Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Morrisville 600K / May 30-31 2009
There are a few regions -- Texas comes to mind -- that have a relatively high turnout of women randonneurs, but those are the exceptions. Male riders make up 85 percent of the 2,200 members in Randonneurs USA, our sport's governing body.
So it was our great delight on Saturday's 600K out of Morrisville NC to have a half-dozen exceptionally talented randonneuses among the field of 17.
At the risk of forgetting someone, let me name names: Lynn, JoAnn, Kim, Maile, Sara, Carol. JoAnn, Lynn and Sara are local. I believe Kim is from Va. Beach, while Carol and Maile were on loan from DC Randonneurs, our neighbors to the north that won the PBP trophy in 2007 for its percentage of women finishers.
The ride itself? After last weekend's hilly ROMA 600K, this felt like a pleasure cruise to the beach, which is of course what it was, since we rode to Wilmington, a coastal town that is within a stones-throw of the Atlantic.
We had very comfortable temperatures on Saturday and tailwinds until we neared the coast, when the salt breeze from the ocean kicked up slightly in our faces. Two very good ride reports by Chuck and Keith attest to the favorable conditions. In fact, in my seven rambles down this course, this was the best weather I've seen. Far better than the drenching tropical storm of two years ago or the 95 degree heat that has settled in on several rides. Helpful winds and a flat course made for a quick run to the halfway point, where Dan Gatti, one of the first randonneurs I ever met, was on hand to serve up pizzas and cold drinks to grateful cyclists.
I reached the turnaround with Carol at 5:20 -- or 11:20 total for 188 miles, including a stop to fix a flat and two meal breaks. Not bad. But Lynn, a gifted rider from North Raleigh, and Justin, a 20-year-old college student who races for Va. Tech, had been there a full hour. They would ride through the night and finish at 24:20, including four bonus miles.
Not far behind them was JoAnn, who is in fine form as she trains for an upcoming Alaskan event, and Maile, who struck out from White Lake on her own but finished with JoAnn. Chuck was another rider who rode straight through, as did Jerry. However, the big party was in White Lake, where seven or eight of us opted for a sleep stop. We regrouped in the morning for breakfast at the Scotchman. I suspect we were a sorry looking lot and loving every minute of it, giddy and punch drunk over heaping plates of eggs and grits and link sausage. Sara and Gary were there, looking sleepy but in otherwise good spirits after riding through the night to meet the time goals. They would finish in daylight, with Gary finally casting out the DNF demon of years past.
We left the Scotchman in waves of two and three for the final 110-mile push to the finish. My little group included Carol, Byron and Curt, but Curt would fall off the pace as we came through the Aversboro Battlefield and finish a few minutes behind us. Byron gets the hero award for taking us up the entire length of busy Sunset Lake Road. Carol gets a special thanks for the long pulls and consistent pace throughout the entire 380 miles, and a few encouraging words as I briefly went to pieces on the downward leg. We finished with a ride time average of 17.4, thanks in large part to her efforts.
At the finish at Al's house, we pulled chairs into the shade and waited for other riders to roll in. I saw Ed and Keith arrive. I had to leave before Sara and Gary made their triumphant entrance, or when our lanterne rouge Albert rolled in at 8:23. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe all of these riders have now completed their first SR series. Chapeau!
A highlight of the ride was the wind-down at the finish. Adrian, a 2003 ancien who is no longer able to ride, showed up with Gilbert, the owner of North Road Bicycles in Yanceyville. We had a fine time reliving the history of randonneuring in North Carolina, with Gilbert's funny stories about events that had more in common with races than brevets. Branson, who worked the weekend's course as a volunteer and photographer, was also on hand in his orange cycling cap, which is now recognized in a four-county region. Having ridden 1,000 hilly kilometers with him in the past three weeks, I can attest that he is fitter than a fiddler crab and ready to tackle the upcoming Shenandoah 1200K.
One ain't-humanity-great moment: Carol and I were riding along a dark, remote portion of Hwy 53 heading to White Lake when a car pulled up next to us and the window rolled down. I wondered if it would be a bottle or can that came flying out. Perish that cynical thought. It was just some folks who'd seen us heading down to Wilmington hours earlier and were curious. They wished us well and told us to be safe.
A gee whiz moment: Ed was riding along when his shoe split completely in half. I believe he tumbled to the pavement and got a few scrapes. Undeterred, he got a roll of duct tape and did a repair that got him across the finish line. It's the second ride in a month where I've seen duct tape save the day.
The 600K is such a monumental event. I still haven't caught my emotional breath. I'm in that crazy post-ride stew of exhilaration and exhaustion.
Thanks to all my riding buddies for another great two days on the bikes.