Monday, April 30, 2012

 Being a second-year randonneur, a toddler, if you will, every ride is a learning experience for me.  I was honored to ride with the Tri-State Randonneur Fleche Team for the Ohio 2012 Fleche Ride.  Each of the other four members are seasoned randonneurs, so I was a little nervous at the start about how I would ride, especially toward the end, after we'd been on the road for many, many miles.

Makato re-seating his tire - 5 miles after the start.  Loveland, Ohio

 Article 1 of the Rules for the Fleches-USA from the Randonneurs USA website explain the basic idea of a fleche ride the best: "The Flèches-USA are 24-hour randonnées held in various regions of the United States during the spring. The traditional event date is Easter weekend, but it may be held from one week before Easter until seven weeks after. The Flèches-USA are administered by Randonneurs USA (RUSA) and its Regional Brevet Administrators (RBA). These rides are patterned after the Flèche Vélocio held by the Audax Club Parisien (ACP) in France".

 I wanted to do the Ohio Fleche Ride last year, but didn't think I could handle it.  Toshi, the organizer and inspiration for our team this year, suggested it is best to ride at least a 400k ride (which I did last year) to get the feeling of what a fleche ride is like.

For a fleche team to be successful, at least 3 team members need to reach the final control.  Our team started with 5 - Toshi and Tim (Ohio), Makato (Michigan), and Ken and Bill (Indiana).  Unfortunately, Makato's rear derailleur hanger broke only 6 miles from the start, and he had to abandon right away.  Our Tri-State team became a Bi-State team just like that.

Tim had trouble with his bike as well - the return spring on his front derailleur slipped off.  After looking at it for some time, we determined the small, cast aluminum tab that holds the spring had broken off.  We could think of no way to fix it, so Tim, being an Ancien, improvised by loosening the cable tension on the derailleur and moving it so his chain could run on the middle chainring.   These randonneurs are not going to let mechanical problems get in the way of doing a long ride.  Middle chainring or no, Tim is a serious biker who can hammer away for hours at a time into a headwind.  Which is what he did for us a good bit of the way.


Toshi organized our team, mapped the route, and vetted the cue sheet much the way a surgeon approaches a patient.  Very detailed and capable, Toshi led us through the day and night on smooth, scenic roads with low traffic.  Countless times during the day and night, Toshi surged ahead to take over the lead to give Tim a rest, as we battle the headwind virtually all 238 miles of the way.  I think we had a tailwind for the last 10 miles, but that was it.

Toshi, our fearless leader

Ken rode a recumbent.  He quit riding his upright bike a few years ago, and started randonnerring 3 years ago.  But he is no neophyte.  He completed an ACP Super Randonneur series last year and he completed Paris-Brest-Paris - the mother-of-them-all ride for randonneurs.


Grey Trek performed so well, I hate to jinx myself for the next ride.  Since last year, I've been particular about keeping my chain clean and lubed.  With rain forecast for the ride on Saturday, I put an additional dousing of lube on the chain just before we left.  I may have over-done it, though, because the chain slipped off the big chainring when I shifted up and slipped off the small chainring when I shifted down.  I had the limit screws adjusted to perfection before the ride, so the only thing different was the extra lube.  I don't know if that would cause that trouble or not.  I'll look at it tomorrow after work.

Grey Trek, Aberdeen, Ohio

We had two periods of rain - once here at Aberdeen, OH - a very light shower that lasted for maybe 5 minutes.  Further down the road, as we headed north toward Columbus, we had a thundershower that rained on us for another 5 minutes or so. 

Bridge to Kentucky at Aberdeen, OH

While the weather wasn't great - it wasn't all that bad.  Down along the Ohio River, Tim's bike thermometer recorded 63 degrees.
Riding along US 52, heading toward Portsmouth

A rare sight - Toshi at the back

Another control - Shawnee Grocery at Stout, OH
 We stopped at Bob Evans in Portsmouth, OH, for supper.  If you've never been to Bob's for supper, you'll not find too much heart-healthy food.  But it is good-tasting, and for a randonneur, if we can get calories that taste good, we'll go for them.  I had the two-piece chicken dinner with broccoli and baked potato.  I could only eat one piece of chicken (each piece was a breast and the back!).  That was the first baked potato I'd eaten in at least a year.
It all looks to to Toshi and Ken at Bob Evans in Portsmouth
 After supper, we headed north along the route of the Tour of the Scioto River Valley (TOSRV) for Columbus.  We caught the tail end of a thundershower, but for almost an hour after nightfall were treated to an awesome lightening display to the east.  Like I said earlier, each rando ride for me is a new experience.  Riding in the dark scares me but at the same time is really cool.  It's hard to describe, really.  But riding with these guys through the night was very enjoyable. 

Midnight - somewhere between Chillecothe and Circleville, OH

At our control in Circleville, Toshi mentioned his team last year slept for a few minutes in the laundromat across the road.  Everybody thought that sounded like a good idea, so we tried to get some shut-eye.  I slept for maybe 5 minutes.   
Tim found the folding table to be quite comfy

As we arrived at our next-to-last control, the Waffle House in Canal Winchester, we were greeted by a large throng of drunken young people and several police cars.  Normally, I wouldn't stop at a place with all of that activity, nor would my teammates.  But being hungry and tired, we rode our bikes right through the group, past the police officers, who were busy talking to two men.  It turns out the one younger guy punched the other guy's wife in the face, so the cavalier husband punched the instigator's girl friend in the face.  And they say chivalry is dead!

I ate a chicken sandwich, drank a cup of decaf coffee, and rested my eyes for a while.  At 5am sharp, we were back on the bikes.  We arrived at Bob (the Ohio Registered Brevet Administrator) and Patti's house around 6:30 am where we were greeted warmly and fed scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, and Patti's homemade bread.  Plus, we each got to take a shower.

Ken, Bill, Tim, Toski - Tri-State Randonneurs - 2012 Ohio Fleche Ride

There was one other team from Ohio - Tim, Tim, and Jon.  Yes, the names are correct.  They started their ride in Danville, IL, and rode across Indiana all the way to Columbus.  They went over 400k for their fleche.  Impressive, when you think about it.  But considering the weather they encountered - thunderstorms, downpours, snow showers, sleet, and east-northeast wind the entire way - this was a feat of Olympic proportion.  They had gotten to Bob and Patti's a little ahead of us, and they were whipped. 

My first fleche ride was quite an experience.  I had moments when I was quite miserable - my thighs burned a good bit of the way, and the constant wind in my ears put me in a foul mood.  But my teammates were riding in the same conditions, probably feeling bad like me.  But they never showed it, and each was very generous at sharing the lead, pulling me through the wind.  It was an honor for me to ride with Ken, Tim, and Toshi. 

One thing about randonneuring I've learned, almost from the start, is the pain of a long ride goes away quickly, but the good memories remain and solid friendships are born. 

Oh, and the endorphin rush is awesome!

Happy riding!


Pondero said...

Well done! and what a team! It appears you are a natural randonneur.

Steve A said...

Lube may be slippery, but I think even lube will not derail a chain. Perhaps something else got tweaked inadvertently. Speaking of which, we both need to do future chain catcher reviews. Just sayin'

RANTWICK said...

Holy cats! I knew randonneur was something else, but I didn't really appreciate how far.

You are hard core, baby. I couldn't dream of such a ride in my current condition. Better get on that!

greg said...

Great ride report. Makes me feel more excited for this year!

Chandra said...

Congrats on successfully completing another Rando ride!

I like your conclusion, "One thing about randonneuring I've learned, almost from the start, is the pain of a long ride goes away quickly, but the good memories remain and solid friendships are born. "

Paz :)

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rlove2bike said...

Excellent ride and write-up. You are really putting on the miles with the randonneur stuff. I had that little aluminum tab break off one of my bikes two years ago. It was a Shimano SORA front derailleur.

Thanks for the great post!