Hi friends. I meant to write a post earlier this week, but my post-fleche fatigue and other duties kept me from doing so.
Speaking of the fleche, I wrote a little bit about some of its particulars previously. Last weekend, I ventured out with Team Table for Five for the 2012 iteration of the adventure.
Felkerino put together quite a nice ride report detailing our experience, but I also wanted to throw my two cents into the ring. (Mixed metaphor of badness, ha!)
The fleche is one of the strangest rides I think I’ll ever do. As a recreational runner and cyclist, I’m used to participating in events where you have a set distance to cover and a specific time limit within which to accomplish it.
In addition, the faster you complete the distance, the better your place in the pack of entrants, the sooner you can stop pedaling, and the more post-event napping you can get in before resuming regular life.
The fleche, like many of the events I just described, is also a predetermined overall distance, and must be completed in a time limit of 24 hours.
However, unlike other sporting events, there is no reward for finishing earlier than 24 hours except perhaps a disqualification for not following the rules.
That’s because the fleche is a 24-hour cycling odyssey. No more, no less. Yes, we make stops along the way but the point is to keep moving.
The longest a team can stop at any one place is two hours. So you can’t ride half of your fleche, sleep for five hours, and then ride the other half.
If you pedal your brains out and decide to cover extra miles, it doesn’t matter. You only get credit for covering 360KM.
If you go too fast, you start to have to worry about staying more than two hours at any one stop or finishing the ride too early, both of which can result in a ride disqualification.
The fleche is all about that 24-hour journey with your team.
Ah yes, the team. The team rides as a group. Generally, there’s no value in surging ahead of your teammates. You all must finish together in order to officially finish the ride. The point of the event is to cover your team’s full distance, in 24 hours, together.
The fleche encourages one to pedal earnestly, but not frenetically. It’s a ride where stopping to smell the roses (and eating something while you do it) is encouraged.
As I rode along this past weekend, there were times where I felt the need to push along. I wasn’t sure why. Sometimes I get that feeling around sunset. Must pedal. Time to start heading for home. Other times I was totally in the moment, just pedaling steadily, unhurriedly taking in the scenery, as though I could do it forever.
I read tweets and Facebook updates of others who were riding. This was the first time I had ever kept track of anyone this way. It was fun to see how people were doing, where teams happened to be at any given point of their ride, and the miles they had covered. It was weird to imagine that somehow nine fleche team were all going to converge at the finish in Arlington. At times people seemed pretty spread out.
Some teams started earlier than others. Some teams covered more miles than required. Some teams carried an overall faster pace than other groups. Routes varied in their terrain difficulty. Ultimately, the things that mattered for every team were to:
- keep pedaling;
- stay awake;
- keep eating;
- make it to the 22-hour control on time (that is, 22 hours after you started); and
- cover the required minimum distance in 24 hours.
Maybe if our team had pedaled faster we could have spent more time at our various stops. 7-11. Sheetz. Rutters. The Gettysburg Diner. International House of Pancakes. While our stops were not uninviting, none of them offered an ambience that made me think I needed to sit and stay too terribly long. That was a good thing because it made the road appealing, especially since the weather during our ride could not have been better.
The fleche is the one event in which I’ve participated that is not about getting there as soon as you can. It’s about passing the miles with your friends and enjoying some laughs and food along the way. It’s about seeing the other teams at the finish, eating a big breakfast, and making sure that, when all is said and done, you can say that you and your team rode for 24 hours and finished the journey together.