Sunday, April 11, 2010

Morrisville NC 200K / April 10, 2010

This is the ninth season that I've lined up for the Morrisville, NC 200K. As I was waiting for the start, I was struck by some changes I've witnessed in my years as a randonneur.

One obvious change is the growth in ridership. In 2002, 26 riders finished Al's 200K. This year, at least 50 names were on the sign-in sheet. I'm not sure whether all finished, but it makes for an impressive sight to see so many riders on the course -- several of them for the first time. (How many of the riders who were at the 2002 event also showed up this Saturday? Six.)

Al's 200K used to kick off the brevet season, and unless you did a fleche or Richard Lawrence's 200K in High Point, your Tar Heel brevet season was likely a mere four events long -- a 200K, a 300K, a 400K and the final 600K to the beach and back. Occasionally, a 1000K would be added to the mix to help riders seeking the treasured R-5000 medal, but that was it.

Today, the opening event in Al's series is just one more tour date in a busy North Carolina randonneuring schedule. Al's events remain the season opener for the majority of riders. But if you can stand cold-weather riding, RBA Tony Goodnight offers events in January, February and March. Tony took the reins of the High Point series when Richard retired and has considerably expanded the offerings. Al has also begun hosting an annual August event that ends at a Morrisville park, serving as an informal club picnic. And this year, I see he has also added an October event to the calender. The buffet just keeps getting bigger.

Back in 2002, there was no such thing as a permanent, and there was no R-12 award. Today, with a least a dozen Tar Heel riders working to keep their R-12 streaks intact, 200K "pick-up" rides are as common as toothpicks at a corncob eating contest. On any weekend where the brevet schedule is open, you're usually able to scare up company for the permanent of your choice, selected from the growing list of North Carolina routes.

Back in 2002, I probably rode an aluminum Raleigh that I owned at the time. Not a bad bike, but it was not built specifically for randonneuring like the machine I'm riding now. North Carolina is fortunate to have a framebuilder, Chuck Lathe, who makes Coho bikes with lots of rando details. On Saturday's ride, there were five Cohos, including one ridden by Chuck himself.

The brevets in North Carolina -- and in many other states as well -- have become regional affairs. It is fairly common for riders from surrounding states to show up at our events, and we have made many friends from South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Georgia and Ohio. Our riders also travel to other states to test their legs in new scenery. In my opinion, everybody benefits from the cross-pollination of clubs. Occasionally we go national. On Saturday, we had a guest rider from Seattle, Eric Vigoren, who serves on RUSA's board and is also the organization's treasurer. And there was something of an international flavor to Saturday's group, with riders among our ranks who developed their legs in Mexico, England or Belgium.

The influx of women riders is one of the best thing that has happened to our local scene. There was only one woman at the 2002 event. Saturday, I'd guess there were a dozen, with several from out-of-state and several locals who have become enthusiastic members of the R-12 club.

The informal post-ride get-together at Al's house after the 200Ks has become something of a tradition. Perhaps that happened back in 2002, but it was nothing on the scale of the latest gatherings. These days, roll into the finish when the weather is good and you're likely to find a dozen riders sprawling in lawn chairs, reliving the ride's highs and lows, eating tomato sandwiches and sampling a glass of Al's homebrew. Those social gatherings have become one of my favorite aspects of the rides. I remember the joy I felt in 2002 after finishing my first 200, my first 300, my first 400. I love being on hand when new riders roll into the finish and reach those same milestones.

Just like in 2002, Saturday's ride was another great day on the bikes. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone at the 300K. And the 400...


Doctor on a bike said...

Entering my 3rd season of randonneuring, I feel VERY fortunate to have such an active, supportive, and friendly group to ride with. My only regret is that I live too far away to participate in the last minute permanent rides that I see pop up on the Yahoo list.

Thanks to all for another great day in the saddle.

Jerry Phelps said...

What a great day for a ride! Congratulations to the first-time randonneurs and randonneuses. And what a treat to have another pair of "Hands" on the course and some "old hands" we haven't seen in a while.

Mike D said...

Well said, Jerry. A big delight was seeing Chris and Annette again. We've missed them.

Mike / Raleigh