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Monday, April 23, 2012

Flèche Vélocio

My favorite randonneuring event is the Flèche Vélocio. This is a team event where all members of the team work and ride and finish together. Traditionally the event is scheduled for Easter weekend, but in northern climates, a bit of leeway is granted to accommodate for less than pleasant riding conditions at that time of year. In France, there is a single destination, but in the US, we are allowed regional destinations. The date (a range of start/finish times) and actual destination is set by the regional organizer, but the team members select their own starting point, actual start time, and route.

There are some basic rules - 24 hours, covering at least 360km, with at least 25km done in the last two hours and no stop more than 2 hours. You can do a large loop, but not repeated small loops. The team consists of between 3 and 5 cycles - so a tandem or triplet counts as one team member. At least 3 members must finish to be granted credit. Complete RUSA rules can be found here.

I have now taken part in 6 events, and am currently working on the application for this year's ride to Portland, Maine. The camaraderie of the Flèche is what keeps bringing me back. That and coming up with fun team names

2005 - Cinque Terre - we rode in 5 different states
2006 - Two Tyred- isn't it obvious
2007 - One for All - 4 fixed gear bikes and a Rohloff for the fellow with the dodgy knees- so one cog for everyone
2008 - Fixie Chicks - 3 gals on fixies

After two years of riding fixed, I was ready for a break. I also vowed to grow more than a single brain cell, and use gears, so the next year, we thought of calling ourselves NOT the Fixie Chicks, but we were even more explicit...

2010 - Gears, Gals and Guy (3g)
2011 - 3 Braids and a Beard (this name popped into my head early on the previous year)

2012 - Misguided Angels

The first few years, I did events that finished in Westfield, MA. After helping develop our route in 2005, I tweaked it and re-used it for several years and even loaned it to another team in 2009. In 2010, the Boston-based club announced a Flèche with a finish very near home. So I designed a new route. The masochist in me came out, and I threw in a few mountains, but at least I left the fixie at home. We used this route twice and then handed off parts of it to form the basis for a new 300km.

This year, we have a new destination in Portland, Maine. So we have designed a new route that includes a ferry ride to the start in Provincetown, a hopefully quiet ride through Cape Cod in the wee hours of the night, a very urban ride through eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire, before picking up the East Coast Greenway in Maine.

An advantage, or maybe disadvantage of being in New England is that our ride can take place well after Easter. Last year, it was the first weekend in June, and we imagined ourselves enjoying warm summer sunshine, but instead had bitter cold conditions. This year the date is the weekend before Memorial Day. We've had a mild winter and spring but I will still be prepared for anything! Last year as we got to the first of two high points on the route, I alerted everyone to the long chilly descent ahead. "Any clothes you have with you, should be on your bodies now. And if you aren't going to wear it, I will!" I ended up graciously carrying an extra jersey - on my body - for one of my teammates. We got into the next town in the wee hours, and only had an ATM for a control. We huddled inside for shelter, but the space heater we found inside was non-functioning. And we had more descending. The next few hours were brutally cold - in June. It may be this memory is still fresh in the mind of one of my teammates, who is wavering on joining us this year. It's fresh in my mind. I will have plenty of warm clothes with me this year.

In addition to planning, training and riding with friends, one also gets to select the start time and route. I really hate the 4AM start times of many of the events around here. I don't get proper sleep before these events and start tired. The first year that we decided to start at 10 PM, I was very resistant, but I have come to love an evening start time for a 24 hour ride. We've moved it up a bit, so we finish in daylight, and every subsequent event has had an 8 PM start. By starting at 8PM, we get ride through the night with fresh legs. There may be a lull just before dawn, but then the suns comes up and I'm awake. Then we finish at supper time, have a nice meal and go to bed. The next morning, we arrive at the brunch awake and hungry, and can enjoy the brunch and then ride (or get a lift) home. For me, this works really well. And if regional planner allows for this type of flexibility in start times, I highly recommend it.

As far as selecting a route, I am a fan of quiet routes on tiny roads with some dirt thrown in. Since the team gets to design their own route, I can throw in as many tiny roads and dirt roads as my teammates will tolerate. As an avid GPS user, I can also throw in a gazillion turns, so long as I have enough controls to verify distance. And the extra battery power to get the GPS to last 24 hours.

I am looking forward to our upcoming adventure. I know lots of regions have already had their Flèche, but we just had our 100km populaire last weekend. Events start coming fast and furious now. We are off to do the Berkshire 200km next weekend, then NER 200km, then Berkshire 300km, then the Flèche. Look for weekly reports...

In the meantime, here are some photos from the 2010 - Team Gears, Gals and Guy ride.

 The abbreviated name was Team 3G, so it seemed appropriate to text and check email along the way!

We selected quiet roads, and we had a bumper crop of poison ivy that year, so it was nice to be able to sit in the middle of the road, when we took a break.
 
When nothing is open, a postcard may serve as a control

It warmed up quickly as the sun came out
This pedestrian bridge has been on every route through 2011. I love it! With me, Norm and Dena.

 The 3 Gals - Susan, Pamela and Dena
 
The French King Bridge

A nap after breakfast #2

Leverett Co-op for breakfast #2

A little dirt

What a lovely view from the shoulder of Mt Wachusett!







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