Surf City 600k
May 27-28, 2006
"Unseasonably cool and breezy conditions" said the laconic weather forecasts, and they weren't joking. Local temperatures barely reached 70 degrees, and snow dropped on the Sierra during the first day of the Memorial Day weekend-but the wind was the defining atmospheric characteristic as far as we were concerned. Starting Saturday morning, 5 randonneuses and 14 randonneurs were pushed southward during the first 135 miles from Santa Cruz to San Ardo. Under blue skies and on lovely central California roads, they enjoyed cycling at its finest during the first third of the event. All the hills along the route were still green from late winter rains and many riders commented on the sublime scenery. Gavin Krusor made the difficult decision to pull the plug at the Pinnacles (mile 87) due to saddle soreness, and the SCR sag crew picked him up. With two cars patrolling the route at any one time, the riders were well looked after.
Upon reaching the little village of San Ardo in the southern Salinas Valley, the 18 remaining riders "made the turn" and began cycling northward into a gale. Alas, no amount of help could lessen the wind's impact, except some divine intervention and that seemed in short supply. Rather than leave San Ardo independently at intervals as they had arrived, the riders wisely gathered into three groups of similar ability. They then took turns leading as they battled their way back to the Monterey Bay against the "Salinas Valley Zephyr." Afternoon turned into evening and the wind kept howling-but the riders worked well together and the distance was slowly covered. Lisa Antonino was forced to abandon the ride around Greenfield after her sciatica flared up. Eventually the winds subsided around 10 PM and the night riding was peaceful-the roads were empty and the night breeze fairly calm. (The lack of motorized hooligans frequently seen in some other rural areas on a Saturday night was appreciated by many of the randonneuring veterans-if the route was predictably windy, it was also free of the peculiar species of morons who feel a need to harass long-distance cyclists.)
The first group of four arrived in Santa Cruz just before 3 AM, and with the coming of dawn on Sunday most of the riders had two-thirds distance completed. Along with refueling at either the control at SCR HQ or at some 24-hour restaurant, almost everyone took a short sleep break at nearby motels or in their cars. Only Richard McCaw went without sleep (but later took a short roadside siesta.) He left Santa Cruz at 4:15 AM and had a 3-hour gap over the others, but by 9 AM everyone was back in the saddle moving northward to Moss Beach.
From Santa Cruz lay a lot of riding along our beautiful coastline, along with an excursion through the farmland and redwood forests that lie inland from the turn at Gazos Creek-but this also meant a trip up and over rugged Haskins Hill before reaching the control at La Honda. There, young Sebastian Maurer threw in the towel. His stomach had "gone south" around dawn and too many hours of struggle without adequate calories had left his legs empty of the energy he needed to continue. His father Joseph quit there too since they ride as a team. From La Honda the riders returned back to the coast via San Gregorio and the steep climb up Stage Road and resumed their battle against the wind. When they finally got to Moss Beach, many miles onward, they had every right to feel proud. Few cyclists have ever done what they had, and now with the wind behind them, the final 58 miles back to Santa Cruz felt like an easy downhill run. At times they were blown up the hills, a nice reward for the previous hours of toil. It was a good way to end the brevet. Richard McCaw arrived at 2:20 Sunday afternoon and the others arrived singly or in pairs at intervals. The "Three Musketeers" (Greg and Lisa Jones and pal Matthew O'Neill) closed the route at 10:15 that evening, well inside the 11:30 PM time cut-off.
For the experienced randonneurs, few, if any, personal best times were recorded on this brevet due to the wind, but demonstrations of group camaraderie and randonneur tenacity were plentiful. Sometimes a "personal best" isn't about time, but it's more about attitude, and in this area they were all champions. Just like when a strong headwind tested the riders' mettle all the way from Brest to Paris in 1991, or dangerously hot temperatures scorched the 2005 Gold Rush Randonnée riders during that event's first 24 hours, each of these 600k riders are clearly made of the Right Stuff. Throughout the event everyone was resolute and upbeat, and that says a lot about their character. For some it was the completion of their 2006 randonneuring season, but for others a summer 1200k event is looming on the horizon-let the record show that they are prepared and ready. For John Curd, Spencer Frink, Robin Harness, Lisa Jones, Matthew O'Neil, and Veronica Tunucci, this was their first ever successful 600k brevet-congratulations to these new members of the "Super Randonneur club"! Hearty congratulations to the veterans who finished too: Don Bennett, Chris Hanson, Tim Houck, Sue Jacobson, Greg Jones, Ken Knutson, Richard McCaw, Ken Shoemaker, and Michael Tigges. Great job, everyone! In all, 15 entrants completed the brevet.
Special thanks go out to sag drivers Mark Behning, Jack Holmgren, Lee Mitchell, and Roger Erickson. (To give an idea of their desire to support the event, Lee drove 854 miles, while Mark logged 730 with his pal Bibendum.) They enthusiastically patrolled the route to ensure no one was left behind on the roadside during the brevet and we REALLY appreciate their help. With all of them but Lee wanting to ride the brevets next year to qualify for Paris-Brest-Paris, hopefully some other gallant souls will step forward in 2007 to fill their shoes. (If you know someone who can help out, please contact the organizers next year.)
And so ends our 2006 SCR brevet season. Many thanks to each of the cyclists who participated in the rides, and to the exceptional volunteers who helped us out. Processed brevet cards and medals will be returned during summer after we get the homologations back from Paris, and our 2007 event dates will be up by the end of September. We're also planning a winter "how-to" randonneuring seminar to help new riders qualify for PBP successfully. We're looking forward to another season on randonneuring on California's central coast and hope you'll join us. Bonne Route!
San Ardo 400k
May 6, 2006
On the 200 and 300k brevets riders participate for various reasons, but with the 400k the true randonneurs and randonneuses show up. It was a stalwart group that gathered at the Santa Cruz lighthouse to do the SCR 400k on May 6. There were 23 entrants signed up, but with 2 DNS, 21 riders took the road. A good indication of the ambition and randonneuring skill among them, everyone finished this tough brevet. For a few riders this was their longest-ever ride but they fell in with experienced randonneurs and randonneuses and they learned a lot about how to cover the distances in better fashion than gutting it out alone. The route itself was a success too; there was fine scenery during the daylight hours and very quiet roads at night that meant enjoyable group riding.
It was not an easy ride, however. The first 134 miles to San Ardo went by pretty well despite having most of the climbing, but from there everyone faced unusually strong headwinds for the next 80+ miles. Once there, riders who arrived in San Ardo wisely waited for others to arrive before setting off. So, except for speedy Jim Kern blazing a fast trail alone on his recumbent, the other twenty riders banded into 3 groups of about a half-dozen riders and everyone worked together to cover the tough miles to the next control at Marina, on the shores of the Monterey Bay. What was great to see was the riders, some of them strangers before the brevet, all worked together so well. No one was left to their fate in the cruel winds and this was likely the key reason everyone finished. In randonneuring one must use their head as much as their legs, and the smart riders know strong headwinds can destroy the solo rider on such a long journey.
What with the long section of headwind, no one set a Personal Best for this distance, but riders seemed in high spirits about finishing a tough ride, and in such good company. Ken Gallardo took a motel stop upon reaching the Marina control around midnight and finished strongly the next morning about 9 AM, not all that far behind the rest of the "all-nighters". (Ken's sleep stop was a sensible use of time and riders on the upcoming 600k might want to consider a similar sleep break in Marina if they get there in the wee hours of Sunday feeling beat-up from the headwinds encountered when going north in the Salinas Valley.) For the groups ahead of Ken, there was some struggling to stay awake but with conversation (and a lot of caffeinated beverages) to keep eyelids open, everyone made it. With the headwinds abating after Marina, some of the larger groups seen in the Salinas Valley fractured and riders rode at their own pace during the final hours, but most everyone made it back into Santa Cruz between 2:40 and 8:15 AM. (The two exceptions were Jim Kern, who arrived slightly after midnight and Ken Gallardo.)
Alas, there was a terrible accident on the trip south to the Pinnacles on Highway 25 about 5 hours into the ride. It did not involve the riders directly, thank goodness, but after a speeding motorcyclist cut a turn and crossed the centerline at high speed, he plowed head-on into an on-coming car. About half the field was just behind the accident and had to witness its bloody aftermath. One of the riders, Dr. Sue Jacobson, an experienced ER physician, was there and helped administer CPR with other emergency workers. Sadly, the motorcyclist died at the scene despite their best efforts. Thus, it was a somber group of randonneurs who gathered at the Pinnacles checkpoint a few miles onward. But as they pedaled southward and more hours of cycling accumulated, spirits gradually lifted and everyone got back into the ride-but no doubt there were some melancholy thoughts during the night-riding that followed. Sometimes we talk about the "adventure of randonneuring" and wonder what the day (and night) will bring during a brevet. Sadly, sometimes it is not at all what the riders and event organizers envisioned.
Nonetheless, congratulations to all the riders for their determination and cycling skill. Sometimes notable sporting accomplishments are all about how fast one goes or how they defeated other contestants, but here excellent performances were turned in by everyone on the brevet because they helped each other reach the finish rather than leaving anyone behind. It was great stuff-real randonneuring camaraderie at its best. And Jim Kern deserves kudos for maintaining an unflagging drive to finish despite riding alone for so many hours. Also, special thanks go out to Charlie Jonas and Mark Behning for driving sag, and to Roger Erickson for manning the lonely Hazel Dell control on Saturday morning. Many thanks, gents!
Six teams turned out to ride the 2006 Flèche California, and considering the unusually long winter weather that has been plaguing the region this year, that is impressive. Alas, most teams had to endure strong winds, gray skies, and at times, hard rain during their 24 hours on the road. Several teams had to make detours due to flooding of normally dry roads, or found their overall pace substantially slower than they predicted. For the teams starting on Thursday and Friday, they got the least amount of rain, but the winds still made things tough. For the Saturday teams, those riding from south to north generally did okay, until the heavy showers arrived early Sunday morning. Team In the Fleche went the farthest north of the Bay Area teams on Saturday and they were pounded by the storms that lay to the north of Davis. Incredibly, all the teams leaving from the Bay Area and Davis finished successfully, if wind-blown, wet, and weary. The team from Redding, however, was surely the least lucky with the weather. In three years out of four, their route would have been the best; tailwinds would have normally blown them all the way to Davis. However, this year's perverse weather made their trip a prolonged journey into strong headwinds and rain. They threw in the towel at Maxwell, probably a sensible course of action. Still they get an "A for effort"-- as do all the other teams. Everyone was justifiably proud at the finish in Davis for having endured such a challenging ride in such nasty conditions. With such resolute riders taking up the challenge, this was randonneuring at its best. Hearty congratulations go out to everyone who entered.
DAMAGE CONTROL: David Burns, captain; Randy Roten, Steve Lausman, Mark Boles. (San Francisco-Jenner-Geyserville-Napa-Winters-Davis)
TEAM GIRLENE: Lois Springsteen, captain; Susan Gishi, Amy Rafferty, Tim Spann. (Davis-Oroville-Chico-Hamilton City-Dunnigan-Davis)
THE GRIZZLIES: Bruce Berg, captain; Dan Brekke, Rob Hawks, Veronica Tunucci, [Susan Jacobson, Michael Tigges on tandem]. (Hercules-Winters-Colusa-Sacramento-Davis)
THE CANADIAN WILDERNESS EXPEDITIONARY FORCE: Greg Jones, captain; Lisa Jones, Lynn Katano, Sandra Summers. (Redding-Red Bluff-Elk Creek-Maxwell-Woodland-Davis)
QUIVERING AEROS: Ken Knutson, captain; Mark Behning, Charlie Jonas, Ken Shoemaker. (Dublin-Mt. Hamilton-Stockton-Sacramento-Davis)
IN THE FLECHE: Tom Lawrence, captain; Richard McCaw, Chris Hanson, Willy Nevin, Paul Vlasveld. (San Jose-San Francisco-Santa Rosa-Napa-Winters-Davis)
April 1, 2006
Once again we dodged the weather bullet and the SCR 300k brevet was held under dry skies--and like the SCR 200k a few week before, it was sandwiched by strong rain storms the day before and after the event.
We had 37 entrants, but 8 DNS. 29 riders started the brevet and 28 finished successfully. (One fellow rode most of the distance but decided to avoid the 14-mile Prunedale leg and cut the day short.) Overall, we had 5 randonneuses among the 24 randonneurs. We were pleased to have so many out-of-region riders at our brevet. Quite a number traveled from southern California to join us, and AUK-member Patrick Wadsworth came all the way from England. In Silicon Valley for a business trip, Patrick decided to take in an American brevet and reported a good day on the bike even though we made him cycle on the wrong side of the road, eat odd foods, and use miles on the route sheet instead of kilometers. Patrick overcame these obstacles and rode strongly throughout and reported having a good day of randonneuring when he finished. Lisa Jones of Moorpark also deserves special mention since she endured a migraine during the first half of the ride--but she persevered and showed the rest of us a lot about tenacity.
Alas, we had two crashes during the brevet. The first was among the leading group as they approached Hollister on the outbound leg around noon. Encountering a route turn, some riders zigged while others zagged, and three riders ended up on the ground after a low-speed tumble. So, no real injuries to worry about, but Ravi Raju's rear wheel was wrecked. Luckily, the sag patrol was nearby and was soon on scene after one of the riders used her cell phone to alert us about the situation. With a quick trip into Hollister and a fast purchase of a new wheel, Ravi was driven back to the crash site and back on his bike less than an hour later. He finished strongly, once again demonstrating that determination, resourcefulness, (and a little luck and a credit card) can often keep a randonneur in the brevet even after a serious set-back. The main thing is to not give up mentally and try to find a way to untangle the problem and keep moving forward.
The other incident was more serious. Garry Elmitt of Solana Beach was about 25 miles from the finish, descending bumpy Hazel Dell in the dark with perhaps a little too much enthusiasm, and he crashed. Despite some serious damage to his ribs and back, he remounted and gamely finished the brevet despite his pain. Garry showed the true randonneuring "never say die" ethos and earned his medal.
We were aided by some special volunteers to put the ride on. David Gannon provided much-needed help during morning registration, and Mark Behning again patrolled the route all day and night in his Citroen ambulance--with an illuminated roof-top "Bibendum" at night to boot, a very effective way to let riders spot him in the dark. Many thanks, guys!
March 19, 2006
The Santa Cruz Randonneurs 200k Skyline brevet kicked off our 2006 series. After a grim winter of poor cycling weather, the skies began clearing just in time for a workers ride on Saturday, and the brevet was run under clear, if cool skies on Sunday. Twelve hours after the event ended, the region was pounded again by hard rain and high winds, so the weather gods must have been feeling generous. As it turns out, the fierce post-brevet storms caused landslides on Eureka Canyon, which is now closed indefinitely--we certainly dodged a fatal bullet that would have forced us to cancel the brevet had it been held a week later.
Overall, the brevet had 55 entrants but 11 DNS, so 44 riders started (including 3 on the worker's ride). Along the way, 4 riders become a DNF-- one from mechanical problems, the others after deciding to fight another day. A post-ride consensus of altimeters indicated about 8200 feet of climbing, most of it before half-distance, so this was certainly a hard ride for so early in the year. Still, everyone marveled at the views from the ridge, so hopefully all the climbing was worth the toil. Altogether, 34 randonneurs and 6 randonneuses finished before the clock ran out at 9 PM. Despite the route's challenges, most looked surprisingly good all things considered.
Perhaps Lois' cookie stop at Saratoga Gap contributed to their success, or maybe it was the strong tailwinds along the coast that blew the riders back to Santa Cruz once they got out of the mountains.
Special thanks go out to Susan Gishi for much-needed help with pre-ride assistance with rider materials, and to indefatigable Mark Behning for driving sag all day in his very cool 1960s Citroen DS ambulance. Early in the ride Mark rescued Mark Nutini on Summit road after his bike's derailleur hanger broke. Later in the day Mark got a chain tool to Willy Nevin in Davenport. Willy's chain failed only ten miles from the finish, but he made repairs and earned his brevet with plenty of time to spare. Lisa and Jason McPhate earned honors for powering their tandem around the course, while Ron Bobb did it on his recumbent. All in all, it was a good day of long distance cycling by good riders. Congratulations to all!