We’ve ridden the D.C. Randonneurs Flatbread 200K before and each time it’s a little different experience. Being on the mostly-flat Eastern Shore side of the Chesapeake Bay, the ride is highly influcenced by wind direction and the lack of hills. The easy terrain lets riders form groups that might split up in hills, which means we tend to ride with folks we might not see as much on other rides. See the full route and the rest of our GPS data here.
The event is also a good one for folks who want to try their hand at randonneuring for the first time. Think: Longer Seagull Century, without the thousands of riders, no pie, free post-ride pizza and soda. It’s a pretty sure bet that if one can ride the full 100-mile Seagull, you’ll complete this ride within the time limit of 13.5 hours.
MG and I have been out of the rando scene for a few weeks but got ourselves back in the saddle for this year’s on Saturday Nov. 10. We’ve had fun on this ride in the past and th 2012 edition would prove to be our best experience yet.
After a shockingly early 4:15 a.m. wakeup, we picked up Jeff Miller, a first-time brevet rider in our neighborhood, just before 5:30 a.m. Jeff is the president of the Alliance for Biking and Walking and has a ton of experience in cycling and cycling issues. He and I chatted away the miles, though when I looked over at MG, she was getting in a few final winks. Smart lady.
After a slight delay getting around an accident scene on I-295, we crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge as the sun rose and pulled in to quiet little Centreville, Md. with just 25 minutes to spare before the 7 a.m. start. Jeff ran over to sign in first, then MG and I arrived with barely two minutes to spare. We had pre-registered, which made things easy; sign the waiver, stuff control cards in our pockets, go!
All in all, we were in good shape. The sky was clear for the big group of 76 riders who left after organizer Chip Adams made a few comments.
Folks who know us quickly realized we were not on the same bike! It’s true. For the first time in ages, we decided to ride our singles instead of being on tandem. Why?!
Reason No. 1: We’re awaiting a replacement frame from Co-Motion because our beloved Speedster developed a problem (stay tuned for an upcoming post in which I’ll explain).
Reason No. 2: Our older 26″ wheel Cannondale tandem, A.K.A. The Lead Sled, is a good touring rig but somewhat uncomfortable for MG after 100 miles or so. On a long flat ride without much coasting, comfort is key and won out.
With a few bikes to choose from in the Dining Room Bike Shop, this was the perfect ride for us to each have our own wheels. MG chose her trusty Rivendell Romulus and I grabbed my 650B Rivendell Bleriot, two of our favorite brevet bikes.
The rush to get on the road left me a little disoriented. From bed to car to bike, it all happened in a blur without a decent breakfast or coffee. For the sake of our neighbors, I did not fire up the grinder or espresso maker before we left. This made me sad.
I was still trying to wake up during the first miles. We had already talked about starting easy and letting the main group go ahead and that was no problem. The early temperatures seemed to dip into the 30s as we got out into the countryside which also added to my motivational challenge. It also took me awhile to get used to riding a single bike in a group again.
We quickly fell in with a number of our BikeDC / Friday Coffee Club pals, including John Roche, Crystal and Adam, Chris Niebilski, and Mike Ross and Lisa Shiota on his Da Vinci tandem. This was Lisa’s first long tandem ride and we were very impressed.
We also spied past riding companions Steve Harding of Newark, Del. on his Rivendell A. Homer Simpson — err, A. Homer Hilsen — and Nigel Greene of Elkins Park, Pa. on his Raleigh fixed gear bike. I was also impressed with the Rawland Sogn piloted by Jameel, who was out with his dad for the day — more first timers!
Still, as the temperatures fell I wondered what I was doing out here. Chip Adams steamed by on his fixed-gear Cannondale and I drafted for a moment and said hello, but fell back as he shot up a low rise and my legs complained. At the information control I took a deep breath, unzipped the sleeves from my jacket and tried to get focused.
At mile 28 I saw bikes at the store on the right and pointed my wheel there. MG said she wanted to keep riding so we agreed to meet at Dolce Coffee in Milford, Del. at mile 49. I got a Coke, stuck it in my bottle cage, and some cheese crackers. I don’t know why they sounded good, but I ate the entire pack and felt better. The Coke also satisfied my caffeine and sugar needs — Breakfast of Champions, all that, ha!
Chris and I teamed up to ride through a headwind to Milford, where we found a little rando-party at Dolce. Think Villaines during PBP, just smaller. OK, a lot smaller, but just as welcome.
Ron and Barb Anderson were there, and Mike and Lisa pulled up soon after, adding to the festivities. Espresso and breakfast goodies got me revived for good and the loose group, now including Dave Judkins, moved on to the Slaughter Beach control under cloudy skies.
Much picture taking and conversation ensued as we tooled away on the shoulder of Delaware Rt. 36 to the control. A big group was there, getting their cards signed and then going over to the beach for photos. MG and I got Steve to take our picture. Thanks Steve!
We reached Milton at mile 68 and stopped for lunch. Subway was our cuisine of choice today. You know what you’re getting before you walk in and the service was fast and friendly. I ate half of a footlong turkey and put the rest in my Carradice saddlebag for later. The final control at mile 87 is just a gas station convenience store and I recalled being famished last time in the last segment. My plan was to eat a second lunch there to avoid the big bonk.
The easy roads kept on coming — Thirteen Curves, Prime Hook, Sand Hill and Deer Forest as we made our way to the 87-mile control in Bridgeville. There we saw John and Lynne on their new red Co-Motion Mocha tandem — just gorgeous. It made me want to get our new bike from Co-Motion even sooner! Congratulations to them on their new steed.
It looked like we’d get in before 5 p.m. with a steady effort, and the stop at the Super Soda Center (great name!) was relatively quick. Chris was worred about the steering on his Surly Long Haul Trucker and we checked the headset and front hub, but found nothing amiss. Out on the road I ate the second half of my Subway turkey sub and drank ice tea I put in one of my water bottles. Hmm, I’m going to do more of that. I downed a few cashews as well. Like pototo chips, they’re too much for me off the bike, but on a ride they taste so good.
Near Denton we came upon Nick Bull and Mike Wali fixing a flat on Mike’s fixed gear and they joined us — making a group of nine of us in all: MG, Dave, Chris, Barb and Ron, Mike, Nick, Steve and me. Nigel had stopped to get water around mile 106 and would come in by himself. I was sorry he wasn’t there to finish the ride with us.
Good Guys Pizza in Centreville appeared right at 4:30 p.m. and we were greeted by Chip and his volunteers, with the customary DCR free pizza and soda. Many thanks to Chip, Clint, their wives and the rest of the Severna Park Peloton group for hosting this ride. And, our best wishes to Bryan Nelson for a quick recovery from his recent crash. You looked in good spirits at the start Bryan!
The Flatbread 200K is for me an annual homecoming ride for DCR, a last chance to gather in fall’s glory and moderate temperatures before the holidays and colder days arrive. We were glad to be a part of it.