Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cranbury 200k - Wet and Wild!!

Photo:  The Amusement Park at Keansburg, NJ or was it Maine?

This was my fourth time riding this route.  The first time being in 2007 which was a night start. It was originally called the Shore by Night, as it's loop would take one to various shore towns before turning in-land and returning one to the finish in Cranburry. The other two times were day time rides which were not held as brevets but more as organized practice rides scheduled between some of the longer rides of the season.  This time the ride was a fully accredited ACP brevet.  Wanting to do my part to add to the US total of homologated kilometers I signed up along with my friends Al and Jon.  Our  agreement was that we would attempt to ride fast, under 10 hours.  The flat route should allow for that should it not be too windy.  What we hadn't planned on was rain, cold or both.  One of my riding buddies always said it's one thing to be out there and end up riding in the rain, but totally another to start riding in the rain.  This ride would definitely be the latter as it rained all through the night.  It was coming down steady at the 7am start and worse it was cold (mid forties).  Not by any means a desirable combination.  Amazingly nineteen riders where there to clip in at the start.  Both Jon and Al showed up as agreed neither one even hinting at the idea that we may not want to take the start.  I was proud to be part of this hearty group of riders.

Cranbury to Union Beach - 29 Miles

After the briefest of pre-ride meetings which basically consisted of "Hey it's time to go. See you all later", by Laurent Chambard, ride organizer extraordinaire, we were off.  The three of us found ourselves leading the ride for the first few miles with no one immediately behind.  Then we were caught by Justin from Philadelphia who was spinning quite smoothly at a very nice clip.  We rode together for awhile then decided to let him go as his pace was a little more than we were up to.  Although, Jon probably could have hung with him.  Another rider caught and passed us as well.  I never did get his name, but we would see him at every control from there out.  The first control was at Union Beach, a Burger King on Route 34.  We kept up a good pace and pulled in having maintained a little distance on the rest of the riders.  We had agreed that we would take zero time here.  We verified our brevet cards with Janice, the volunteer, and went back out to the bikes.  The second place rider left just a couple of minutes before us.

Union Beach to Bradley Beach - 32 Miles

The next section was cold and windy as we were riding right by the ocean at times and the off shore wind was horrendous.  When we hit the Keansburg area the wind was right in our face.  I saw Al falter and drop back.  Jon was continuing to spin through the wind and I decided to hang in letting Al get dropped.  It was a hard thing for me to do, as I've done many rides with Al and we've always waited for each other anytime one of us fell back.  But, our agreement on this ride was to ride fast to meet a specific time goal.  That would mean anyone not keeping up the pace would be on their own.   We passed the Keansburg Amusement Park, which was closed up tight.  It had a rather foreboding look to it in this weather.  Kind of like something from a Stephen King novel.  I wondered briefly if there is a Keansburg Maine?  We rode along the shore for a few more miles and then headed for the Atlantic Highlands for a little climbing.  The climb to the top of the Highlands was much appreciated as it warmed us up.  I think both Jon and I needed it.  Once at the top we didn't bother with the scenic overlook which on a clear day one can see the New York Skyline. There would be nothing to look at on such a dreary day and stopping would mean getting cold again.  Instead we did our best to survive the cold descent.  For the next fifteen miles we weaved in and out from the ocean.  The wind coming off the water was quite strong and cold so the time spent on Ocean Boulevard was not very pleasant. Finally we arrived at the Bradley Beach control, the Hess Express.  Laurent was there to sign us in.  We both began shivering as soon as we stopped.  Inside the market was better, but my hands were frozen and would not work properly.  Gripping a cup of coffee was difficult.  Thanks to an electric hand dryer in the bathroom I was able to rectify the situation.  I had a pair of winter gloves with liners in my pack that I decided to wear upon leaving. Back outside we mounted up again having made fairly quick work of the stop despite being so cold. The rain seemed to be a little lighter. No other riders came into the control while we were there. I was hoping Al would meet back up with us, but he never appeared.

Bradley Beach to Jerseyville - 33 Miles

We shoved off for a few more miles of riding beside the ocean and then thankfully turned inland. The wind was no issue in this direction and we were able to maintain a decent pace. We headed through Allenwood, Lakewood and Howell. I for one was feeling decidedly warmer. The rain had actually stopped for the most part only spitting on us every once in a while. We were both riding well giving me a good feeling about our chances of meeting the goal. The terrain remained flat to the control and we arrived at the Jerseyville Wawa as the third riders. The number two rider was still there, but left shortly after our arrival. Janice signed us in again and offered us water and home made brownies. A very nice treat which we briefly indulged in before shoving off again.

Jerseyville to Cranbury - 31 Miles

The final stretch to the finish had a few small hillocks, to use Laurent's wording.   They usually feel good at this point in the ride but I was getting a little tired from holding the brisk pace. Things were looking pretty rosy for our sub 10 hour time and I didn't want to screw it up by fading on these little hills. Jon is a terrific climber who spins up most anything with a high cadence. To stay close to him I needed to stand and sprint up the bumps. It worked okay with Jon only having to ease up a little on a few of the larger hills. The rain was basically stopped. In fact, many of the roads were dry and there was no wind. Cranbury drew near as the roads flattened out again for the final few miles. We entered the small down town area just a few blocks from the finish. We arrived finding Laurent waiting for us in his car. He singed us in at 9 hrs and 39 minutes which would be the third fastest time of the day. Jon and I were both pleased with the accomplishment.


I found out from Laurent that Al dropped out at the Bradley Beach control having arrived there a mere 15 minutes before the closing time. He had some serious navigation problems and had arrived there cold and miserable. He called family to come to his rescue. Given those circumstances I probably would have packed it in myself. I was glad to learn he was safe.  Rain rides toughen one up even if you don't finish. When I spoke with Al later he said that his main goal, the one he would not let go,  was to stay with us to the first control.  Mission accomplished!!

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