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  1. #1
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    a valiant effort

    A few months ago, bmike contacted me with the idea of forming a team for Don Podolski's April 21st Westfield Fleche. For non-randonneurs on the forum, a fleche is essentially a non-competitive team endurance event. It occurs over the course of 24 hours, with a team riding from a location of their choice, to a destination chosen by the organizer. Various teams ride different routes, starting at different times to prevent one team from intersecting with another's ride. The route is left up to the team, but the main conditions are that the route must cover 360km in a straight line between your chosen controls, you cannot stop at any one control for more than 2 hours, and that you must ride the last 25 km of your route between the 22nd and 24th hour.

    Therefore, everything about the fleche is intended to keep the team together and discourage fast-paced riding. It doesn't matter if you finish at 23:45 or 23:55, just finish with your team together. A team can be anywhere from three to five vehicles, with tandems counting as one vehicle.

    So, begins the story of a fateful trip ...

    We started with a roster of bmike, myself, Kevin, Tom and his wife Eva on a tandem, and my friend Forest. Kevin was a seasoned randonneur with past PBP and BMB experience. Tom was in his second year of randoneering and completed BMB last ear. Both bmike and I rode up to the 600k of last year's series and Forest was a rookie who had done centuries and multi-day rides with us previously. So, not an encyclopedic level of experience, but not novices by any stretch. We got along together and generally had a great deal of confidence in ourselves, and were looking forward to a weekend of riding at a leisurely pace. The route that we picked was a moderately difficult itinerary, with a flat, but scenic jaunt through the western suburbs of Boston, a northern detour to Nashua, NH to add distance for the 360km requirement, rolling traverse of New Hampshire and Vermont, and then an easy tour of the Connecticut River valley, with another brief detour to Belchertown.

    Unfortunately, due to concerns about surgery, bmike had to bow out of the team and postpone his 2007 randoneering season. We were sorry to see our mastermind go, but were determined to continue. We were originally concerned with the weather, but forecasts for this weekend were for 60s and 70s with sunny skies. This was fortunate as both Forest and I had been fending off a fairly stubborn cold for the past two weeks. I was still coughing a fair amount on the day of the fleche, but I felt ok on my commutes to work. We also realized that if either of us bowed out now, the team would be down to its minimum number of participants and wouldn't not be able to afford another loss.

    So, on the day of the fleche, we were scheduled to depart at 7pm. I arrived at the start, Tom and Eva's South End apartment, to see that Kevin was there already and helping Tom troubleshoot an issue with the hydraulic disc brake on the tandem. The problem couldn't be resolved, and as 6pm rolled around, Eva convinced Tom to abandon the idea of the tandem and just ride solo with us. So, while Eva quickly cooked us a pasta dinner, Tom hurriedly began transferring his gear to his Serotta.

    We got on the road a little late, probably 7:15 pm or so, and had to wrestle with rush hour traffic to get out of the city. We scheduled our first control for a Peet's coffee in downtown Lexington and were slightly dismayed to see that we were already running slightly behind our pace. It was an 75 minutes into the fleche and we had only covered 11 miles due to stop lights and a slow start.

    However, we were now out of the city and in the open roads of the suburbs, and so we sped through Lexington, determined to make up for lost time. Unfortunately, the dark suburban night made it difficult to navigate by the back roads that we had designated. So, after a few missed turns, we decided to ditch the low traffic backroads and aim for numbered local highways. At least then, navigation would be simpler, and riding at night meant that we wouldn't have to worry about auto traffic too much.

    Nonetheless, even with a faster pace, we had more to worry about than just missed turns. A long, thin crack on the road missed our notice until it was too late, and both Kevin and I hit it fairly hard. Kevin's rear tire got a pinch flat, and we pulled over to the driveway of a nearby house so that he could change his tire while illuminated by all of our helmet lamps. On the porch of the house, a bunch of college kids partying on a Friday night, offered us beers and a chance to fix the tire indoors, but by then, Kevin was almost done and we were on our way.

    While I was hoping that my cold wasn't "that bad", I was noticing that my legs were beginning to cramp early in the ride. Almost any hill steeper than 3% brought me a twinge of pain. The night was getting colder as well, and I was only dressed in a light, waterproof jacket, fleece leggings and a pair of wool gloves. I had warmer clothes in my rack trunk, but thought that I would wait until our second control in Clinton before changing. We had already lost enough time as it is.

    We arrived in Clinton at 11pm, four hours and 43 miles into the fleche. Our moving average was pretty good, but we had lost a lot of time with navigation and mechanicals. We spent about 20 minutes at a Dunkin' Donuts and a 24 hour gas station before heading north to Harvard, Ayer, Groton and, finally, Nashua.

    I forgot to change into my cold layer.

    By midnight, the temperature had fallen to about mid to low 40s and my core was beginning to feel chilled. My cough was getting worse and my breath was starting wheeze. As we rode through Groton, I realized that we were all of five miles away from a friend's house, and I brief contemplated the idea of abandoning the ride somewhere safe, but dismissed it both as weakness and as somewhat rude to wake up friends with an unannounced visit at midnight.

    We made it to Nashua to see that the cops were out in force. Friday night, rowdy drunken kids everywhere, and the only place that was open was a 24 hour Denny's. The Denny's was, of course, crowded. It was 2:00 am, 7 hours in and 75 miles covered. We didn't have time to wait for a table, and so, instead opted for a nearby gas station and grabbed fig newtons, breakfast sandwiches, and some coffee. This time, I remembered to throw on my fleece clothing.

    The original plan was to take a series of country roads running parallel to the New Hampshire border, before jumping on Rt. 119 to Brattleboro, which we had ridden as part of the 600k last year, and I remembered as being fairly mild and beautiful territory. Instead, because of the time we lost with navigating, we opted the more straightforward route of 101 to Keene to 9. What we didn't realize, at the time, was that 101 to Keene was a 33 mile, 2000 ft. climb and that there was another 1500 ft. ascent between Keene and Brattleboro.

    By this point, my legs were shot and while I just focused on eating and spinning my way up, the cramping in my legs was restricting the amount of power I could generate. I was trying to be conscientious about eating properly, going through packets of Gu and Clif bars to offset the fatigue, but it was getting increasingly difficult to keep track of time. Outside Peterborough, muscles just behind my knees both seized up and I nearly toppled off the bike, but unclipped and walked a hundred or so yards while trying to work out at least one of the cramps enough so that I could remount my bike and pedal on. The guys waited for me patiently at the top of the rise, and I felt terrible for holding them back.

    Eventually, we arrived at a 24 hour gas station outside Dublin, NH. It was almost 6am, 11 hours into the ride and we had only covered 114 miles. Forest asked how I was doing, and I said that if I could get to Brattleboro, sit down and get a decent breakfast, I could probably be ok. Everybody looked at me like I was mad, stubborn, or both. I took a sip of ocffee, then thought about it further and realized that the guys were doing far better than I was, and it wasn't fair for me to hold them back, so I changed my mind and told them that they should go on and make up for the time that we were losing. Tom asked me what my plan was, I and said that I could probably get to Keene, get a decent meal, and then make my back on my own power. I figured that I could recall most of the return route on the 600 and could get home with a bit of rest and recuperation. Tom looked at me again and reminded me that we were 114 miles from home, and Eva had offered to pick up any of us if anything happened. So, I called up Eva, apologized for waking her and asked for a pickup. The guys made their goodbyes. Tom congratulated me on "a valiant effort." Then they were gone. I found a corner of the gas station, pulled out a milk crate and slept for 30 minutes.

    On getting up, I felt a little better, and a part of me wanted to chase the guys down and possibly see if I could catch them at breakfast in Brattleboro, but I realized that Eva was on her way, and it would be selfish of me to have her come up, only to have to chase me further down if I encountered some kind of mishap between here and Vermont. Still, eventhough my lungs felt terrible, I didn't like abandoning.

    Eventually, Eva showed up, packed me and the bike in the car and drove me home. My girlfriend was sympathetic as I explained the sordid story to her. She rubbed some Vicks on my chest after my shower and bundled me off to bed. It was almost 10 am, and I figured that the team was somewhere around Deerfield by then. I was hoping that they were having fun.

    I got up at 3pm and staggered around the house for a bit, eating whatever wasn't nailed down and checking on my bike to give my mind something to occupy itself. At 6pm, Forest called me and told me that he and Tom had just finished. I asked if Kevin was just a little behind them.

    "Kevin didn't make it," he said.

    It turned out that 6 miles out of our last control at Easthampton, Kevin had a mishap with his rear wheel and suffered a pretty severe crash. His bike was totalled, but his injuries didn't seem to be too severe. Kevin had a friend in Northampton to pick him up, but now that it was only Forest and Tom, the team had too few members to qualify. Nonetheless, the two of them pressed on to finish the ride, just for the sake of finishing.

    Despire the failure of the team to complete, and the fact that we were all clearly frustrated with the outcome, Forest reminded me that it was still the right decision for me to have abandoned when I did. Apparently the Rt. 9 segment between Keene and Brattleboro was also pretty brutal, and Kevin, who had finished Quadzilla, multiple B-M-B's and one PBP, said, upon arriving in Brattleboro, that this was the hardest 200k that he had ever done. Still doesn't stop me from going through the what-if's; like "what-if I had been more sensible about staying warm" or "what-if I remembered to stretch between controls to keep my muscles from cramping" or "what-if I just pressed on to Brattleboro and got my second wind" or "what-if I never got this stupid, long-lasting cold in the first place."

    but there are no what-if, only what-was. What we had was a collection of five distance riders who, together, hadn't been that familiar with each other when this effort began, and now were friends. What e experienced was another excellent test of our capabilities, self-supported in the truest sense with no logistical assistance from any of the organizers. What we saw was a Friday night in New England, rife with people who looked at us in awe and amazement as we explained what we were trying to do -- riding for 240 miles across the breadth of the region for no other reason than just because we could do it and could revel in that experience with 8 other teams who shared that ambition.

    I'm already looking forward to the 300k next week. I only hope to ditch this cough by then.
    Last edited by spokenword; 04-22-07 at 01:19 PM.

  2. #2
    34x25 FTW! oboeguy's Avatar
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    Cliff's Notes?
    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/

  3. #3
    littlecircles bmike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oboeguy
    Cliff's Notes?
    This is the enduranace / long distance forum.
    This includes ride reports.
    Start with some easy 100 word posts and work your way up.
    You'll get there - but don't forget the speed work.



    As brevet season rolls on you'll probably see more (and longer) ride reports.
    Last edited by bmike; 04-22-07 at 08:58 PM.

  4. #4
    Crankenstein bmclaughlin807's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oboeguy
    Cliff's Notes?
    Why do people insist on being such a******s ???? If it's too long, DON'T READ IT.

    Personally, I really enjoyed the write up.
    "There is no greater wonder than the way the face and character of a woman fit so perfectly in a man's mind, and stay there, and he could never tell you why. It just seems it was the thing he most wanted." Robert Louis Stevenson

  5. #5
    littlecircles bmike's Avatar
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    Well done spokenword.
    Sorry to be the first official 'drop out' - but my 'what if' would have probably hindered the group from the start - and instead of nursing along and potentially aggravating an already delicate situation i opted out before trying - I didn't want to hold you guys and gal back from the go.

    Sounds like the group worked well together, even as we fell off one by one on the way to Westfield.
    101 to Keene and 9 to Brattleboro is a difficult stretch of road. The nice thing about riding it at night is you really can't see the grade - so you keep spinning onward, and upward.

    I hope Kevin is OK. Sorry to hear about his bike and his mishap. I was in Westfield and Northampton Friday morning for a client meeting and was envious that you fellows would be cycling through the next day. I drove part of the route back to VT just to get a sense of the road and it looked quite pleasant. Kevin came off as a very experienced and skilled cyclist.... (and from his BMB, PBP, and Quadzilla tales he's probably faster than he admits!) - sorry to hear he and his ride were hurt.


    The route we worked out is beautiful, certainly tricky in the middle portion with the climbing - but a very nice ride. Good luck on the 300k. I'm warming up with a 200k in Westfield and I'll try to piece together the remainder of my season - hopefully getting to Boston for the 400k.

    Perhaps we'll have another go and succeed next year?

    (I think that there also may be some sort of matter - anti matter thing going on with our respective steeds and the current brevet season - if your steel ANT ClubRacer and my Ti IF ClubRacer meet the universe as we know it may start to collapse)

  6. #6
    Brevet Rider BlueJay66's Avatar
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    I have noticed long winded reports. How apropos for the long distance cycling forum. Well Done Spoken Word!

    BlueJay66

  7. #7
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    If you want long winded, you should read some of mine!!

    I'm sorry to hear that the ride didn't work out for you all. But in the life of randonneurs, sooner or later, we all have rides like that, and we all go through "what ifs". I hope your ride partner who crashed is all right ... I feel his pain!

    Now it strikes me that you all didn't have a set route ... you changed the route as you went along. When I did a fleche in 2004, all the teams had to submit a set route to the main organizers, complete with controls and everything, and we had to stick to that route. In fact, the organizers came out on the second day (we started our ride at 7 pm) to see where everyone was. Does RUSA allow US riders to just go wherever they want to go as long as they cover the distance they've set out to do?

    I really enjoyed the fleche I did, and was hoping to ride one this year too, but the timing of the BC Randonneur fleches didn't fit my work schedule. Maybe next year! And there's always next year for you too.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    Now it strikes me that you all didn't have a set route ... you changed the route as you went along. When I did a fleche in 2004, all the teams had to submit a set route to the main organizers, complete with controls and everything, and we had to stick to that route. In fact, the organizers came out on the second day (we started our ride at 7 pm) to see where everyone was. Does RUSA allow US riders to just go wherever they want to go as long as they cover the distance they've set out to do?
    We had to submit our list of controls to the organizer and get our cards signed according to the control points that we had picked out, but the specific route that we could take between each control was left to our discretion. The fleche was organized by a single fellow who also happens to own a bike shop in Westfield, so he doesn't have the staff or resources to monitor the progress of 8 fleche teams spread out across New England.

    I think that the freeform approach has its pluses and minuses as compared to one where ever turn is mapped out and adhered to. In the freeform format, the 360km distance minimum is measured by a straight line between control points, so your actual distance always turns out to be longer. Our actual mileage turned out to be a little more than 400k. It is nice to have flexibility and adjust one's direction on the fly, but also sticking to a specific route brings in the benefits of research and experience, whilst going freeform always brings in the risk of exposing yourself to an untried path. None of us had ridden the 70 mile stretch of Rt. 110 and Rt. 9 between Nashua and Brattleboro, and we were all surprised by how tough that stretch was.

    yes, indeed, there is always next year ... and the year after that ... and the next ... etc

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by bmike
    Well done spokenword.
    Sorry to be the first official 'drop out' - but my 'what if' would have probably hindered the group from the start - and instead of nursing along and potentially aggravating an already delicate situation i opted out before trying - I didn't want to hold you guys and gal back from the go.
    oh yeah, I totally understand. I was also mulling around thoughts of what would've happened if I threw the towel in earlier, when my cough wasn't dissipating. Perhaps the guys would've made better time and had more opportunities to look over their gear from one control to the next. However, the circumstances of Kevin's crash sounds like it was just bad luck.

    I hope Kevin is OK. Sorry to hear about his bike and his mishap. I was in Westfield and Northampton Friday morning for a client meeting and was envious that you fellows would be cycling through the next day. I drove part of the route back to VT just to get a sense of the road and it looked quite pleasant. Kevin came off as a very experienced and skilled cyclist.... (and from his BMB, PBP, and Quadzilla tales he's probably faster than he admits!) - sorry to hear he and his ride were hurt.
    having been in pacelines with him during last year's 200 and 300k, I know that he is definitely faster than he lets on, but he's also an immensely nice and modest guy. I was really glad to have him in the crew, and hope to see him on the road later in the season.

    The route we worked out is beautiful, certainly tricky in the middle portion with the climbing - but a very nice ride. Good luck on the 300k. I'm warming up with a 200k in Westfield and I'll try to piece together the remainder of my season - hopefully getting to Boston for the 400k.
    hope to see you then. Good luck with the Westfield 200. Curious to hear your thoughts on how Don's rides compare against the Tracey and Bruce's.

    Perhaps we'll have another go and succeed next year?
    oh, most certainly. Especially without all of these handicaps.

  10. #10
    Member chrispatoz's Avatar
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    Sorry to hear of the DNF but congrats for having a go.

    In Australia it is Fleche Opperman with the object of riding to a central point (one direction not out and back) and finish at the same time. I think here it is required to stay with the route that has been lodged and approved and you may stop for as long as needed provided the route is at least 360km AND you ride at least 25km in the last 2 hours of the event with at least 3 riders finishing to be successful.

    I for one love reading ride reports and the more detail the better. As a newbie to randoneurring I find reports helpful with my own efforts and forward planning and find they give me an idea of what i might expect so thanks and no complaints at all about the length. I guess others can scroll down and see the length and choose not to read if there is a problem. So for any contemplating rides reports.... from moi YES PLEASE!
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  11. #11
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Great attempt. An epic ride like that is a success no matter what happens. I hope you have recovered a bit from your illness. What happened to your friend? How did he crash? How is he doing?

    Good luck on your next ride.
    safe riding - Vik
    VikApproved

  12. #12
    littlecircles bmike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vik
    Great attempt. An epic ride like that is a success no matter what happens. I hope you have recovered a bit from your illness. What happened to your friend? How did he crash? How is he doing?

    Good luck on your next ride.
    got a full report and pics from another rider on the team tonight - so i'll chime in before spokenword.

    he shifted into his largest cog and his chain went between his cassette and spokes - hard.
    they worked for quite a bit to remove the chain - he was going to ride single speed to the finish - but they couldn't make it happen.

    the derailer got sucked around too and bent the hanger (ti frame!) back about 30 degrees. the pic i saw is really sad. he'll probably have to send the frame to a builder and have them cut it out and put a new one in.

    he didn't wreck - made it to the finish brunch the next morning after getting roadside rescued by a friend.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Fonk's Avatar
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    Not a randonneur myself (or at least not yet), I've always wondered about that last 25km rule, it having to be ridden btwn the 22nd and 24th hours. Why is that? I understand that a fleche isn't a race, but still - if the riders can, and want to, ride it faster, why not allow that? That rule actually might discourage some racer/randonneur crossovers who'd like to ride it like an extended team time trial. Just curious...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fonk
    Not a randonneur myself (or at least not yet), I've always wondered about that last 25km rule, it having to be ridden btwn the 22nd and 24th hours. Why is that? I understand that a fleche isn't a race, but still - if the riders can, and want to, ride it faster, why not allow that? That rule actually might discourage some racer/randonneur crossovers who'd like to ride it like an extended team time trial. Just curious...
    I believe the point is to discourage it from being a team time trial. If a team starts to focus on its speed, then there's a greater temptation to drop members who, for various reasons, might be holding the team back, even if they might be riding at a pace that allows them to complete the course in the prescribed time.

    So, if say, the restriction were dropped, and you rode in a team of 5 all with a goal of doing it in 18 instead of 24 hours; what would you do if one of your team members had digestion issues and needed to spend more time in a control bathroom? What if the best average speed they could muster was 12 mph? Would you drop him? You still had four members and can still finish the fleche without him.

    But the idea behind the fleche is not to drop him, and, if at all possible, to finish the ride as a team. By taking the speed criteria away, you eliminate a large source of possible inequity amongst various team members. If you want to make a fleche more challenging, you can do things like pick hillier terrain, opt for a weird start time, or do it all fixed. Yet, at the end, you still have a common goal, which is to finish.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by bmike
    got a full report and pics from another rider on the team tonight - so i'll chime in before spokenword.

    he shifted into his largest cog and his chain went between his cassette and spokes - hard.
    they worked for quite a bit to remove the chain - he was going to ride single speed to the finish - but they couldn't make it happen.

    the derailer got sucked around too and bent the hanger (ti frame!) back about 30 degrees. the pic i saw is really sad. he'll probably have to send the frame to a builder and have them cut it out and put a new one in.

    he didn't wreck - made it to the finish brunch the next morning after getting roadside rescued by a friend.
    yeah, sorry, I should've updated but BF was on the blink when I was checking here earlier.

    the incident did remind me of an anecdote from my girlfriend's brother-in-law, who's an amateur adventure racer. Apparently, on a mountain biking section, one of their teammates had a small mishap that wound up bending his rear derailleur. They tried to also get it to go singlespeed, but couldn't get it to work. So, as a contingency, the strongest rider on the team just took out some nylon cords and towed the other rider the rest of the distance.

    Not exactly an option for us at the time, but that didn't strike me as a particularly good idea when he told me about it.

  16. #16
    Member chrispatoz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fonk
    I've always wondered about that last 25km rule, it having to be ridden btwn the 22nd and 24th hours. Why is that? I Just curious...
    Hi

    I also havent ridden a Fleche as yet and can only answer for Australia here the idea is to have several teams riding different routes finishing at the same place around the same time and the rule is to encourage the social aspect. The Audax Australia website puts it like this: "All teams finish roughly between 8am and 9am on the Sunday morning, and then partake in a communal breakfast and exchange stories of hardship."
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  17. #17
    Senior Member Fonk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chrispatoz
    Hi

    I also havent ridden a Fleche as yet and can only answer for Australia here the idea is to have several teams riding different routes finishing at the same place around the same time and the rule is to encourage the social aspect. The Audax Australia website puts it like this: "All teams finish roughly between 8am and 9am on the Sunday morning, and then partake in a communal breakfast and exchange stories of hardship."
    Well that makes sense, I guess. If you're going to have a big communal meal/social gathering afterwards, it sure helps to have everyone there at the same time.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Fonk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spokenword
    I believe the point is to discourage it from being a team time trial. If a team starts to focus on its speed, then there's a greater temptation to drop members who, for various reasons, might be holding the team back, even if they might be riding at a pace that allows them to complete the course in the prescribed time.

    So, if say, the restriction were dropped, and you rode in a team of 5 all with a goal of doing it in 18 instead of 24 hours; what would you do if one of your team members had digestion issues and needed to spend more time in a control bathroom? What if the best average speed they could muster was 12 mph? Would you drop him? You still had four members and can still finish the fleche without him.

    But the idea behind the fleche is not to drop him, and, if at all possible, to finish the ride as a team. By taking the speed criteria away, you eliminate a large source of possible inequity amongst various team members. If you want to make a fleche more challenging, you can do things like pick hillier terrain, opt for a weird start time, or do it all fixed. Yet, at the end, you still have a common goal, which is to finish.
    I see your point, but why not just require that the team must finish together as a whole, but then eliminate the speed restriction so that the teams can ride it as fast (or as slow!) as they want? That way if the friend has digestive issues, the team has to wait for him, but on the other hand, if everyone's feeling good and strong the whole time and can achieve a 20-hour finish time, they can.

    My whole point is this - there might be some racers out there (TT'ers, in particular) that are thinking about getting into some longer distances, and thus randoneuring. The Fleche might be an appealing starting point because of the team aspect, and if it were allowed to run as I've suggested, they could still treat it kind of like a race, which they like. After they get a taste though, they might start thinking about solo 200ks, 300ks, etc. They don't have speed restrictions on those, right? So why on the Fleche, where you could more reasonably go faster because of the pack factor?

    Anyhoo, I'm not going to belabor the point, as I'm not even part of the randoneuring community (just have some friends that are). I admire the hell out of all you guys for the distances you're able to put in, and truth be told that speed restriction probably wouldn't be a problem for me. I just find it curious is all...

  19. #19
    littlecircles bmike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fonk
    I see your point, but why not just require that the team must finish together as a whole, but then eliminate the speed restriction so that the teams can ride it as fast (or as slow!) as they want? That way if the friend has digestive issues, the team has to wait for him, but on the other hand, if everyone's feeling good and strong the whole time and can achieve a 20-hour finish time, they can.

    My whole point is this - there might be some racers out there (TT'ers, in particular) that are thinking about getting into some longer distances, and thus randoneuring. The Fleche might be an appealing starting point because of the team aspect, and if it were allowed to run as I've suggested, they could still treat it kind of like a race, which they like. After they get a taste though, they might start thinking about solo 200ks, 300ks, etc. They don't have speed restrictions on those, right? So why on the Fleche, where you could more reasonably go faster because of the pack factor?

    You can set your own route. The distance covered by the rules is a minimum. If you and your pack of TT specialists want to ride a 24 hour time trial there is nothing stopping you. You will have to cover the distance on the route you prescribe though...hitting all the controls about when you said you would on your schedule... so if something does happen and you leave yourself no buffer zone you might be SOL.

    Some years there are folks who try to cover as much mileage as they can in the 24 hours. Some folks select scenic routes. Some folks do it on fixies. Some do it based on funky towns they pass through with good coffee shops. No one would stop some TT specialists from riding fast - the difference would be they would have to figure out how fast when they submit their route, and stick to it.

    As per the 25k rule - this is a minimum as well, it discourages you from finishing early and sitting in a cafe for 3 hours waiting for your official time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fonk
    The Fleche might be an appealing starting point because of the team aspect, and if it were allowed to run as I've suggested, they could still treat it kind of like a race, which they like. After they get a taste though, they might start thinking about solo 200ks, 300ks, etc. They don't have speed restrictions on those, right? So why on the Fleche, where you could more reasonably go faster because of the pack factor?
    Because, again, it's not supposed to be about the speed I'm sorry, it does sound lame, we're probably going to go in circles on this argument, but I can't offer you a better answer than that. There are a few hidebound, semi-arcane traditions in randonneuring, many of them intended to discourage the activity from being treated as a race, and the last 25 km in the last 2 hours is one of them. It might be more useful to think of a fleche as a test of how much ground you can cover in 24 hours, rather than whether you can just cover 360 km in 24 hours. So pick your controls, but if you have the flexibility to go freeform between each control, opt for longer and harder routes between each control to increase your total mileage.

    Also, you can still ride as a pack on a brevet as well. It isn't treated as a solo non-draft time trial or anything like that. As a matter of fact, in most of the Boston rides, there's a lead pack of cyclists that tends to stick together and hammer out the ride as quickly as possible, with a long trail of two, three or four person clusters behind them on the route. So, your theoretical crossover candidates would use the 200k as their starting point instead of a fleche.

    Brevets have speed restrictions only insofar as what's dictated by the opening times for controls on the route, but these are still early enough that if you're used to doing sub 5-hour centuries, you can still ride that pace and not worry about arriving at a control too early.

  21. #21
    littlecircles bmike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spokenword
    Because, again, it's not supposed to be about the speed I'm sorry, it does sound lame, we're probably going to go in circles on this argument, but I can't offer you a better answer than that. There are a few hidebound, semi-arcane traditions in randonneuring, many of them intended to discourage the activity from being treated as a race, and the last 25 km in the last 2 hours is one of them.

    I actually find the 'non race' aspect of randonneuring refreshing. I've never raced - but the races that I've course marshalled and visited as a spectator turned me off from participating - fun to watch for sure.

    What I love about rando rides is the personal challenge - ride it as hard and as fast as you want - or ride is as leisurely and socially as you want - its all good, and everyone gets the same 'prize' - your name listed in alphabetical order. There are times when I wish I could ride with the big boys and girls, and there have been times when I have - because for whatever reason some of the faster riders turned it down a notch and were enjoying the day. Sometimes it is about the journey, and not how fast you get to the destination. (but believe me, I'm guilty of pushing hard and riding as hard as I can... but its mainly so I can insure that I make the controls with time to spare in case I breakdown)

    As a fleche in spirit (as with all rando events) is supposed to be self supported, I'd love to see a group of five TT specialists zipping down the road in full team kit on their Cervelos with Caradice's under the saddle, blinkies on their seatstays, and dynohubbed Zipp wheels!

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by bmike
    I actually find the 'non race' aspect of randonneuring refreshing. I've never raced - but the races that I've course marshalled and visited as a spectator turned me off from participating - fun to watch for sure.
    +1 about the fact its not a race - thank god!

    I have zero interest in racing other than sitting in front of a TV during the TdeF. The cool thing about rando rides though is you can ride them quite fast if you wish. The time frames for controls - especially on longer brevets - allow for a very good pace if you wish to push it.

    Spokenword - glad you friend is fine. As bad as damaging a sweet bike can be - personal injury is potentially far worse.
    safe riding - Vik
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  23. #23
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    spokenword,

    Excellent report. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Sorry that you were unable to complete the fleche, but you put in a good effort and showed good judgment in assessing your condition and not hindering your teammates.

    The important thing is to learn from the difficulties you encountered and remedy them next year. Obviously you can't do much about a cold, but you can fix issues with routing and equipment to make the job easier.

    You might consider getting a GPS with street routing. Although it's not a substitute for cue sheets, a GPS can make it very much easier to locate unmarked turns when you are fatigued in the middle of the night.

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    Quote Originally Posted by supcom
    You might consider getting a GPS with street routing. Although it's not a substitute for cue sheets, a GPS can make it very much easier to locate unmarked turns when you are fatigued in the middle of the night.
    Thanks, sup. I don't know if I'd be willing to make the plunge into investing in GPS as I've got enough technology gadgets to occupy my time (though I certainly wouldn't complain if one of my teammates got one) ... however, I think the biggest lessons learned from this effort was

    a) have a good, fast starting location. Tom served some excellent espresso from his apartment, but in the future, I think we would prefer to start from somewhere that wasn't so deep in the city; so that we can get to cruising fairly early with a minimum of stop lights

    b) familiarity with local roads. I'd done a good chunk of the segment between controls 1 and 2, before, but not at night. And the sections between controls 3 and 4 (Nashua to Brattleboro, where I abandoned) were only known to bmike, who had to bail.

    c) know where your actual controls are going to be; especially during the overnight segment, when most businesses are closed. We probably wasted a good fifteen minutes riding around Clinton, searching for an open business that we could use as a control.

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    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    spokenword,

    Those look like good lessons, especially regarding the start location. Another thing to consider is to have the locations of post offices in control towns where you might have a hard time locating an open business. The rules permit you to mail a postcard to the organizer in such circumstances. Take a few stamped and addressed postcards with you just in case.

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