Monday, July 12, 2010

Tobacco Root Mountains 300K Brevet-a ride with a little of everything!

My second and final brevet of the season as RBA took place on July 10, 2010 and was a challenging success! The challenges started before the ride with the complete destruction of a significant portion of the frontage road between Belgrade and Manhattan due to bridge construction. The day before the ride I had to scramble to build a new cue sheet to accommodate a detour on Dry Creek Road.

Previously, I also had to write in a detour due to the I-90 overpass construction in Three Forks-a detour that put us on I-90 for 4 miles outbound, and 5 miles inbound. Long story short...I got the updated cue sheet done and the riders made it through the detours with no major problems.

I was once again honored to have Jim Moores of Boise, and Ken Billingsley of Molt, MT on the ride. We left my house at 5:00 am in the early morning darkness with our lights on. As we passed through Manhattan, Brenda called to let me know that Ronaele Foss from Colorado Springs was just getting underway. Ronaele had emailed me to let me know she would be riding, but unfortunately, a misunderstanding about the start time put her almost an hour behind. I felt bad about the mishap, but I knew from seeing Ronaele's results on the RUSA website that she was an experienced randonneur and would be just fine.

The morning temps were in the 50's-and quite comfortable. We made great time to the first control at Sappington Bridge, stopping only at the Three Forks overpass construction site to take advantage of the worker's port-a-john (the only good thing about road construction is there's usually a port-a-john nearby). My Mom and Jackson were set up at the bridge over the Jefferson River to sign our cards and restock our supplies. They would be our guardian angels all day-in the event any of us had trouble.

The day warmed up considerably-the bank sign in Sheridan said it was 86 degrees. Much warmer than I've been used to so far this year. However, after Sheridan dark clouds started building across the hills of the Jefferson Valley. The forecast called for 20 percent chance of isolated thunderstorms, but it looked like there was a 100 percent chance of us getting nailed!

Ken and Jim were riding stronger than me on the last half of the route and I had to let them go. Ken was super strong all day and Jim kept his steady pace all the way through.

After getting myself rehydrated (I wasn't drinking enough early in the ride) I started to rally a bit before Whitehall. Mom and Jackson rolled into the Whitehall control right behind me and reported that Ronaele had left Sheridan and was getting along fine. Unfortunately, the weather over that part of the route looked quite ominous.

The 30 miles between Whitehall and Three Forks blessed all 4 of us with a wonderful tailwind. I didn't even mind the rain drops that were falling on me as I blew through the Jefferson Canyon.

Ronaele finished a while after dark-equipped with bright headlights to announce her impending arrival from several miles away. She had indeed encountered some of those thunderstorms-accompanied by some scary strong cross-winds. But despite the hardships she was in fine spirits.

All four of us had good days on the bike and all four of us felt like we accomplished something at the end. It was definitely a tough ride. Special thanks to my Mom, son Jackson, and wife Brenda for all the work they put in to make this ride such a great success. With the sudden route changes and all I would have been a basket-case without their help.

Being an RBA is fun, but now I can breath easier the rest of this season (sort of). I don't have any more club or randonneuring events to lead-I can just show up and ride like everybody else. There is work to do however. A full brevet series for next season is in the works as my Paris-Brest-Paris 2011 preparation continues.

The ride results and a link to more photos is HERE.
Jason Karp, Jim Moores, and Ken Billingsly all reflectered up and ready to go!

Ronaele Foss got a late start and had to deal with some serious weather, but still finished with plenty of time to spare

Monday, July 5, 2010

Tobacco Roots 300k Brevet preview

With the best of intentions I planned to ride the entire 300k on the 4th July. However, I encountered a little problem-the Ennis 4th of July parade and rodeo-one of the biggest such events in the state. As I got close to Norris I noticed the traffic was picking up, but at the junction of MT 84 and US 287, the line of cars coming from Bozeman and heading to Ennis was miles long and unbroken. Riding over Norris Hill with a steady stream of (possibly not-so-sober) rodeo fans was not my idea of a good time. Even if they were sober, by the time I started the bigger climb to Virginia City plenty of their counterparts would be pretty lubed up. Thus I decided to turn around and live to fight another day.

Despite my shorted ride (200k instead of 300k), I did preview the most critical parts of the route. A bridge over the railroad tracks just east of Manhattan (8 miles into the ride) is being replaced. As of now, the old bridge and pavement is still in place, but a sign warns motorcycles of loose gravel and to choose another route. That tells me they're getting ready to tear things up. If that's the case we might have to do a little cyclo-cross, but the distance should be short. Worst case-there is a detour on Dry Creek road available, but it would add 5 miles to the route (each way).

The biggest obstacle is just outside of Three Forks at mile 19. The I-90 overpass bridge is being replaced. There is a business loop detour available, but it's about a mile of hard packed gravel. It's a viable option if it's dry. If it's raining or has just rained-it's a muddy mess. However, another alternative is to take I-90 for 4 miles from Three Forks to the junction with US 287 (exit 274). On the return trip, the same gravel detour is available, or we can take I-90 to Logan (five miles). Other than a 100 feet of bridge over the Madison River, the shoulder is nice and wide. Montana does not restrict cyclists from riding on interstate highways. It's noisy and not so tranquil, but with a big shoulder and rumble strip it's safer than a lot of secondary roads. I'll review the situation Friday night and we'll talk about it before departure on Saturday morning.