This year Eroica California, the vintage bike festival and ride, was held in Cambria on California’s Central Coast.
Our friend John from Wales rode with us again this year, and we were joined on the ride by Nial, Alec and Bart of the Old Velos, Irish friends we met at Eroica Britannia in 2018. In the video you can see them wearing their classy “Toin le Gaoth” jerseys which means “Wind at your ass”, which is every cyclist’s dream.
Unfortunately the date of the 600k we were hoping to ride, Terry Hutt’s “Triple Loop 600k” was the same day as Eroica California this year.
Fortunately Terry let us join him on the pre-ride the weekend before and we were able to finish qualifying for Paris-Brest-Paris by the end of March! Technically because of the way the rides are recorded we officially got credit on April 6th, but either way we were done, with the qualifying at least.
Now we just need to focus on training for the rest of the spring before we head to France this summer to ride the 100 Cols tour, described as the world’s toughest and most beautiful bike tour, and Paris-Brest-Paris, the legendary ultra-endurance event.
We chose to ride Willie Hunt’s epic “Borrego Springs 400k brevet” as our third qualifying ride for PBP. We had an amazing tailwind this year for most of the ride – except for the last 20 miles or so into Borrego Springs at the finish where it was a brutal headwind.
After touring the Outer Hebrides, Northern Scotland, the Orkney and Shetland islands with our Bromptons, Stacy & I joined our friend John Renowden in the Peak District for the 2018 Eroica Britannia festival.
John’s family joined us at the Saturday festival, then Stacy, John & I rode the vintage bike ride on Sunday. It was everything you’d expect from a British ride: hills, a bit of rain, more hills, and a pint at the finish.
We had a great time, and made a short movie about the Sunday ride. Other than spelling Britannia wrong in the title (D’oh!) it turned out pretty good:
“The people that I have met are not foolish; they are aware of how tired and cold and hungry and frightened and hurting and discouraged and disoriented and how possibly injured they will become. They know they will face great physical, mental, emotional, and possibly spiritual challenges as they make their way to the finish. This is what they are racing against. This is their challenge. This is what I admire.” – Carolyn Erdman
Back in 2014, before Stacy & I had ridden Paris-Brest-Paris, we learned of a film project about the UK’s premier Grand Randonnée, the 1400km London-Edinburgh-London. The film producers were looking for backers to fund the film, and those who did were guaranteed a place in the 2017 edition of LEL – who could pass that up?
Although filming a randonneuring event (or audax as they call it in the UK) must be quite difficult, the film turned out great. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can check it out on Vimeo. It does a great job of capturing the epic nature of the event and the challenges the riders face.
In July of 2017 we headed to the UK for LEL, and since we were there anyway we decided to ride from Land’s end to John o’Groats as a warmup. This not only got us in shape for LEL, but also got us used to riding on the left side of the road, and riding in the rain.
The riding in the rain practice came in handy when we got to LEL itself. The weather conditions during LEL 2017 were, according to the Brits, “rubbish”. So rubbishy that the official finishing rate for the 1500 participants on the ride was only 55% with an additional 10% who finished after the time limit.
Although it had rained hard the night before the start, the morning of was clear and sunny, and the first day was quite pleasant with only a few rain showers that mostly missed us. We even had a gentle tailwind through the Fens, the flat section of the ride.
As we rode north, the rain showers became more frequent, and the hills got bigger and steeper.
In Scotland the rain showers became still more frequent, and by the time we left Edinburgh and started to head south again, the rain became torrential at times.
We were making the control cutoff times, but without much of a buffer. The fatigue increased and our sleep times got shorter and shorter. Eventually, after 1200km of riding, Stacy found herself physically unable to continue and she decided to abandon the ride. It was not a decision that she made lightly, but it was the right one.
I carried on alone to the finish as the conditions became even more difficult. The wind in the Fens had increased in strength, and now it was a brutal headwind. I was fortunate enough to join a group of AudaxUK riders and we worked together to make good progress into the headwind. I pity the riders who had to ride this section alone.
Eventually all good things must come to and end, and so did LEL. We learned some things that will come in handy the next time we do this ride. For one thing, AudaxUK calculates time cutoffs for the controls differently than Randonneurs USA or Audax Club Pariesien. In the US and France riders are given a time bonus after 600km, but in the UK the time is split up evenly over the whole ride.
Another thing that will come in handy is knowing that it is not strictly necessary to follow the exact route on AudaxUK rides, you just need to stop at each control. This means that at 3AM you can take advantage of some of the roads that would unpleasantly busy during rush hour. Teaming up with local riders would come in handy here.
London-Edinburgh-London was beautiful and challenging – a truly epic ride, one that we hope to do again.