Sunday, January 2, 2011

Two Valley Loop 107k Permanent Populaire - Ringing in the New Year!

Al in front of the Stanton Mountain General Store
With the drop of the ball at midnight on December 31, all the prior year's accomplishments and totals were wiped clean.  It's a fresh start, a new beginning, and a time to set new goals.  In light of the recent announcement by RUSA of the new P-12 award I set my sights on chasing this medal, along with other more ambitous goals,  for 2011.  Given that there were no Permanent Populaire routes within a hundred mile radius I needed to create a route and seek approval from RUSA. The approval came through just a few days before the New Year.  Something seemed right about attempting the ride on New Years Day.  I recruited my friend Al to join me on the inaugural ride. What follows is a description of the route and the ride.

The inaugural ride of RUSA route #1027, Two Valley Loop 107k.

It's a cold 24 degrees in Hillsborough, NJ as I ride over to meet Al at the start, three miles from my house.  We had settled on an 8am start time.  It's not a surprise that other than the two if us there is nothing moving at The Mountain View Plaza.  We start out on time headed for South Branch, Three Bridges and the first control on Stanton Mountain.  With the exception of Otto Road the first 18 miles are on easy terrain. The only challenge being the cold, which is quite noticeable, and the potential for black ice from the prior day's snow melt.  We pass by the horse and dairy farms of South Branch making good time on the empty roads.  The climb up Otto Road to Summer Road occurs smoothly and we quickly pass through Three Bridges crossing US 202.  A few turns later we arrive safely at Stanton Mountain to find the General Store closed for the holiday.  We document our passage by taking photos of ourselves in front of the store and move on.

The next five miles feature rolling hills and one good size climb which has a nice warming effect. The sun has now overpowered the clouds bringing the temperature up closer to the predicted 42 degree high.  After arriving at the Round Valley Reservoir there is a nice descent into the town of Lebanon.  Then US 22 is crossed to begin the longest climb of the day up Cokesbury Road.  We start to see walkers and joggers taking in the fresh morning air as we grind our way up the two mile ridge.  A short descent brings us to Califon Road and a couple of shorter steep climbs.  We quickly descend Rt 512 into Califon only to climb back up to our control at the junction of Rt 513.  The Tiger Mart/Dunkin Donuts (mile 33.2)  is open so we enjoy coffee before moving on to Long Valley.

We follow Route 513 into Long Valley, which is 5.5 miles of gentle terrain.  The wind has picked up and is blowing in our favor delivering us into the town quickly and efficiently.  We then turn onto Route 517 headed south to Fairmount.  Soon after the turn is the second longest climb of the day. I feel borderline hot on the way up, despite having removed the wool balaclava and heavy gloves at the last control.  After the climb we are faced with nothing more than gentle upgrades and a few rolling hills to the next control at Whitehouse Station.  As we casually make our way up one of the rollers a guy on a carbon bike wearing race kit passes by moving at a very brisk pace.  He looks over and says; "have a nice ride".  I wish him the same, but think to myself how can he be so sure he wont be seeing us again.  He's gained quite a bit of ground as I make the decision to start chasing.  Al hangs right on my rear wheel as I gradually move the needle up.  I notice the rider up in the distance is no longer moving away.  We reach the long gradual descent into Tewksbury at which point I pour everything I have into staying low and pedaling hard.  We are gaining ground.  As the road flattens out I stay down on the drops and use my momentum to stay on top of a big gear.  We are now within 40 yards.  I choose the next upgrade to make the pass.  He appears surprised to see us.  As we go by he politely asks us for a tow.  Following in our draft through the town of Tewksbury he turns off on Lamington Road wishing us well.  Although, I might have enjoyed the chance to chat with the guy, I am sort of glad to be able to return to a more casual pace.  The effort of the chase has left a dent in me. I'm really looking forward to the upcoming control now only 4 miles away.

At the Whitehouse Mall we take a twenty minute rest before pushing off for the final 15 miles to the finish.  The route to Hillsborough has nothing substantial to climb.  At best there are a few rolling hills through Readington and a couple of little kickers.  The miles tick off efficiently and soon we are navigating our way through the outskirts of Hillsborough.  At which point I make a navigation error, left instead of right, costing us six bonus miles. Having lived and cycled around the town for many years one would think I would have no difficulty leading us to the finish.  Certainly, Al thought so having chosen not to display his cue sheet on the last section.  Thankfully, we were on a short 107k ride and not a 200k where the extra miles could have been painful.  We both had to laugh at the absurdity of it once we were at the finish with time to spare. 
With the three miles to ride from the finish to home I ended the day with 80 miles and an RUSA total of 107k.  Not to mention number one of the twelve rides needed for the P-12 medal.  A good start to 2011.


While the challenge of the P-12 may seem lame in comparison to it's big brother, the R-12, it still requires planning and discipline to string them together for 12 consecutive months.  A ride of longer than 199k can not be counted towards a P-12, leaving only the Populaire variety as eligible.  In direct contradiction to the name, Populaires are not all that popular.  Only a few per year are on area brevet calendars.  Currently, only sixteen appear for all of 2011 in a nationwide search. With only two accessible to our area.  With that in mind I plan on submitting to RUSA additional permanent routes of the Populaire type.  I encourage other RUSA members to do the same.            

Happy New Year!

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