Assisted by an able team of volunteers, Brad & Jeff Tilden, Don Smith, and Ray McFall organized our 600km brevet last weekend. Including the 6 riders on the scouting pre-ride, 54 riders participated in the brevet. The ride rewarded all with their money's worth of pure randonneur goodness. Bone chilling rain over Stevens Pass, warm sunshine east of the mountains, awesome tailwinds, fearsome headwinds, long climbs, fast descents, spectacular views, and stories galore. After the ride, these stories started to appear online and I've enjoyed reading them all. I'm sure there will be more, but so far I've read accounts by John Kramer, Matt Mikul, Joe Platzner (you have to register to see the pics), Robert Higdon, Geoff Swarts, Jennifer Chang, Ward Beebe, Kole Kanter, Nick Bull, Dan Boxer, Narayan Krishnamoorthy, and volunteer Paul Johnson.
I needed to scout a portion of the Cascade 1200 route through Yakima and talked Robin Pieper into coming along. We took a nice 25 mile route scouting tour on the Yakima Greenway trail, had lunch, and then drove up to Rimrock Lake, where we enjoyed a wonderful 25 mile loop around the lake, including some lovely quiet roads on the south side of the lake. Fifty miles of riding in the sunshine and daylight made for a delightful non-rando cycling day. After our rides, Robin stayed in Rimrock to help the overnight control crew. I went down the hill to work the secret control with Don Smith and two of the many cycling Tildens - Ron and Brad.
At 225 miles into the ride, brevet participants can be spread across a broad swath of rando time. Sure enough, we had riders at the control from about 6PM until after 3AM. As the ride reports detail, the story of this section of the ride was headwind. Once the riders turned onto US-12 about 10 miles before the control, they faced sustained headwinds of 30mph with gusts that were much worse. We circled the cars as best we could to create a shelter from the wind at the control. This effort was only modestly successful - from time to time, we had to go chase blown-over lawn chairs. Once those chairs were weighed down by resting randonneurs, we heard 45 wind stories. Bob Brudvik described being brought to a halt by a gust. Another rider reported seeing a section of roof blow past. Most versions of the story were the silent testimony of the riders' faces.
Don and Ron ladled homemade chicken noodle soup and made great sandwiches for the riders. Brad and I offered any other assistance that we could. As the evening wore on, hot chocolate and coffee were increasingly in demand. In the cool air, many riders took advantage of the stash of warm coats that we had brought along.
In the rural darkness on a clear, cool night, the stars were impressive. During breaks between riders, we gazed up at constellations and the Milky Way. With riders in the control, however, we were instead impressed by their fortitude. As I've noted before, it's pretty inspiring to spend time on the volunteer side of these events. You get to see all the riders and marvel at their determination. Restored by hot soup, rider after rider headed out for the 25 mile climb to the overnight control.
Three of the last six riders on the road did not make it past our control. We received a call from one exhausted rider whose knee would not let him continue. On the way out to get him, Brad and I passed another rider who said he was done. We encouraged him to push on to the control and continued along. After picking up the sore-kneed rider, we figured that we should try to figure out the status of the last rider on the road. We found him at a convenience store about 15 miles from the control. A bit dazed, he allowed that he had spent 45 minutes working on a flat tire and was probably too exhausted to continue. We gave him time to make that call and then loaded him up and headed back to the control. I picked up the other exhausted rider and took all three up the hill to the overnight control, trying not to notice the looks of disappointment on their faces. Nothing to be ashamed of there - all had persevered through over 200 miles of very challenging cycling - but none were happy to be in my car.
At 4:30 or so, I reached the overnight control. Riders were still arriving, a few had gone straight through without a sleep break, and others were having breakfast and making preparations to leave. Jeff was running quite the show here with dinner, breakfast, beds, shower, and wake-up calls. Volunteers Allison Bailey, Noel Howes, Shan Perera, Todd Black, and Robin Pieper were tending to riders' needs. In turn, the riders' good spirits and determination inspired the volunteers. All were warned of the chilly descent after the rest of the White Pass climb. We knew, however, that at the bottom, they would be greeted with hot drinks and warm hospitality by Ray McFall and Paul Johnson before being sent off to climb Cayuse Pass.
Thanks to all the volunteers and riders that made the 600km a memorable event.