MG and I took a little breather from the brevet scene last year. We did not ride the longer events and focused on touring and informal rides.
Taking that step back, and additional duties for my job, led me to put TDR on the back burner.
Every good layoff deserves a comeback. So, hello, again.
This year we’ve laid out an ambitious program. Our big randonneur ride will be the D.C. Randonneurs 1000K this fall. We also plan to return to Colorado for two weeks of touring in July, and go back to the Hilly Billy Roubaix gravel race in Morgantown, W.Va.
The goal is to get in great shape for next year, when we want to go again to the Paris-Brest-Paris 1200K in France. I consider it “The Best American 1200K Not Held in America” because nearly 500 U.S. riders go and you get to see everybody at one ride.
With those big rides in mind, we need to get out there and do a complete Super Randonneur series this year. You hardy randonneurs know that means a 200K, 300K, 400K and 600K.
Bring on the sleep deprivation, I say. I love getting up in the middle of the night to ride my bike!
Ha ha, just kidding! (Or am I?)
We got our campaign underway on Saturday with the aptly-named Wilderness Campaign 200K, run by the D.C. Randonneurs from Bristow, Va. The route (see it here) winds south from the Manassas area west of D.C. to Spotsylvania.
Riders take in the forested Wilderness Battlefield where the North and South skirmished in May 1864 over a number of bloody days.
Our only game plan for this ride was to draft the stampede of fast folks until the hills and pace put us off the back, hopefully later than sooner.
We went with the speedy single bike riders for about 40 miles, until they pulled away after a series of steep rollers through Kelly’s Ford.
Riding the tandem in a group of singles was the usual challenge. Drafting works some of the time, though MG can’t see the gap to the bike ahead and keeps pedaling hard when the group slows down. (That’s a good problem, don’t get me wrong!) I have to keep in good contact with her about when to soft-pedal.
When we get on a real downhill, the tandem bolts forward like a rocket and if the road is clear, we end up out front. But then we slow and get swarmed on the next uphill. We have to ride like mad to stay with the group over the top.
As you might expect, this goes on for only so long before our legs start to fade.
Seeing the front guys pull away was not a bad thing. Riding on our own, I could take my hands off the brakes and we could spin along and have a nice chat and enjoy the sunny day.
Most everybody figured out how to get food from the 7-11 and the pizza place at the turnaround in Spotslyvania, mile 68, but we were famished and went to the homey Courthouse Cafe. Only two other riders, Kurt and Matt of Harrisonburg, Va. had the audacity to throw away time like us and came in. We had a good talk about rides and tandems as we ate omelettes.
The return route starts on narrow roads with traffic, which led to spirited riding to get to the quieter sections. The day warmed up fantastically, to the 60s, but also brought a little headwind and sidewinds that made the return slow going.
The profile trends upward, gradually, which made momentum hard to find at times.
We discussed this in a tandem team sort of way, with such phrases as “boy I am feeling it in my legs!” and “it sure is a nice day, no need to rush, right? SIGH.”
Our spirits lifted as we caught up to other riders at the remaining stops, especially when we encountered our pal Eric P., who missed us at the start and was convinced we slept in. Hey — that’s what we thought you did, Eric! Ha ha!
Eric shepherded us back through the spiky rollers back through Kelly’s Ford and to the final rest stop/control at the old-timey Elk Run Store, which provided this ride’s Star Wars Cantina moment.
That’s when everybody sits outside a store grinning (or grimacing) and generally kicking back for a few minutes. We stuffed the last of our cold weather gear in the Carradice saddle bag, with the overflow longflap extended, and headed back with our luggage to Bristow.
We hoped for a finish before 5 p.m. (sub 10-hours) and pedaled along steadily but without much pop in the legs, wondering why we were so dang slow.
Plus, I had a case of ABB. (For the uninitiated, that’s short for Achy Breaky Butt).
We finished at 4:47 p.m., almost exactly the same time as last year.
So, it must be the course, and maybe the fact that we don’t have a lot of miles in our legs yet in March and maybe started too fast. I lay most of the blame on the course. Verdict: not really all that tandem friendly.
The club’s volunteer organizer for the ride, Hamid A., had the usual DCR pizza, pop and treats waiting for us at the finish, which made everything real good.
Catching up with fellow riders topped off a good day on the bike. Big congrats to the other tandem team today, Cindy P. and John M., and we enjoyed seeing once and future DCR rider Russ M., back from South Korea for a few months before heading off to his new home in Reno.
Next stop on the brevet train: either the second DCR 200K later this month, or the 300K next month. If we can’t get to the 200K we’ll do something on our own of similar distance to substitute.