2008 Ride Reports

RUSA's 10th Anniversary Chualar 200k
August 16, 2008

The Santa Cruz Randonneurs ran its Chualar 200k brevet to celebrate RUSA's 10th Anniversary. It was a good day overall; we enjoyed greeting many familiar faces, and welcomed some new riders to their first brevet as well. Overall, there were 35 entrants, 29 starters, and zero DNFs, so it was a hardy group of riders. Most of the participants were from northern California, but three randonneurs and one randonneuse traveled hundreds of miles from southern California to join us. (Most of them were in search of their final kms to wrap up their Randonneur-5000 campaigns, so there were some very happy faces and "high-fives" to be seen at the finish line. Congratulations also go out to local randonneur Phil Magallanes who completed his R-12 series of rides.)

Another out-area rider joined us. Adi Gerbilch of Ohio used a business trip to experience a California brevet. Hopefully Adi enjoyed his day of cycling in our region. The Chualar 200k route is a large loop that takes in various roads to the south of Santa Cruz. It features a combination of coastal roads along the Monterey Bay, flat farmland in the Salinas Valley, and pastoral hills dotted with oaks. It also includes the taxing five-mile ascent up Old San Juan Grade in the afternoon sun, followed by a long tooth-rattling descent, and then the cruel 12% slopes of Carr/Anzar Road before Aromas. A series of sharp rollers make the final kilometers back to Santa Cruz hard too. Another challenge of the route, and worse than the hills (according to many riders) is the increasingly poor condition of the country roads that county officials seem to be neglecting in recent years; more than one finisher said he wished he had fatter tires to cushion the blows.

The day started overcast and cool at the Santa Cruz Lighthouse. The ocean was flat so the surfers didn't provide their usual pre-brevet entertainment.

Things gradually warmed up by midday, but no one overheated unduly during the brevet. (Not surprisingly, many riders from scorching inland areas said they enjoyed our temperate coastal weather.) Also kicking up around midday was a strong afternoon sea breeze which made the trip back to Santa Cruz pretty tough. Combined with tackling most of the route's 4700 feet of climbing on the return, the second 100k was definitely harder than the first. Still, the riders found various companions going their speed and worked together to cover the distance to earn their brevet. Virtually all arrived at the final control in twos and threes, and in good spirits. The first group arrived in a little more than eight hours, the last after about 12. No one seemed in a hurry to leave; much time was spent after the brevet socializing on the patio of SCR HQ, eating RUSA birthday cupcakes, and showing off the handsome RUSA 10th Anniversary medals given to the finishers by the club. No matter one's finishing time, there were plenty of smiles and expressions of pride to be seen.

Happily there were no reports of crashes, aggressive dogs, or untoward motorists. It was uneventful brevet overall, so the organizers were pleased. Also pleasing was how the veterans welcomed the neophytes into their pacelines and all of them finished the day with new cycling friends. We had only one real concern; where are the randonneuses? There were only two on this brevet, continuing a troubling trend we've noticed in recent seasons.

It was a good day of randonneuring, and a good way to wrap up the SCR's 2008 brevet season.

Greenfield Nocturne 300k
April 19, 2008

Most cyclists are accustomed to an early morning start for a long ride; daylight riding is maximized and if leaving a start/finish located in an urban area, they encounter quiet city streets while getting out of town to the better cycling on rural roads. Sometimes, though, other considerations will influence the event organizer's choice of starting time and route. Such was the case with this year's SCR Greenfield Nocturne 300-kilometer brevet. Located on a peninsula with the Pacific Ocean hard on one side and the Bay Area megalopolis on the other, all the best roads lie to the south of Santa Cruz for brevets longer than 200 kilometers. The problem, however, is that this invariably means fighting strong north winds to get back to the finish-so long as the normal morning start is utilized.

After years of hosting 300k and longer brevets known for a rough ride from the turnaround, this year the club took a new approach that guaranteed a lot more nighttime cycling compared to most 300k events. With a 2 PM departure, randonneurs were pushed swiftly southward to the turnaround in the bucolic Salinas valley. The experiment seemed to work; most riders reached Greenfield in the early evening, about the time the gales drop in velocity. So, after refueling for the second half of the ride with Mexican dinners, they set off to retrace their route, but now with the north wind steadily declining. Though the fastest riders found themselves departing Greenfield into a strong headwind, the bulk of the field in their wake encountered better riding conditions. In any case, everyone reported there to be only a gentle breeze by midnight. Cycling on quiet farm roads under a full moon made for pleasurable nocturnal cycling-but only if one came with enough layers of clothing to offset the unseasonably frigid temperatures. The ride was, alas, beset by temperatures 15-20 degrees colder than normal for this time of year. On the plus side, the afternoon cycling through 10 miles of urban streets through Santa Cruz and Aptos seemed to have been uneventful and no one reported any problems (though everyone said returning to Santa Cruz around dawn made the inbound trip more enjoyable than the outbound journey when the streets were busier.) More than one person noted that with a full night's sleep prior to the ride, "pulling an all-nighter" wasn't the problem it could have been with a dawn start.

At any rate, the ride went well and all the finishers arrived in good spirits early Sunday morning. The first of them arrived at 3:55 AM and the last at 7:45. Virtually all found another randonneur or two who traveled at a similar speed and the various groupings passed the night in good company. Happily, the sag drivers had little to do but patrol the route and give encouragement when they encountered randonneurs.

In all we had 21 entrants, 17 starters, and 16 finishers; most were on regular bicycles, but there were also three recumbent riders. One fellow decided dinner and drinks with his family in Marina would be more fun than cycling all night; he pulled out with only 50 miles done. Otherwise, the rest of the field was resolute and determined to finish. It was noted that the riders with wool jerseys, balaclavas, and gloves seemed to endure the cold temperatures better than the others with just lycra, but no one looked to be in danger of hyperthermia. Everyone's lights got a workout, but with the full moon illuminating the countryside, the night riding was sublime. One rider opted to stop for a short sleep break in Marina after midnight and three-fourths of the ride done; he then rode the final 50 miles after sun-up on Sunday. (Probably the only real concern was somewhat tangential to the ride itself: Where have the randonneuses gone? This is the first brevet we've hosted since 2000 without any female participants, and our 200k brevet last month had only one. Yet, in the past randonneuses frequently made up one-fifth to one-fourth of the entries at SCR events. We hope this is only a temporary aberration.)

A big shout of thanks goes out to our indefatigable sag drivers and event helper. Richard McCaw, Paul Vlasveld, and Spencer Frink are all members of San Jose's Almaden Cycle Touring Club; these experienced randonneurs are also members of the legendary ACTC 2007 PBP group of ten who finished with a 100% completion rate. They tirelessly drove the route in shifts from start to finish to be sure no one was stranded in the boonies. Virtually all the riders mentioned at the finish how the sag drivers did a great job looking after their fellow randonneurs. SCR stalwart Scott Brittle did a great job before the event too; Scott spent many hours developing the route sheet and other materials and this eased the burden upon the organizers a great deal. Many thanks, guys; you're the best.

All in all, the unusual start time was a success and we'll likely repeat the event next season to coincide with the full moon in April. Rather than avoiding night riding by using an early morning start, these hardy randonneurs embraced the challenge of extra night riding and participated in an unusual adventure that riders in most other 300k event miss. Judging by their positive post-ride comments, it was certainly better than riding 90 miles into a howling headwind, and the cycling on nearly deserted roads for half the ride made it even better. The Greenfield Nocturne wraps up our three spring events for this season, but we hope to get a big turnout in August for the RUSA 10th Anniversary 200k brevet-see you then!