Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Soft Like Kitten, Stubborn Like Mule

In 1987, as a young naive randonneuse, I headed off to France to attempt PBP. For various reasons, I ended up starting the event on a brand new bike, with somewhat untested equipment. It didn't go well, and I was initiated into Team Randonneé Abondonneé. You may have heard the AAA advertisement, "Someday you'll break down and join AAA." Well, I'd might suggest that folks may be playing it too safe and aren't really pushing their own boundaries enough, if someday they don't eventually break down and join Randonneé Abondonneé (RA)!

And I'd even go so far as to say that becoming a member of Randonneé Abondonneé can be a great opportunity, as lessons learned from the experience really stick with you more than anything you read in a blog! And in the years since my initiation into RA, I have applied lessons learned on that ride to many parts of my life, not just cycling.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dirty Kanza 200 :: 2013 edition

I've often observed that the most difficult ride and race reports to write are those about rides and races that went perfectly smoothly. It seems that every story worth telling  features a protagonist or two overcoming a great challenge or three on their way to a conclusion that is in doubt until the last breath.

While I can't promise a story with an ending of that magnitude, the 2013 edition of the Dirty Kanza 200 certainly didn't lack in challenges. Starting and finishing in the town of Emporia, Kansas, the race traverses 200 miles of gravel roads through the nearby Flint Hills. While your mental image of Kansas may conjour up visions of vast plains or, dare I mention it, a Yellow Brick Road, it doesn't apply to the Dirty Kanza route. Instead of endless flats, there are countless hills to admire and continuous gorgeous scenery to be endured. However, speaking of "endless flats," the Flint Hills are renowned at providing those too. The original inhabitants of the area, The Great Kanza Nation, made arrowheads from the flint that abounds in these hills, so tyres need to be chosen with care.

Do Not Make Important Decisions

198 km into a 202 km permanent, my ride came to a sudden unexpected end. I had slowed and signaled to my two riding companions for the left turn ahead. The corner is tight, and I was taking the (left) turn wide and aiming for the far right side of the road. Sadly, the cyclist coming from the other direction was not taking such precaution. He came around his right-hand corner at high speed on aero-bars and was on his far left-hand side of the road, taking an arc directly through me. I was going slow already and braking hard, but his line was on a direct collision course. The impact was from my right and I fell hard on my left. Instantly I was on the ground and clutching my collarbone, with the realization that Green Mountain Double would go on without me the following weekend.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Dirty Kanza 200 - the crew perspective

Fear Rothar announced back in the winter that one of his big targets for the year was to be Dirty Kanza, a 200 mile gravel road race, based in the Flint Hills of Kansas. This was to be the premiere event for the Ride Studio Cafe Endurance team, with their new Seven Cycles bikes, with SRAM gear,  Clement tires and Rapha clothes.

DK was on my calendar too, but only marked as a weekend where I'd be on my own at home and outnumbered by demanding cats. Matt, David and John would be off racing and Mo would be crewing. But then Matt finally finished off his eight years of work on his PhD this spring, and decided it might be nice to actually attend his graduation. And after all the sacrifices one must make when a partner takes eight years in pursuit of a PhD, Mo wanted to be there too. So this is how I found myself crewing at DK200.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

DROVES - 2013 - Sunshine

Crisp and sunny! That's more like it.

Traditionally, Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer in the USA. But this year, it sure didn't feel like the start of summer. We'd had snow and sleet and cold and rain so far. Then Monday morning, the sun poked out and by the end of the day, the warming rays had even melted the snow on the Burke Mountain Ski slopes. It was still quite chilly in the morning, but by the time we packed up the car to go home, we were in shorts - so maybe summer is starting now afterall!

A few folks headed home Sunday night, either just not having any confidence in the improving forecast or needing to work (w-o-r-k is nasty 4 letter word). Those of us who stuck around were rewarded with a glorious day. We split into several groups. David and Mo decided to go back out on the Kingdom Trails for more shredding opportunities. Matt and Constance went out for more picture taking, and Ted joined John and me, as we took the tandem out for its first anniversary ride. And in case you are wondering, after a year, we still love 007!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

DROVES - 2013 - Get on Yer Bike!

My alarm alerted me that another night had passed. The hammering on the roof had finally stopped. It wasn't bright out by any means, but the ground outside wasn't white either. It was still quite chilly, so that winter jacket would come in handy yet again. I headed down stairs and fired up the coffee pot, and pulled out cereal and yogurt and coffee cake. And soon I heard the floorboards overhead start to creak as others woke up and started to stir.

David made us all envious with the smell of his wonderful asparagus omelet. And soon folks were buzzing about gathering warm clothes and rain jackets. GPS's were loaded with the route for the day and not long after we had a crowd gathered out front impatient to get moving.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

DROVES - 2013 - Shamed into Riding

Maybe it's old age or maybe it's too many prior rides in the rain, but the Bike Barn was still quiet at 8AM. Well, I say quiet, but that's not really true. Rain continued to pound off the tin roof creating quite a racket. It was quiet in that there weren't any cyclists stirring about when I rose. Although to tell the full story, Cristine and Dominique were up well before any of us and had headed into St. Johnsbury for an indoor swim class. But everyone else was enjoying a rare lie-in on a Saturday morning. However the smell of coffee and omelets soon filled the barn, and not long after, the bike stand again was the center of attention, as mechanics-extraordinaire, David Wilcox and Matt Roy, set forth to swapping the lines of John's hydraulic brakes to his preferred orientation.

A few of us headed down to the general store for coffee and to pick up more food. East Burke was a ghost town. The place is normally packed with mountain bikers on this long holiday weekend, but there were almost none to be found. We saw a couple of friends who were taking shelter at the store, as they were camping up on the mountain and had grown tent-weary.

Monday, June 3, 2013

DROVES - 2013 - Going with the Flow

Apologies for another long delay without a blog post. If you are the impatient type, follow me on twitter - @fixie_pixie - where the posts are more frequent and much shorter! Current twitter followers are keenly aware of how busy things have been for us in the last 10 days. And that now we have lots of stuff to blog about! So let's get on with it...

DROVES 2013 will not be soon forgotten. For many reasons: the hills, the dirt, the bike build, the rain, the epic rain, the cold, the snow and the fun.