June 2009

This was my fourth time riding the Grand Tour event but it was my first time riding the 200 mile distance.  On the previous occasions’ I had ridden the 300 mile event twice and the 125 mile course on one occasion.  This year I did lowland version which is a little flatter but has more traffic.  The support on this event is always great and the staff is friendly, many of whom are friends and riders themselves.  It was fun riding from rest stop to rest stop and being greeted by friends who were working the event. They of course would rather have been riding but they were supporting their club’s event.  I won’t bother too much with the details of the route.  If you have ridden a double century then you will understand how the variables of the course and weather can create highs and lows during the days ride.  This event for me had many highs and was perhaps my best event in 2 years.  The weather was great, I was able to see many good friends, it is a great course and I was riding pretty well.  I finished well before dark and felt good afterwards.  What more can you ask for? After my tough ride at the Central Coast Double this was a nice change. Thanks to the LA Wheelmen for putting another great event this year!



June is the driest month of the year in southern Utah, at least it is supposed to be.  This year however has been an anomaly with cooler and stormy weather being quite frequent so far.  Saturday morning at the start of the Bryce Canyon 200k the weather looked quite threatening as 9 Color Country riders set out for the day.  The forecast looked pretty grim but everyone tried to stay optimistic, after all even weathermen are wrong sometimes! The forecast winds hadn’t appeared yet and good progress was made towards the first control in Tropic, a little town just outside Bryce Canyon National Park. The climb up the bike path through Red Canyon was lined with flowers and along with the deep reds of the hoodoos on each side it was quite spectacular. Once on top of the plateau we could see for miles. There were many rain squalls in the area and it looked to be only a matter of time before we got wet.  But hey, if you don’t ride in the rain then you don’t really ride do you!

We descended to Tropic on wet roads but it was not raining on us.  The squall must have just passed by and we missed it.  The control in Tropic is at a country store and has about everything you need. We filled up on typical brevet food like donuts and V8’s.  With the paperwork done we started back up the hill we had just descended.  This was a short out and back leg to the control and then at the top of the climb the route would turn north into John’s Valley. A strong tailwind powered the riders along this section before dropping down into Black Canyon and on to Antimony.  Antimony Mercantile is not a control but it is a must stop since there are so few services in this area.  It is a good spot to grab a sandwich and they have great pie too!  The randonneur must fight such temptations or he might not finish his ride.

Continuing the loop along the Sevier River winds became less favorable with the exception of the short leg out to the next control at the town Junction.  From here you headed south again and straight into a headwind.  Storm cells still hovered in the area and it was hit or miss if you got rained on.  Everybody got the wind however and it seemed a little unfair that the headwinds played no favorites.

Carlton and Mike were the first 2 riders in and only had rain for about 5 miles. Harold was next in followed by Dion and Doug who had mixed rain and hail for 20 miles.  The Young family finished in their ride near Antimony and got picked up by family.
In summary, the dire forecast did not live up to the hype and I think the riders enjoyed the unsettled weather on the backdrop of this spectacular route.  As for the wind what can you say; it played its usual part both helping and hindering at times during the day.

The Start:
4:30 am:  One by one my riders arrived at the start line in Hurricane Utah; 6 riders total.  They did not know it but I gave them each a bike inspection as they arrived. Only one rider failed my test for lack of a reflective vest, but I always have a spare and soon he was properly equipped.  I had mostly a veteran group with one rando newbie, Bryan McConnell from AZ.  He said taht he had done this distance before but he looked a little under-equipped for a 400k to me.  I just figured that he knew what he needed and left it at that; I’m no-one’s nanny.  The ride starts immediately with a 1200 foot climb up to Apple Valley and then cruises through Colorado City and onto the Arizona Strip on mostly flat road. This is the location of Short Creek, home of Big Love, Warren Jeffs and polygamy. Yes it’s for real and is also the location for the story in John Krakauer’s book, Under the Banner of Heaven.  All of my riders pass through without picking up any new wives.


Michael Bratkowski at control #2

To Pipe Springs and beyond:
Pipe Springs is a National Historical Monument from the days of the early pioneers.  It was also a stop for travelling padres Dominguez and Escalante on their 1776 expedition from Santa Fe. Weary travelers for many years have stopped here for rest as they pass through the area.  My riders of the range stop here for much the same reasons; for food, water and a little rest.  Mike Enfield is the first rider in, covering the 41.4 miles in just over 2 hours including the climb! The others trickle in one or two at a time.  Everyone looks good as they depart.  The towns of Fredonia and Kanab are next up before riders start the first real climb of the day. Outside Kanab the rocks are red and the sand is pink as riders climb out of Kanab Creek Canyon and over the top by Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. The sun is out and temps are in the low 70’s; it’s a picture perfect day as they drop into the next control at Mt. Carmel junction.

Mt Carmel Junction:
At almost 80 miles into the ride, the Mt. Carmel Junction control is a welcome stop for most riders. It sits in a scenic narrow valley along the Virgin River and is a busy tourist stop.  It is at the turnoff for the East entrance to Zion National Park and offers the only self bailout option on this ride.  From here you are only about 40 miles from the start location in Hurricane and it is an easy bailout.  I have never had a rider take it until today.  Bryan McConnell of AZ had had enough and turned off here.  He was a little under-equipped for a ride of this distance and bailed out before he got into trouble.  It was probably a wise decision as we would find out later. The weather had been perfect until now but some clouds had begun to form.  It was still warm but it was looking like mountain storms were going to develop. The route would climb up to about 7000 feet and mountain weather is unpredictable. It can get cold and wet very quickly in the mountains.

Most riders made it into Panguitch without getting wet but a couple got rained on pretty good for a short time.  At 128 miles into the ride, Panguitch makes a good lunch stop and has great services.  Richard, who had been riding with Bryan before he bailed had now hooked up with Mike Enfield for the ride into Panguitch.  Larry Nelson was not far behind them and Dion and Michael were about an hour back.  The sky was completely cloudy now with many small storms cells in the area. Temps had dropped to the low 60’s and the winds were very shifty. One minute they were in your face and the next they were behind you or a crosswind.


Richard & Mike at control #5

Parowan Truck Stop:
It’s a pretty long stretch from Panguitch to Parowan, about 50 miles. The only services along the way are at a highway rest stop which has vending machines and restrooms.  The route is mostly along rural highways with a 15 mile stretch on I-15.  The interstate has a good shoulder, the pavement is fresh and the traffic wasn’t too bad either.  At the control I met Richard and Mike.  Richard was in good spirits as usual but Mike was starting to look a little green.  Maybe the strong pace he had kept earlier in the ride was starting to take its toll. They were eating Taco Bell burritos when I pulled up, classic brevet food! 

Cedar City:
The first riders, Richard and Mike pulled into Cedar City well after dark. Richard was still riding well but Mike was about done. He was being plagued by stomach problems and couldn’t keep any food down.  Although they were only 50 mostly easy miles from the end Mike threw in the towel and begged a ride.  I know the stomach thing well and if you can’t eat, you can’t ride!  This was the second rider that dropped today after riding with Richard, hmmmm.  Larry pulled in a short time later and then departed with Richard.  Someone should have told him about the DNF rate for Richards riding partners today!  Dion and Michael were well back at this point and I had to get to the finish so there would be no more checks on them.

Back in Hurricane:

Waiting at the end of a brevet must be the hardest part of the event.  You know that you must be there to see the riders in but it has been a long day and some rest would be nice too.  Shortly after midnight my first two arrived, Richard and Larry.  It seems that Larry had broken the curse and survived his ride in with Richard.  After a little small talk Larry went to find his bed. I however had 2 riders out still, so I waited.  Richard had no room to retire to and decided to nap a while before driving home. He ended up staying until the last 2 riders arrived just before 5 am.  Dion and Michael made it in but they were done!  They stayed together for mutual support for most of the ride and stuck with that plan until the end.  The two who resembled zombies, tried to recount their ride to me with grunts and other odd sounds. I’m not sure but I think they enjoyed the ride and were proud that they finished. It was Michael’s longest event to date.

Complete results can be found on the SUBrevet website under the results link. www.subrevet.org