Friday, May 1, 2009

Bernt, Bob, Jerry, and Lynn (l to r)

Team NC/DC Part Deux

Sometimes, success in an event just comes down to luck. While the NC Randonneurs fleche didn’t go so well for some teams because of bad weather, the DC Randonneurs event two weeks later was blessed with near perfect conditions.

Back in the fall, Lynn Kristianson asked me to be a part of Team NC/DC again. I was the only NC resident on the team, but there was another NC connection—she wanted to reprise Branson et. al.’s 2008 ride from Lynchburg to Arlington, VA.

Lynn is a terrific organizer and route planner. She and her tandem partner from last year, Bob Sheldon, would ride singles this year along with Bernt Kral, also a PBP ancien, and George Moore a relative newcomer to our sport. Throughout the winter, Lynn explored the roads we would travel, many of them being familiar to her from other DC randonneur events. I was confident the route would be beautiful, lightly traveled, and smooth and I wasn’t at all disappointed.

George Moore in the Texas Inn Diner

Our departure point was the Texas Inn Diner in Lynchburg at 0700 Friday, April 24th—the only team choosing a Friday start—but not before the newest member of the DC randonneurs (me) had to dash back to the hotel and use the business center to officially join the club so that I would be covered by their insurance and therefore, a legal participant. Whew, ain’t the internet wonderful?! The Friday start was essential so that Lynn could be home Sunday morning to host all the arriving teams. She and husband Gordon, provided the finish location and breakfast for everyone. (By the way, Lynn and Gordon tied the knot just a couple of months ago). The first 60 miles of the route were pretty challenging with about 5,500 feet of climbing. Actually the first mile was challenging enough after crossing the James River and climbing a 9% grade. I was beginning to wonder if bringing the single-speed was a wise choice, but Lynn assured me I would be fine – that’s Lynn for you – always providing encouragement and fine leadership.

This portion of the course paralleled the James and the train tracks on which I would return to Lynchburg the following evening. At times we would climb high above the river on tree covered roads and then speed downhill to rejoin its meandering path though a verdant valley. The trees and flowers were in full bloom—maybe a couple of weeks behind spring in the Piedmont. We stopped many times to take in the scenery, but the ever present and unrelenting clock was ticking in our heads.

Jerry, Donna, and Bob in Donna's Place, Scottsville, VA

The first controle in Scottsville at Donna’s Place for Lunch came precisely at Noon. We enjoyed good and plentiful food served by Donna herself, one of the happiest people I’ve ever met if her constant laughter was an indication of her mood. The next 15 mile leg was less hilly—75 ft of climb per mile vs. 90+ for the first leg. We controlled at a bike shop, appropriately enough, in Lake Monticello. The owner, Chris, was impressed with Lynn’s and Bernt’s folding bikes and the Brooks saddles that a few of our bikes sported and he warned of roads to avoid and where we would see traffic, but Lynn had that all scoped out ahead of time and we stuck to the planned route.

The newly repainted Langster--closing in on 20,000 miles.

We had the first of two flats when Lynn ran over some glass and punctured her front tire. This was shortly after our third controle in Louisa. A quick change and we rolling again to controle 4 at the Mine Run Deli near Verdiersville at mile 125. Another 25 miles took us to a lovely dinner stop at the Inn at Kelly’s Ford. We arrived as the sun was setting and enjoyed a variety of dishes including pecan crusted trout and a good syrah in fine French tradition. The patrons and restaurant staff were curious about our arrival and several questioned us about our departure and destination. Our answers were accompanied by the usual mix of disbelief and awe. Several of the staff came out to wish us well as we redonned our reflective clothing and turned on our lights. A few miles down the road we stopped at our controle in Bealeton at mile 156.

Dinner al fresco at the Inn at Kelly's Ford

Warrenton was our destination for controle 6. I think they grow pick-up trucks there. And then on to Haymarket, where the pick-up trucks carry the hay, for another Sheetz controle with about 50 miles to go. Bernt had a flat on this section, but again it was a pretty easy fix on a front wheel and he had lots of help from Bob and plenty of lights from everyone else. Again there were some surprised folks when a gang of 5 cyclists pulled in around 1 AM. They were even more surprised to hear we’d started that morning in Pittsburg—right Pittsburg—one of the fellows misunderstood what I said, but I didn’t bother to correct him (it makes the story better).

Controles 7 and 8 were at 7/11 stores—why don’t they change their name to 24/7 if they’re going to stay open all night? And here the route became very easy because we were on the W&OD trail—a rails to trails project in NOVA.

All night I had been waiting for a two-hour stop so I could take a nap. We hadn’t slept well Thursday night because of a rowdy bunch of baseball players staying on our floor and we were all beginning to pay for it. We weren’t behind schedule—we never felt pressed for time—but we didn’t have enough miles in the bank for a long stop. Finally at our 22-hour controle in Herndon, we were able to lie down for an hour. With another similarity to the 2008 NC/DC fleche, we slept in a post office.

Refreshed from our nap, we left Herndon for the final 19 miles along the trail and a few city streets in Arlington to Lynn’s house. A riding friend of Lynn’s was waiting alongside the trail for us a couple of miles from the finish shouting “Go Team NC/DC” as we rolled past—not exactly the cheering crowds at PBP, but a nice finish to a very uncomplicated ride—made so by the fantastic planning of a great Team Captain. Our route covered 233 miles (375 km) with a TOPO estimate of 15,266 feet of vertical. In the end, we won the (ignominious?) award for the “Oldest Flѐche Team” with an average age of 57.6 years which I alone brought down by 2+ years not having quite reached 50—just a couple of months more, and yes the AARP police are already after me.

Every member of the team performed very well. Newcomer George is well on his way to many successes in randonneuring. Bernt was strong all day, especially considering he’d ridden a fast double century the weekend before. And Lynn and Bob were always on or near the front keeping us on pace and leading the way. If Lynn ever asks you to be on her team—jump at the chance—I promise you’ll have a great experience.

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