Archive for July, 2010

Champlain 200k/300k

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

We had a successful running of the first RUSA sanctioned 200k and 300k brevets in Vermont this past weekend. 9 riders started the 300k and 21 riders started the 200k. I was running on 3 hours of sleep – so thanks to everyone for patience at the start. A larger turnout than expected had me juggling multiple forms, sign in sheets, checks, and trying to make change – all at 4:30 am. I’m sure I made some good pre-ride theater.

Start photo compliments Chris McCown @ Old Spokes Home

The ride started with a cruise through Burlington to the Local Motion Bike Ferry – 11 miles away at ‘The Cut’ in the Colchester causeway. Our pilot was waiting for us with a smile – and we ferried everyone across in just under 1/2 hour.

Heading out the lakefront bike path.

Awaiting the next ferry. Photo compliments Chris McCown @ Old Spokes Home

The first 45+ miles of the route is about as flat as you can get riding in Vermont. We cruised past orchards, vineyards, and eventually over the largest obstacle in our path – the bridge to NY. Our first control was at Lakeside Coffee and staff greeted us with a knowing smile. A quick breakfast and recharge was had and we headed out for another 35 miles of flat(ish) roads south and through Plattsburgh, NY. Pacing ourselves on NY state’s very smooth roads and passing marinas full of sailboats we noticed the temperature started to resemble ‘HOT’. Even the breeze started to feel warm.

Welcome to NY!

Our small group – now collectively the Lanterne Rouge of the 200k – made a quick stop for fluids and salty foods – then pressed on into the terrain of the Adirondack Park. Up we went – to a not so secret control / resupply stocked and staffed by our pre-ride volunteer and his wife. More ice, liquids, V8, and salty foods were consumed. Our group decided to split up at this point – two of our five cut the ride short with a trip across the Burlington – Port Kent Ferry. They happily took a DNF on their first brevet settling instead with a century – their longest ride…. ever.

Three of us pressed on – up and down and up and over Highlands Rd. which seemed to have an infinite amount of miles of double digit grades. Temps reached into the high 90′s and on this very quiet road we rested and slow climbed in the shade of the opposite lane. Our group felt the heat and we stopped prior to the Charlotte Ferry control to restock on liquids. After 2800′ of climbing in the last 22 miles the ferry ride was a welcome break. The cool breeze created as we motored across the lake was welcome – and we rolled out from Charlotte in good but tired spirits with enough time cushion for a mechanical or food stop. We had neither – and slogged on in the heat to the finish – even getting passed by roadies returning to Burlington on Spear St. pulling twice our speed. Greg and Chris finished their first 200k rides, and Greg finished his longest ride – ever.

Greg adjusting the cue for our final leg to the finish.

After a quick bite I put on my organizer hat on and set up for returning 300k riders. We had 7 riders still on course – 1 300k rider finished before we knocked out our 200k and we had 1 DNF due to switching to the 200k course. 300k riders rolled in about evenly spaced for the next 3 hours, and all riders were off course by 9:45 pm.

Unofficially it looks like we had 14 finishers for the 200k (with several riders indicating this as their first brevet!) and 8 finishers (+ our pre-ride volunteer) completing the 300k.

Thanks to Anthony and his wife for baking in the sun and giving up their Saturday to staff and stock our not so secret control atop the climb in NY, and thanks to the Old Spokes Home for hosting our start and finish.

Our next event is the hilly and scenic Fall Classic 200k – with lots of dirt, climbing, covered bridges (5!), and early fall Vermont color. We’re hoping to add a 100k option for those looking for something shorter or to ride with family and friends… keep a watch on this website or the RUSA calendar.

Champlain 200k/300k Final Notes

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Just an update on the VT 200k/300k:

  • Weather is looking to be great for the ride. Small chance of t-storms / rain along the way… same as our unofficial ride last year. 1 group got wet, the rest did not – and it turned into a lovely (if a bit warm) day.
  • There were a few concerns about the ‘audax’ portion of the ride – this is 11+ miles of moderate group riding through town and out the Burlington bike path. We’ll ride 13-14 mph as a group so we arrive @ the ferry together and ease the navigation through town. The bike path can handle 2 abreast for the length of the ride – depending on who else may be out running or riding at our start hour. ;)
  • Portions of the bike path @ the causeway are on crushed gravel / dirt. The surface conditions change based on recent storms, as this is fully exposed to the lake. Please ride with caution as it can be a pleasant or taxing 3 miles to the bike ferry.
  • The bike ferry has a capacity of 6 cyclists at a time. Last year we ran 2 trips over ‘the cut’. Turnout is expected to be higher than last year – so we may need to run 3-4 trips over. These take 5-8 minutes or so. Depending on numbers we’ll divide up when we reach the ferry. I have mixed feelings about how to handle this – last year the faster gents took off first but waited for all riders to cross… this year I’ll poll the group at the start.
  • High winds / lightning will shut down the Bike Ferry. I’ll be in contact with the ferry captain morning of the ride. If this happens I have an all paved alternate route to get us to the Champlain Islands. This will add 1 mile to the first control, but there is no waiting for the ferry to make multiple crossings and no group rollout, so it could be quicker overall, but certainly unremarkable, with rollers and less scenery.
  • There will be bagels / snacks @ the start – but I cannot get anyone out of bed to provide coffee. There is a great stop along the route @ Hero’s Welcome (listed on the cue @ 30 miles in) – they opened @ 7am last year (I’m confirming today) – so the fast riders may pass by too early.
  • 300k riders – please be prepared with lights / reflective gear per the RUSA rules for riders.
  • 300k riders – if you plan on finishing late there are few services after the Ferrisburg Mobil station (mile ~160 into the route). This includes the last control before the finish, which closes @ 10pm. There is an information control listed for this – so plan accordingly if you are running later into the evening.
  • Final cue to be handed out @ start. There is 1 information control for the 300k depending on timing of your ride, so please get the final cue @ the start.
  • There may be a not so secret control along the route. If things align we plan on staffing and stocking a control @ a strategic point for both routes… keep a watch on the NY side after Plattsburgh. Our pre-ride volunteer will be on course and staffing the control.
  • 300k return ferry – it is FREE, run times are listed on the cue.
  • 200k return ferry – should cost $4.75 for cyclist and bike. Ferries are cash only. This is a control – so get your card signed and hang onto that receipt.
  • Look forward to seeing some old and new faces in BTV Saturday!
  • Champlain 200k/300k Preride Report

    Friday, July 16th, 2010

    A fellow VT randonneur prerode the Champlain 300k (and most of the 200k route) last week. His ride report follows.

    This past Saturday morning, Mike and his daughter, Ava, met me at the Old Spokes Home to see me off on the volunteer ride of the 300K. The weather at the start was overcast & a bit humid, but much nicer than the downpours I had experienced on the drive over from Montpelier. The Burlington Bike Path was rather quiet this morning, I guess the earlier rain had kept most people away. As I turned onto the gravel causeway I was glad to find that it was well packed & I had no trouble with my 700 x 25C tires. There were a few soft spots in places that required some attention but nothing too bad. Riding across the causeway views across the lake appear & so do the hills you will encounter in about 70 miles. Looking ahead & to the right, the next few miles of the route are visible as the causeway stretches away from you as it connects with South Hero. The conversation with the volunteers at the bike ferry was a welcome break & the ride across the “cut” went smoothly. The most challenging road surface of the ride is encountered in the first 1/2 mile or so after the bike ferry. The gravel here is rather soft & requires a good deal of attention. However, it is a rather short section & once the right turn is made onto the town roads the conditions improve greatly.

    Passing the Snow Farm Vineyard I saw many cyclists who were part of the Heart of the Islands Bike Tour. As I am thinking about taking part in PBP next year, I jokingly thought that a stop for some wine might be a good part of my training. However, the early hour of my passing & the thought of the many miles to come quickly dispelled these thoughts. The quiet, country roads of South Hero were very nice with great views of the lake. The route then follows Route 2 where there was a bit of traffic but the shoulder is generous in most spots. Turning onto West Shore Road in Alburgh, one finds long stretches of fresh pavement which are a welcome sight & in stark contrast to the packed dirt found on West Shore Road in South Hero. Back on Route 2 signs for Quebec begin to appear & this is a sure sign that the bridge to New York isn’t too far away. After passing the border station & making the turn onto Lake Street I passed the Rouses Point Civic Center. The sight of the civic center brought back memories of a ride from several years ago, as this served as a very welcoming control.

    I soon came to the first control of our ride at Lakeside Coffee. Upon stopping at the cafe, I soon found that they were unfortunately closed on this day due to a planned power outage in the area. Although I was looking forward to a pastry I reluctantly continued on. Within less than a mile I found a Stewarts which would have to do.

    As the route enters Plattsburgh, the biggest obstacles encountered are an increase in traffic & sewer grates which are placed away from the curb, directly in the path of cyclists. Heading south from Plattsburgh, the character of the ride changes as the flat roads of the first 80 miles or so are replaced by more hilly terrain. After passing through Keesville, the route heads back towards the lakeshore and onto what is arguably one of the best roads on the route. The ride along Highlands road was amazing; not one car passed along this entire stretch and views across the lake of Burlington, Mount Mansfield & Camels Hump were ever present. There were a good number of rollers along this road & it was on one of these hills that I noticed a few oddly placed billboards, which brought a little humor to the climbing.

    Passing the Essex-Charlotte Ferry, the turnoff for the 200K riders, I began to crunch numbers to try & determine which ferry I would try to catch at the now removed Crown Point Bridge. The idea of pushing hard to make the earlier ferry only to pull up as the ferry left the slip continually crept into my thoughts. My suggestion is to wait until Westport before attempting to decide which ferry you will try to make, the :15 or the :45. From this town until the ferry crossing there are a few small rollers but a push for the ferry is still possible. In fact, the last 5 miles, apart from a small bridge, are completely flat & a fast pace can be held. I pushed my luck & drove hard to make the earlier ferry. Pulling up to the dock with only 2 minutes to spare, I was very thankful that my premonitions about a 30 minute timeout were unfounded.

    The 15 minute crossing went smoothly & the 2nd control at the WAGs General Store came quickly. The route then meanders along the lakeshore past some amazing lakeside estates. Heading inland towards Vergennes caution is required as approximately a quarter mile of Panton Road has been torn up. Once in Vergennes, the smells coming from the many restaurants & the patrons sitting outside tempted me to stop for dinner. However, being only about 30 miles from the end I decided to push on.

    The route then heads north along route 7 for a short stretch. There are very generous shoulders, however, the left onto Greenbush Road requires a good deal of attention due to the heavy traffic. The next stage of the ride pushes inland past Mount Philo, along very picturesque country roads. Dropping down to cross over Lewis Creek on the first of two covered bridges, a series of short, steep climbs awaits. Looking ahead on the cue sheet it is nice to know that the route will once again cross Lewis Creek & therefore a descent lies ahead. After crossing the second covered bridge over the creek, more rolling dirt roads await. Pavement reappears shortly before reaching the penultimate control at the Mobile Short Stop.

    Being that this control is only 15 miles from the finish only a cursory stop was made & I was back on the road towards Burlington. The last few miles of the ride went by quickly as there are only a few small, gradual hills. Finishing up at the Old Spokes Home I was glad to see Mike again & was even more excited to see that he had brought me some delicious, home-made soup that his wife had made.

    Having never ridden most of this route before I really had a great time on the ride & especially enjoyed the views of Vermont from the New York side of the lake. I hope you will have as good a time on this ride as I did.

    Last week we received our RUSA certification for the 200k and 300k routes. For those qualifying for PBP next year, all VT results will help in entry formulas… so get out and ride (and finish) certified Brevets this year and next!

    See you next Saturday morning bright and early. Ride starts promptly @ 5am. Please arrive early for registration, which opens @ 4:15.

    Champlain 200k/300k Cue Posted

    Sunday, July 11th, 2010

    Preliminary cues for the Champlain 200k/300k have been posted. You can find them here.

    Anthony pre-rode the 300k route this weekend. He started at 9:30 am and finished the 187 mile course in 12 hours at 9:30 pm. He has a few notes to add to the cue – mainly roads that lose their signs, or change designation (named road to county road) mid cue. I’ll get these updated before the ride, and post Anthony’s ride report with some of his notes from the route.