On November 6th, I set out with fellow SPP member Chip Adams to ride the "check out" ride for the Flatbread 200k brevet that would take place on November 13th.
Just for clarification, a "brevet" is a scheduled ride, and is only available to be ridden on the date and time scheduled, where as a "permanent" route, is a ride that a rider can make arrangements with the route owner to ride at any time. A "check out" ride follows the route of the brevet to ensure accuracy of the cue sheet, the conditions of the roads and to work around any unforeseen obstacles. The "check out" ride is typically done a week in advance to allow the organizer to make any changes that need to made before the actual brevet.
At 7:20, Chip and I rolled out under partly cloudy skies and cool temperatures and a bit of wind. I was nervous about this ride, as I am about most of them, because I would be riding with Chip knowing that would be the pacesetter, and it would be considerably slower than what Chip normally would be at. The Flatbread 200k is a popular ride with SPP but I had never ridden the course, so my eyes on the cue sheet would help to find any discrepancies or vague instructions that may get the riders off course.
The first control, was an information control at a wooden bridge at the 8 mile mark. As we made the right turn on to the road that the bridge was on, we saw the big sign "Bridge Closed". This is why there is a "check out" ride. The bridge was just a 1/10 of a mile down the road, so we rode down to check it out. On the near side of the bridge, there were 2 jersey barriers, but there was enough of a gap between them for cyclists to get their bike through. The top of the wooden bridge was fully intact and the timbers were in good shape, so the bridge was safe to cross. The real obstacle was on the other side of the bridge. On that side there were 2 jersey barriers that were right up next to each other, allowing for no chance of a bike going between them. Chip and I contemplated the situation for a while (Chip knows the area very well, so he did a lot of contemplating... I enjoyed the scenery) and then lifted our bikes over the barriers, and continued on the route. I know this weighed on Chip's mind for a while, knowing that to avoid the bridge would require an extensive course redesign.
We pressed on to a coffee shop in Milford called Dolce. This coffee shop served as a control during last years Flatbread, but was not an "official" control this year. I found out that Chip like a good coffee shop, and I have to say that this was a VERY good one. We ordered our coffee and goodies, and sat in the coffee shop to enjoy them. After a nice break, we continued on the route.
The next stop was a convenience store in Slaughter Beach. I found out that part of the "check out" ride was to let the control points know that there would be about 40 - 50 cyclist coming into their establishment asking the clerks to sign their control cards and probably wanting to use the rest room, purchase water, Gatorade and so on. After we did that, we crossed the street to check out the view of the beach. Apparently, Slaughter Beach is where the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware Bay meet. It was pretty, but a little windy and cool.
The next control was in Milton, at Bodies Market. The previous control had no public restrooms, so fortunately, Milton was just 11 miles up the road. As we arrived at the Market, Chip went in to get his control card signed and I stayed with the bikes. This was the first place that I did not feel real comfortable leaving the bikes unattended. I later went in, got my control card signed and asked to use the rest room. The rest room was in the coin operated laundry next door, and was not much of a rest room. I am a guy, so my standards for rest rooms are not all that high. I knew however, that there would be ladies riding the brevet, so I let Chip know that the rest rooms were not that great. We tossed around the possibility of finding another control. As I wheeled my bike off the sidewalk, I felt that unmistakable feeling of a mushy tire. I had a flat. That sealed the deal, we considered that a bad omen. After changing the flat, we set out to find another control.
We slowly tooled around Milton and found a nice espresso bar. We went in, Chip talked to the person behind the counter, I checked out the facilities and we were both happy with the choice to change the control to the espresso bar.
The next control was a gas station in Bridgeville. Now the weekend prior to the "check out" ride, SPP did an Ocean City ride from Stevensville, MD to Ocean City and back over the course of the weekend. On the return trip on Sunday, we stopped at a place called Jimmy's, which just happened to be in Bridgeville. Now I make it a rule on the 200k's to NOT do many bonus miles, but I happily added 3 bonus miles for lunch at Jimmy's. Having been there just the weekend before, we knew what we wanted so menu's and time to think about what to get was not needed. Our waitress came, took our orders, delivered our food. We ate, paid the check and we were on the road again in just over a half an hour.
The next leg was the finally leg, but was 40 miles to the end. It was also the part of the ride that would present the worst of the wind. We each took turns riding in front to block the wind, but I was behind Chip a lot more than he was behind me.
We finished the ride in just under 11 hours and just before dark. Chip annotated the changes that needed to be made to the cue sheet and we called it a day. I made arrangements to help Chip the following Saturday with getting riders checked in and just anywhere that I could be of help.
On November 13th, I met Chip and Chris (another Chris) and Bill Beck at the brevet starting point at 5:45 a.m. Bill told us there were about 46 riders that had pre-registered online and other would be registering at the start. As it turned out, there were 71 riders at that started the brevet, which is one of the most highly attended brevets in this area.
Just after the riders started, I hoped in the car and headed to the bridge that was out. On the check out ride, Chip and I had decided that one of us would be at the bridge when the riders got there and provide assistance getting the bikes over the barrier. I know that this was especially helpful to those riding a tandem. Trying to lift a tandem over the barrier without any help would not positively add to the riding experience.
Of the 71 riders, 12 were from Severna Park Peloton. Clint and Dan, two very strong riders from SPP joined forces on a tandem along with Randy, Matt and Dave set a course record, finishing in 6 hours 48 minutes. All of the 71 riders who started finished with in the time limit and enjoyed pizza and soda from Good Guys Sports Bar, which was the final control.
It was a beautiful day, and a well planned event and I look forward to doing it again next year.
Here is a link to some photo's
My garmin info from the "check out" ride