Moss Beach 200k
March 1, 2009
Randonneuring is all about testing oneself. The distances are long and many hours of pedaling are needed to earn a finisher's medal. Sometimes, though, there are certain brevets that gain notoriety for not only being long, but for the awful weather that punishes the riders. Unlike many other sports, in randonneuring our brevets go on rain or shine–it is not a sport for wimps or crybabies. Several past brevets are used as common reference points as being "the worst ever", such as some San Francisco Randonneurs early season brevets, or the 1998 Davis Bike Club's infamous 300k (in the snow!) and its 200k in early 1999 that featured torrential rain in addition to climbing Atlas Peak. And now, Santa Cruz can add one of its events to the list, the 2009 Moss Beach 200k brevet.
Simply put, the weather was horrible. The riders endured copious amounts of rain and adverse winds all day long. Riders with deep-dish aerodynamic rims lamented the affect of the crosswinds upon their wheels, while everyone was tired and battered from fighting the wind gusts and rain driven painfully into their faces and thighs. As veteran randonneur Jack Holmgren observed at the finish, "About the only thing we didn't get today was snow and hail."
The great part of the brevet was that the lousy weather caught no one by surprise and only the best riders showed up to do battle. Forty-two entrants were registered, but as the event drew near the dire weather forecasts caused many withdrawals. By the day of the ride we had but 23 starters–but they were a determined group and all of them came loaded for bear. To the organizers' great surprise we had virtually no one quit the ride–talk about determined riders! These hearty souls fought their way around the hilly course and earned their medals in the best tradition of our sport.
The only two riders to not complete the brevet were San Franciscans Brooks Allen and Brett Dewey. During the ride Brooks was stricken by food poisoning and his pace dropped until he and buddy Brett were outside the time limit. Only when the event clock stopped would they surrender and reluctantly climb into the sag-wagon, just five miles short of the finish line. They deserve kudos for persevering for so long, and for their strong bonds of friendship–they are great randonneurs. Other riders had tales of woe, particularly with punctures. The rain and wind washed all sorts of debris onto the roadway and many participants had multiple punctures. It wasn't uncommon to hear of two or three per rider, but the prize goes out to Phil Magallanes with a grand total of seven! But randonneuring isn't racing and several other riders loaned their comrade spare inner tubes. Phil never surrendered to frustration and finished successfully despite his many repair stops.
Seattle's Jack Kelly came the farthest to participate and it was a pleasure to see our old pal from the 1995 randonneuring season. We shared many adventures back then, both at the Davis brevets and PBP itself. This year Jack endured some gentle ribbing about bringing "his" Seattle weather south with him to Santa Cruz, but he showed new riders the ropes about how to cycle in adverse conditions and still keep a good sense of humor. It was nice to see Susan and Barley Forsman too; these speedy riders have relocated from Santa Rosa to our area and these PBP anciens did just fine in the storm. Along with Susan, the other randonneuse was Louise Comar of Paso Robles (and ride organizer Lois Springsteen, who did a workers' ride the day before with Bill Bryant.) We were also pleased to have randonneuring legend Kevin Main with us. Kevin has finished virtually all the 1200k grand randonnées around the world and his upbeat attitude brightened what was an otherwise gloomy ride for most folks. Speedster Jim Kern was also in his usual good humor, but being so fast, no one besides the control workers got to (briefly) enjoy his company.
Jim completed the course in 8h12m and the others finished in his wake at intervals well into the last hour of the event. Happily, sag driver Scott Brittle brought no one in during the day. He patrolled the route tirelessly, letting people know that if they got into serious trouble they would not be stranded. Moss Beach checkpoint workers Alfie Estrada and Lisa Lestishock also did yeoman work controlling the riders and getting hot beverages and sandwiches into them before the return to Santa Cruz. Everyone was full of praise for Scott, Alfie, and Lisa for their volunteering on such a lousy day. Along with the help they rendered in various ways, their cheerful attitude helped keep up the riders' morale–thanks guys!
All in all, we had 23 starters and 21 finishers, plus two finishers of the workers' ride. The brevet ended up being a memorable event for the challenging weather, but better, for the hearty riders who showed up to test themselves. That so many succeeded is testimony to their courage and athleticism.