Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cranbury 200k - The season opens in New Jersey!

Team Big Blue, Katie and Jon at the start

The Start

After one of the most trying winters in a decade the first New Jersey brevet of the 2011 season was about to begin.  Over fifty riders sporting varying levels of cold weather gear are scattered about Village Park in Cranbury, NJ for the chilly 38 degree start.  At the stroke of 7am ride organizer, Laurent, gives us the go sign and the large group makes its way out to the quiet streets of the town. 

Big Red vs Big Blue

My friend Al and I are aboard the Burley Tandem we call Big Red.  From the pilot's seat I have my sights on another tandem, just ahead, which we've nicknamed Big Blue.  Our friends and fellow randonneurs, Katie and Jon, are set on maintaing an aggressive pace with a pre-planned finish goal of under 9 hours.  Although our target finish time is more conservative, we're hanging with them for awhile to see how it goes.  For the moment it is requiring a serious effort.  With the wind behind us the pace is very brisk.  We ride in their draft for a few miles until both our tandems blow past a turn at 25 mph.  We almost crash into Big Blue as Katie realizes the mistake and brakes to make a u-turn.  I decide to keep with the pace, but stay off their back wheel.  The route has too many turns to establish a safe tandem pace line at high speed. With few hills in the way there is little to slow things down.  We are consistently between 20-27 mph with a light tailwind assist.  As we climb a small roller my friend Paul, on a single bike, pulls alongside.  Paul arrived at the start at the last minute.  He was late by a minute or two getting underway. I'm impressed that he managed to make up that time in the first ten miles.  The pace continues with us sometimes going past Big Blue, as circumstances allow, but mostly we are just a little back.  Within the last few miles to the Union Beach control they make it through a traffic light as it is changing.  From our position about ten yards back we choose to stop.  Our arrival at the control, mile 30, is about a minute behind them.  We come in with a large group.  By the time we park the tandem there is a long line to get the brevet card validated.  Once we have that done we spend another minute adjusting layers of clothes as the air temperature has risen quite bit since the start.  Katie and Jon depart the control.

Mechanical #1

About two minutes later we leave the control together with Paul.  No sooner do we make the turn from the parking lot when I notice my crankset has come loose sliding partially out of the bottom braket.  The right side crank arm is rubbing.  We stop, Paul stopping with us on the side of the road.  It takes about 15 minutes to put things right again.  We are back underway with no hope of catching up to Big Blue.  Not that there was anyway.  They seem determined to stay on their pace. Unless something goes terribly wrong we will not likely see them on the course again.  Just as well, as we can concentrate on meeting the time goal that works for us.  We are not really in competition with anyone other than ourselves.  While it was fun to mix it up with them for awhile it was never meant to be a race.  At least not on our part.

With the crankset re-centered and turning smoothly we are headed to the beach.  We cover about five miles before we actually work our way to the ocean.  The town of Keansburg marks our arrival at the shore line.  We pass by the amusement park, which is locked up tight. I've always thought the place looked like something from a Stephen King novel.  We breifly ride by the ocean before turning towards the Atlantic Highlands and the long gentle climb up Mt. Mitchell.  I find it a bit more difficult on the tandem than the times I've done it on my single bike.  We do manage the top without incident and the view of the Manhatten skyline is impressive.  After descending the back side of the climb we cross the bridge into Rumson and work our way back to the Ocean.  We parallel the beach for about ten miles to Asbury Park.  All the while a brisk wind blows from our right side while the ocean is on our left. This is unusual, and concerning, as the wind is coming from our primary direction of travel for the return to Cranbury.  I'm silently wondering if we can still manage our goal.  We quickly pass through the town of Asbury Park, which is quiet.  We then arrive at the Bradley Beach control (Hess Express) shortly thereafter.  We make reasonably quick work of the control and are back on the road headed south along the shore line.

Mechanical # 2

We pass through the town of Belmar on Ocean Boulevard and continue south to Sea Girt.  We then turn inland and into the wind.  It's a bit of a grind, but it doesn't feel as bad as I had envisioned.  While certainly we are moving at a slower pace it is not so slow that we have to abandon our time goal.  I am optimistic that we can still make it.  As we head up a small rolling hill Paul's saddle suddenly comes loose.  The saddle bolts need tightening. This proves to be a difficult fix on the side of the road using the multi-tool.  None the less, the saddle is succesfully retightened after about 15-20 minutes.  We continue on to our next control in Jerseyville.  The wind relentlessly challenges us on the final miles to the control.  We maintain a slow, but steady pace through it with Paul remaining in our draft as much as possible.  The miles are ticking off efficiently.  Our goal is still within reach.  Surprinsingly we arrive at the Jerseyville Wawa control at the target time.  We have allowed for an 18 minute stop.  After fifteen minutes we head out for the final leg.

Grind to the Finish

The winds coming out of Jerseyville are the strongest of the day.  The area consists of mostly farmers fields with nothing to block the full force of the gusts.  After about fifteen miles we encounter some small hillocks which helps to break the monotony of the trek.  Al has been keeping me up to date with time checks.  At fourteen miles from the finish it looks like a good bet we will finish safely under the 10 hour mark.  We are riding on familiar roads that are used by a number of popular routes in the area.  The air temperature has reached the 70 degree mark.  Despite the challenging head winds everything feels right to me.  I am fully enjoying these last miles.  We quickly are at the US 130 crossing with Cranbury just across the highway.  After a few turns we are in Village Park, at the finish, in a time of 9hrs 45min, within our goal.

Team Big Red at the Finish!                photo by Mrs. Al

The first ride of the New Jersey brevet season brought with it a number of firsts.  For Al and I it represented our first 200k completed on a tandem.  Also, a PR for Al at the 200k distance.  Katie and Jon would be the first riders to make it around the route setting a new course record of 8hrs 33min.  For Paul it was his first time riding the route during daylight hours, as the ride was originally established with a night start. 

With warmer weather moving into the region I am excited about the upcoming season.  I've had an incredible off season logging more miles and RUSA kms than any other year.  I hope to be able to ride my way into the RUSA K-Hounds club.  The requirement for entry into this small group is 10,000 kilometers accumulated through brevets and permanents in a single year.  To my knowledge a New Jersey resident has yet to hit the mark.  Not that my goal is to be the first, as I would enjoy seeing other area randonneurs make it.  The continuing growth of permanents and permanent populaires in the region should give everyone a fair chance.        

See you on the roads


1 comment:

  1. Great ride and report! best of luck on your K-hound quest, I hope I'm able to ride some more of it on your wheel.