I will try to make this post shortish and sweetish. Firstly, I spazzed out in the morning at the hotel room and could not find my camera, so no pics. I can assure you that we were there and the scenery was some of the best I have witnessed while riding a bicycle. I was a little nervous going into this. Some say it`s one of the toughest Randonées in North America. It was tough but it`s really in how you ride it. We all rode super low gearing (34 chainring and MTB 9 speed cassettes, mostly 34 tooth). For 90% of the ride, we were either slowly grinding away in the lowest gear up these silly steep and long climbs OR we were SCA-REAMING down these seemingly never ending, twisty-turny descents. I spent most of the time smiling and often laughing, especially going down. This was the most fun I have ever had on a bike and I am somewhat timid going downhill. By mile 90 (get this, miles take longer to tick by than kms...) we figured out that the descents are so fun and smooth because the roads are mostly 2-300 years old. A 10-15% gradient with curves originally built for horse and carriage rides much different than one made for cars. (no stupid turns once you`ve hit 75kph)
The gravel was mostly excellent and the pavement was impeccable. I felt like I
got to spend 10.5 hours in cycling heaven. That sounds long but it flew by. I can`t recommend this ride enough. I`d do it again tomorrow if I could. Thanks to Matt for doing the recon last year, for prepping us properly and for the long term loan of the big orange bike. Thanks to Glenn, Ariel and Jamie for staying positive and riding superbly. BIG -SUPER-BIG thanks to Steve aka "the Colonel" who could not make it due to sudden unfortunate circumstances but who made us wicked tulip notes. Great job Steve, We owe you beer and/or something.
Next year, prepare the best you can and do it (the full 180k); you won`t regret it.
One photo, found on flickr taken with a guy Glenn referred to as "Florida" for the duration of the ride. We met lots of other nice folks as well.