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Thread: Fleche

  1. #1
    34x25 FTW! oboeguy's Avatar
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    Fleche

    Anybody ever ride one of these? The NJ Randonneurs are running one for Easter weekend. At least one of my regular riding buddies is very interested, heck, more than I am, I think. Being the route-guy in our little group, I'd have to get going pretty soon in order to get a route sheet together in time for the RBA's cut-off date of early February or something like that. I guess part of the trick would be to develop an easy enough route, as I usually plan pretty hilly stuff.

    Another concern would be that among my riding buddies, none of us has ever done a distance longer than 262km (my personal best), though we've done a few centuries and short brevets together this last year. Apparently for a Fleche it is strongly encouraged to have a more experienced rider on the team.

    Any thoughts or advice?
    Quote Originally Posted by Blue Order
    Quote Originally Posted by sknhgy
    I do not want to be associated with the kind of riders that come through my neck of the woods on weekends, dressed in superhero costumes
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    Having the fastest rider with the patience and discipline to ride slower to stay with the other members of the team is probably a good starting point.

    Fleches aren't that difficult, and doing 360km in 24 hours is achievable by most riders who have done at least a 200.

    I think the two keys are for the team members to be tolerant of each other's weaknesses, and to try to ride through the night until you get to a point where you have time and distance in the bank, and so you can nap a couple of hours, then ride the remaining required distance in the last hour without any qualms.

    An easier course is probably desirable if you have inexperienced riders on board... but does that mean having fewer hills? Maybe not.

    The Fleche Opperman I did two years ago was a blast, although we had a little bit of support along the way which helped. We finished with around 383km for the 24 hours, and that included a two-hour naptime break during the early morning darkness.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  3. #3
    34x25 FTW! oboeguy's Avatar
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    Wow thanks for the reply. I instantly feel better about it, as my two primary brevet buddies and I are very accustomed to staying together. We made a point of crossing the finish line together every time, in fact. From commuting on and off for many years I'm quite used to riding at night, but my pals have next to zero experience with it, though, so that may be a concern.
    Quote Originally Posted by Blue Order
    Quote Originally Posted by sknhgy
    I do not want to be associated with the kind of riders that come through my neck of the woods on weekends, dressed in superhero costumes
    Do they wear capes?
    ---

    http://www.cycopaths.net/

  4. #4
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    I rode my first fleche in 2004 with the BC Randonneurs. The Manitoba Randonneurs, my regular club, was not holding a fleche and I needed it to get my Randonneur 5000 award. I emailed the BC Randonneurs and was invited onto a few teams. I selected one which I thought was probably closest to my riding style ... and headed out without any clear idea of what it was all about.

    It was GREAT!! That fleche was one of the best randonneuring events I have ever done!! My team and I covered 404 kms in 24 hours at a fairly relaxed pace. We started as a team of 4, but lost one after about 100 kms. It rained almost all the way through, and one of our team members flatted a whole bunch of times ... but we all just laughed about it and kept going. And then the after fleche banquet, where all the teams got together and told stories about our rides, was hilarious!! A good time was had by all!!

    I would also recommend a somewhat easier route, especially if you have inexperienced riders. And if your fellow riders have not ridden at night, I'd recommend taking them out for a night run or two at some point before Easter so you can get a little experience, test your lights, and so on.

    And remember ... have fun with it!!

    My team herded cattle in the middle of the afternoon, participated in a cycling race being held on our route, and were cheered on by a group of boy scouts on bicycles singing "We are the Champions"!! Can't guarantee all that will happen to you too ... but you never know.

  5. #5
    Senior Member The Octopus's Avatar
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    I'll do my first one this spring and I can't wait! I've had to endure tales of past glory from all the local fleche anciens (and anciennes) with envy.

    I recall hearing that the route and distance rules are a bit arcane -- something along the lines of, you only get credit for the shortest distance between controles, not for the distance of the route you actually take between controles. Can someone confirm or deny? If that's accurate, that means your route, to be a "good one" -- i.e., efficient -- will run in a fairly straight line (or be an out-and-back) and will have more controles than you're used to in a brevet. In my neck of the woods, it also means a lot of good back roads are effectively off limits, as the rules reward taking state and US highways that tend not to meander from point to point (like us cyclists like to do!).

    Anyway, I'll second the recommendation that your team acquire (if its not already in the bank) some night riding experience. And some experience riding in crappy weather. (Is rain a requirement on a fleche? Seems that every fleche story I've ever heard involved at least one good soaking.) That'll increase the odds of finishing and finishing while still having fun.

  6. #6
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Octopus
    I recall hearing that the route and distance rules are a bit arcane -- something along the lines of, you only get credit for the shortest distance between controles, not for the distance of the route you actually take between controles. Can someone confirm or deny? If that's accurate, that means your route, to be a "good one" -- i.e., efficient -- will run in a fairly straight line (or be an out-and-back) and will have more controles than you're used to in a brevet. In my neck of the woods, it also means a lot of good back roads are effectively off limits, as the rules reward taking state and US highways that tend not to meander from point to point (like us cyclists like to do!).

    You only get credit for the shortest distance (on paved roads, not as the crow flies) between controls on ALL brevets! I've designed routes, and that is one of the qualifications. You cannot have "shortcuts" available to the riders, and if there is a possible shortcut, you've got to have a stratigically placed control to prevent any possibility of using the shortcut. Yes, it makes planning a bit more difficult and time consuming, but it is do-able.

    The RUSA brevet rules:
    http://www.rusa.org/orgreg.html

  7. #7
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    oboeguy, here's a link to the BC Randonneur's Fleche page. http://www.randonneurs.bc.ca/fleche/fleche.html

    It might give you some idea what to expect in terms of rules and the ride itself (complete with photos and everything!).


    These are the RUSA Rules:
    http://www.rusa.org/flecherules.html

    And these are the ACP Rules:
    http://perso.orange.fr/audax-club-pa...ocio_regle.htm

  8. #8
    Senior Member The Octopus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    You only get credit for the shortest distance (on paved roads, not as the crow flies) between controls on ALL brevets! I've designed routes, and that is one of the qualifications. You cannot have "shortcuts" available to the riders, and if there is a possible shortcut, you've got to have a stratigically placed control to prevent any possibility of using the shortcut. Yes, it makes planning a bit more difficult and time consuming, but it is do-able.
    This is the RUSA fleche rule that I was thinking of: "Distance traveled is calculated on the basis of the shortest route between checkpoints that can be legally traveled by bicycle. Maps or mapping software with accurate mileages will be used to determine distances." See http://www.rusa.org/flecherules.html at Art. 8.

    The corresponding brevet rule is: "Additional checkpoints should be located at each end of the brevet route, as well as, at any point along the route where a shortcut might be taken." (emphasis in the original).

    I'm not sure if a difference is intended, but these does seem to be one as the rules are written and, at least around here, there's a difference in practice, too. The fleche rule is manadatory -- "is calculated" -- and specifies the method of calculating official mileage. The brevet rule is permissive -- "should" -- and includes no such method for distance calculation.

    Around here, there are so many good roads that it'd be nearly impossible to comply with the fleche standard on a brevet without either using major roads that no one wants to ride or without having a silly number of controles. For example, between Grove City and Chillicothe, you have your pick of either SR 104 or US 23, both of which go from point-to-point on opposite banks of the Scioto River. Unless you're insane or like extremely busy (but bike legal) 4-lane highways and big trucks, you'd never ride on either. Getting from Grove to Chilli on brevets using the network of farm-to-market roads that got built here 200 years ago, though, is going to take a few miles longer (throwing in Circleville as a controle doesn't eliminate the problem). My understanding of the rules is that in a brevet, you get credit for your actual miles ridden (in the example, 49.7 miles using a route from this year); but a fleche route that used those two controles would credit you for only 45.4 miles (using mapblast.com to make the calculation, which puts you on US 23).

    I'm guessing (but I don't know) that the brevet rule gets interpreted literally in the American West, and perhaps other places, where there just aren't many roads because the place is so new (California), unsettled (Kansas and Eastern Colorado), or because terrain severely limits the road opitions (interior New England). Here, our RBA has even joked in pre-ride briefings along the lines of, "go ahead and try a short-cut. I've got the number to call your next of kin." Most randonneurs would never want to ride a state highway if they could take back roads. And unless you really know the terrain, the last thing you want to do in "coal country" is to follow that cut-off into some random hollow. Maybe it goes through cleanly. Maybe it just climbs the monster hill and then turns to gravel at the top. Assuming some randonneur was an unethical rule-breaker, the price to pay in time lost and extra distance ridden if you guessed wrong (it would be a guess, the maps of SE Ohio are notoriously inaccurate about what constitutes a "paved" road) is just too high. Even the cheaters are better off staying on route.

    Of course, obvious short-cuts and short-cuts to avoid some particular, planned unpleasantry (I'm thinking of the 1200 feet of climbing in little more than 5 miles in last-year's 400K) are taken care of with controles to eliminate the possibility. But the roughly 10% "error" that's built into most routes because there's always a shorter paved route available is just accepted as a necessary evil.

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