part of the ride where most riders were still together (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L38hV75R4ds) and the other from my riding group (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRISw0CdLG4).

Other pictures have been posted by Ed Felker (http://www.flickr.com/photos/8193389@N06/sets/72157629607156217/with/6845206536/).

I’ve seen ride reports by Dave Ripton (http://www.ripton.net/blog/?p=71), and by new randonneurs John Roche (http://portajohn.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/dc-randonneurs-wilderness-campaign-200k/) and Steve Martin (http://martinsj2.wordpress.com/).

The next ride is the Urbana ACP 200K on March 31.

Bill

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