Iíve been doing the 200K brevet for a number of years now. The 200K is the first of the Boston Brevet Series of 200, 300, 400 and 600 kilometer rides, qualifying you for the piece de resistance, the Boston-Montreal-Boston ride, or every four years the Paris-Brest-Paris ride. Let me preface this by saying I’m not one of those randonneur types. Though I do the 200K you won’t see me doing any of the other rides. 200K is about a much as I can do without requiring hospitalization. But it does give me the chance to hobnob with the real randonneurs.
They always say up front that it is a ride not a race but nonetheless they time you so I ride differently than if I weren’t “on the clock.” The other aspect of doing this ride is the need to avoid the dreaded “DNF” If for some reason you did not complete the ride you are given the stigma of a “Did NoT finish” (DNF). Unlike other rides, where you could just slink away if you decided you’d had enough, here your shame will be recorded for all eternity on the brevet series web site. So there is a bit of tension at the start. One particularly memorable year, I had recently done a face plant on the streets of Cambridge, and wasn’t feeling quite my best anyway. I was clipped in with one foot, so as not to miss the mark and lose the crowd whose wheels I was planning to suck. Leaned the wrong way, and executed a spontaneous FDGB (degree of difficulty 7, form 8) in front of the entire group, which is probably more embarrassing than a DNF.
The 200K brevet has a mix of cyclists. You have your basic randonneur, who could do this ride before breakfast and doesn’t really get going until the 300K mark or so. You can spot the randonneurs since there bikes are fitted with all sorts of bags and lights and assorted paraphernalia. They look like they could just keep on going until Kansas if they felt inclined. One nice part of hanging with the randonneurs is that there is a lot of camaraderie. People come up and say hi, and actually remember me from last year, despite the fact that I’m only here for the short haul.
There are always some racer types, but racers generally train for races, which don’t usually last for several hundred kilometers. Instead there’s another breed who manage to condition themselves to go really fast for incredible distances. A case in point is the legendary Sandiway Fong. You wouldn’t know to look at him that he’s going to finish the ride hours before I drag my sorry butt into Hanscom.
My strategy is simple, hang onto a fast pack for as long as I can. My theory is that even though I end up going harder than I really want to, the overall effort is reduced by virtue of having been pulled along by the thundering hordes for the first part. When I first started doing this, I could hang on until the first water stop. This was convenient, since all the hills are after this anyway, and there’s not much advantage to drafting on the climbs As the years wore on, I found myself being ejected from the pack earlier and earlier. I figure when I get dropped out of the parking lot, it might be time to stop.
This year the plan somewhat worked. I let the fast crowd go and hung in with the second wave until the first stop. I filled up with food and water and decided that I really didn’t need to carry any heavy water up the climbs in the middle, since I could rehydrate at the second water stop. The fatal flaw with this plan was that I missed the second water stop (they had moved it off to the side a bit, and in my usual oblivious state, missed it completely). So I ended up doing the last 70 or so miles without any food or water, a bit much even for me. Really need to pay more attention, or even (gasp) read the cue sheet.