Definition of a Fleche:
A direct translation of “fleche” from the French origins is an “arrow”. In randonneuring terms it is defined as a 24-hour team cycling event held on or around Easter weekend with a minimum of 360 kilometers being covered during the event. Each team must converge on a single destination at a specified time from a variety of different starting points. Each team shall consist of between 3 to 5 bicycles, singles or tandems. The ride must be proven by checking in at a number of control points along the way and obtaining proof of passage at these controls. Our team was named:
Lords of the Chainrings!
Fellowship of the Chain-Rings:
We began our quest in the little town of San Miguelwhich is north of Paso Robles in central California. We wanted to start in Paso Robles but couldn’t get the required mileage so we moved the start a bit north to work it out. We had kind of a late start for a ride pf this distance and began riding at 8 am. The weather for the day was expected to be great for which was something that we were not used to. We cruised easily to Paso Robles and then up and over the coast range on Hwy 46 where we were treated to spectacular views up and down the coast. What could be better, it was a beautiful day, we were on our bikes on the California coast and now we were headed downhill. It was a breeze! Soon we rolled into our first control in Cambria after being sidetracked briefly at a local car show. This was going to be a great ride! We ate and took care of our business at the control and headed off down the coast with tailwinds and sunshine. In no time at all we cruised into our second control at Baywood Park where we took some time to eat. We were 110 km into the ride and feeling good. The next control in Guadalupe was a pretty quick stop and before we knew it we arrived at control #4 in Los Alamos. The shadows were starting to get a little long but we took our time here; we had been out for almost 12 hours and had covered about 210 kilometers. It was time to regroup a little.
The Two Towering climbs:
Okay, we had already done one big climb this morning but now we had to contend with two more. The first was Drum Canyon which we had to tackle immediately. The other would come a little later. Drum Canyon is really not that hard of a climb but coming late in the day as it does adds a little drama to the experience. We topped it just at dusk and didn’t get very far down the backside before turning on our lights. We finished the run into Buellton and our next control in full darkness. We took some extra time here as well to get a little rest before our long push through the night. We departed again sometime after midnight. The town of Solvang is a ghost town at that time of night but they leave the streetlights on. Here is where we encountered one of our first problems. Joe’s shifter started acting up and we had to stop under a light and attempt a repair. We were not successful and Joe was stuck in his little chainring for now. Not to worry, we were just about to begin our last big climb of the night. It was probably a beautiful route, but in the darkness all we saw was the tunnel of light cast by our headlights. Some perspective is lost in these conditions but being in the small chaniring pretty much convinced us that we were climbing. On and on in the darkness the road twisted. There were no lights to be seen anywhere, no street lights, no houses, no cars, just the tunnel. Finally we broke out into a clearing and we could see lights from cars on the highway. We were drawn to the lights like insects but the lights also happened to be our route. Now on Hwy 101 we continued climbing, up and over, and then down. The down part was fast, very fast. This is where we had our second problem. We were descending very fast down Hwy 101 in the dark. The shoulder was good but something caught Joe’s wheel and sent him towards the side of the road at 40+ mph. He was right behind me, and then suddenly he was not. It scared the $#!+ out of him and it took him a while to recover. We checked out the bike and it looked good so we continued.
The Return of the Kings:
Riding through the night is funny; it’s like a time warp or a dream or something. We cruised along the coast with no sense of time or distance. Our unit of measure was hunger and fatigue. Regardless of either we kept riding and kept these issues at bay as best we could. We had stops at controls in Goleta and Carpinteria but we did not use them to measure our progress in units like kilometers or hours, we calculated our progress with a chocolate milk or some other
snack. The clicks didn’t matter so much, we wanted food! So eventually, a couple thousand calories later we were approaching Ventura. Somewhere between the chocolate milk and the egg McMuffin the sun had come up. We had hardly noticed since we probably had been eating at the time. Eventually somewhere near 8am we did roll into Ventura and the final control. Most of the teams were already there but we made as grand an entrance as the 3 of us could.There were a number of other issues during the ride that hindered or helped but the only one worth mentioning was the spectacular weather. We had 75 degrees and consistent tailwinds for the entire ride. It truly was a magnificent day in Middle California!