Saturday the Louisville Bicycle Club hosted a 100km Populaire. A populaire is the shortest form of brevet sanctioned by Randonneurs USA, intended to give new/prospective randonneurs a taste of the experience, without having to ride 200, 300, 400, 600+ km. I’ve been interested in randonneuring for some time, so I was keen on riding this event. In this case, the ride was actually a bit over 100km at roughly 104km (65 miles). I drove down and rode with Tim, David, and Asher. By the end of the day I had ridden about 120km (75 miles), as I met Tim at his house and we rode to and from the event together, giving us a few extra miles. Here is the route (only including the populaire itself).
The turnout seemed quite good, maybe 50 people or so? I had the pleasure of meeting Timothy (“Barturtle”), who has commented on my blog a number of times, before the event. After getting our cards, having them stamped, and a few remarks by the folks running the event, we were off.
These photos don’t really show it, but traffic was rather heavy for awhile. I didn’t get the camera out much when we were fighting traffic. Having a lot of riders on the road definitely helped us handle the traffic, but it was still tense at times, especially for a small town guy like myself. I like how in the shot below, you can see the Louisville skyline in the distance.
Despite the traffic, there was some very nice scenery, mostly in the form of the Ohio River. We also rode past a number of parks that looked quite nice.
Within the first few miles we experienced our first mechanical. Asher’s crank arm fell off. In a few minutes, we were rolling again. The initial roads were also quite flat.
Somewhere in the first 10 or 15 miles was the secret control. I meant to take some photos, but I forgot. Fortunately, I didn’t forget to get my brevet card stamped.
After fighting traffic for a while, we reached roads with a quieter, more rural feel, and the terrain got hillier. The route had a very interesting combination of shady, wooded areas, and wide open rolling fields.
At some point, we enjoyed a long, flowing descent of about a mile, riding between a gurgling creek and stone bluffs. This was just a beautiful section of road. Shortly thereafter, we had to climb back up but it was a long, gradual climb that wasn’t too bad.
Eventually we gained another ride in our group. Ann just happened to be riding at the same pace we were, so she joined us. She had a very positive attitude and was fun to ride with.
Ann had a much smaller build than any of us, and consequently, she had to pedal on some of the downhills to have any chance of keeping up. She just didn’t have the mass to drop like a stone, as some of us tend to do.
After more traffic, through which I gave a long pull on the front of a paceline, eventually we reached the second control (or first, or third, depending on how you count them. I don’t know how to count the start, or the secret control).
This control was at a deli called the Red Pepper. We opted to eat lunch, while we were there. This was roughly the halfway point of the ride.
I think several of us felt refreshed, after lunch. Then it was more traffic, but it went by much quicker this time, as we now had a tailwind downhill.
So, soon we were on quiet roads once again.
We had a fun bike blogger geek moment as we were all taking photos at the same time.
We got to ride the same long downhill by the creek and the bluffs again, this time in the opposite direction. It was a blast going both ways. What a fun stretch of road!
Soon we reached the last control, this one at a gelato shop. I had some strawberry sorbet that was wonderful. I haven’t mentioned it, I guess, but it was a fairly hot, humid day. Not scorching heat, but it was definitely warm.
Soon after that we rode a lovely low-lying, wooded road with some very large trees lining the road.
Then it was back on River Road, heading back to town.
With about three miles left to go, I felt my front tire go flat. I fixed it, with some help from Ann, who held the wheel while I pumped. We were rolling again.
We arrived at the finish with just a few minutes to spare (there’s a time limit).
We were all a little shocked that we had cut it so close, but we were happy to have completed our first populaire. We hung out for a while, drank beer and talked about the ride, before calling it a day. Then Tim and I rode back to his house, talked bikes some more, and I loaded up the car and headed home.
I learned a lot from this experience. The biggest lesson was that brevet time limits apparently aren’t as forgiving as I had thought. We finished this one on time without really rushing, but on a 200k or longer brevet, I think I would have to make a conscious effort to keep moving, in order to finish in time. And, even one more mechanical could have meant not finishing in time.
More important than that, though, was another great day on the bike, with a great group of friends. It was awesome to see Dave C back on the bike again — we’ve missed him on our last couple of rides. I had invited Dave G as well, but he couldn’t make it. Still, we had a good group, and met some new friends as well.