Last Chance, Day 1, cold, wet and a little windy

Randonneuring (also known as Audax in the UK, Australia and Brazil) is a long-distance cycling sport with its origins in audax cycling. In randonneuring, riders attempt courses of 200 km or more, passing through predetermined “controls” (checkpoints) every few tens of kilometers. Riders aim to complete the course within specified time limits, and receive equal recognition regardless of their finishing order. Riders may travel in groups or alone as they wish, and are expected to be self-sufficient between controls.  Source

These reports recall our recent CO Last Chance, a Grand Randonnée of 1200-km, 750-mile event that counts as a success only if you finish in 90 hours or less.

Easy, right?

Day 1:  

249.28 mi / 401 km
Elevation Gain:
2,933 ft

I think we had just make the turn onto Imboden Road when my front wheel was caught in a deep trench that some farm implement had dug into the pavement. The pavement was wet and we had been in a cold, driving rain since the 0300 departure from the Quality Inn in Louisville CO.

I felt the bike start to go down and then, as I struggled to unclip both feet, I managed to bang my right knee and ankle on the main tube and crankset.

That was the first moment when I wanted to quit. It would have been so easy to turn around, ride the 36 miles or so back to the hotel and simply enjoy the Boulder area for the next few days. I’m an admitted fair-weather rider who has lived in Arizona for too long. I can deal with the heat but not the cold and certainly not the cold and rain.

There also seemed to be a little peer pressure at work in the hotel lobby before we pulled out. Several riders decided not to wear leg-warmers or tights. The temps outside were close to 60F and I think the heat in the lobby fooled a few people into a false sense of security.

I talked to one rider in the lobby who stated he was there to “get my man-card stamped”. I was somewhat amused at his statement and wished him well. I assumed he meant that he had ridden a 1200 the year before and needed this one to maintain his status. Once you ride a 1200, you don’t have to ride the full brevet series the next year to qualify for another 1200. Makes sense.

Having recovered from the near miss, I settled into a steady groove and tried to keep riders in sight as we aimed for Byers. At 71 miles, that was the first control and I couldn’t wait to get off the bike and enjoy a hot cup of coffee and a snack! I pulled in at 0811 and the clerk added a small smiley face when she signed my card. I didn’t notice the little smiley face until I was checking my times for this report.

The plan had been to maintain a 14-mph rolling average, be off the bike no more than 15 or 30 minutes between the controls and stay in the control no more than 30 minutes unless it was an overnight stay. Clearly, the plan didn’t include cold rain and driving winds but taking just over 5 hours to cover 71 miles put me exactly where I wanted to be.

As I pulled into the control, my friend David grabbed my bike and told me to get inside and get a drink. A cup of coffee and a spot on the floor never felt so good! I got my water bottle topped off, made a few equipment adjustments and was back on the bike. Anton at 55 miles was next up and I was looking forward to another short break.

When we arrived in Anton, everyone piled into the only store in town – a cold, wet kind of shivering mass of cyclists. The clerks at the store were amused at our plight and went out of their way to sign our cards, point out where to find food we could warm up and didn’t seem to mind when we collapsed on their floor to rest, relax and eat.

When I stepped outside to start the next leg, I was amazed to discover that the temps had dropped a bit more and the wind was picking up. It was now into the low 50’s/hgh 40’s. Normally, that’s tolerable but add wet and wind to the occasion, the chill factor kicks in. While it was still early in the ride though but I could tell some weren’t enjoying the adventure.

I have a little experience built on years of kayak trips, motorcycle trips into Mexico, camping, bike-touring and backpacking which has taught me several lessons.

First, the weather being experienced now will change sooner or later. The forecast for the CO Last Chance was that the next few days would be spectacular so the immediate goal was to get to Atwood where a warm shower, food and bed was waiting.

Second, if you’re wet/tired/cold/hungry, everyone else on the same trip is also wet/tired/cold/hungry so complaining accomplishes nothing. Be a friend to someone, cheer them up, give them a pat on the back and if you can’t manage that, at least don’t drag anyone else down by complaining about the weather.

I stepped back inside the store to decide if I really wanted to continue the ride. Those nagging doubts were creeping in again but it was just 1:15 pm and at 126 miles, I was pretty much on-schedule with my time. Given that, I decided to press-on when I noticed the other riders using plastic grocery bags as wind breaks! I knew this was a common trick and started to grab a few more for myself until I remembered that I had another layer of clothing in my bags. I grabbed those items, went back inside and put on another layer.

I was in the control for 45 minutes – clearly, that stop cost me a little time but the extra layer was a life-saver for me. I guess sometimes, you need to slow down to go faster.

The rest of the day was more of the same – cold, rain and windy. The stretch between St Francis at 208 miles and Atwood at 251 miles was particularly brutal. The cumulative impact of strong, long, rolling hills, the weather and the miles was impacting most of us. I rode with Bill R and we had to work to keep each other awake.

While on the last segment, I expressed my concerns to Bill – my ankle and knee were sore from the earlier incident and I was flat tired. I remembered the advice that our RBA Susan gave us prior to our first 600. She said that no matter how badly we felt, get back on the bike the next day and start riding. She said it would all come together and we would be able to continue. Great advice.

Sure, there were some phenomenal riders who simply killed it. The data indicates that the quickest rider covered the first day at a 14.9 overall average. I managed a lowly 11.4 mph arriving at just after 0100 but the larger point is that I surprised myself by finishing day 1. I’m not sure of my rolling average. I’ll try to dig that out later.

The “It’ll Do Motel” in Atwood was a welcome site especially since it was at the end of a 2 mile descent! There were riders in various stages of checking in and eating the food provided by the volunteers. We checked in and I made plans with Bill R from MA to leave at 0400. Between getting a shower, a bite to eat and ready for the next day, we got just over 2.5 hours of sleep.


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