Dunham beer ride (a.k.a. CVRM 300k brevet)
The ultimate goal of all this biking this year is to do Paris-Brest-Paris, which I have been wanting to ride since at least 2007. Nonetheless I’ve tried to set myself some small goals for the qualifying brevets and accompanying training. For the 200k my main goal was not to bonk, but also to do it in under 8 hours. For the 600k I’m hoping to get to the sleep control by midnight. But for the 300k I had a much more important goal: to stop at the Brasserie Dunham and drink a beer.
The ride started out promising, with a good twenty or so riders lined up in the parking lot, mostly the usual suspects (since one does not simply walk into the Eastern Townships … without having already done at least a good 200k). No sign of the rain we were promised but the wind was a bit stronger than expected – I began to dread a repeat of last year’s ride when it started blasting in my face at the 190k mark, just after turning west on the 104 to come down out of the mountains, and caused me to struggle the whole way back to Montreal.
We rolled out rather slowly at first, twiddling along at 25-27 km/h through the empty boulevards of Brossard, until we turned onto chemin de Salaberry and caught the tailwind, at which point the group accelerated quite a lot and strangely failed to slow down after turning onto Grande-Ligne with the wind blowing from the front-side. The lead group spread out diagonally across the entire road and there simply wasn’t any room to get in the wind shadow. With my heart rate monitor showing 160+ I decided I’d had enough and dropped back, cursing the weather gods and settling into a reasonable pace along with a few other stragglers. As luck would have it we caught up with the group at the traffic light for the 35 anyway!
After an exhilarating tailwind-propelled run through the industrial park of Chambly at 45 km/h, things spread out a bit and, although the wind was annoying, it was mostly from the side and didn’t cause me any serious problems. The 112 in this direction is starting to look a little worn out and there is a lot of debris on the shoulder, so I was grateful for the turn into Marieville… until my bike started to feel a little “soft”. Schezbzflat! The culprit was rapidly located – a very sharp chip of slate, probably picked up on the shoulder of the 112, but I foolishly decided to patch the flat instead of replacing the tube. My patch glue was thick and dried-out and the first patch failed to hold, so I lost a good 15 minutes, watching every single other rider go by from the side of the road. Unlike the 200k, this was going to be another solo ride for me… I resolved that I would not stop for more than 5 minutes at the controls until I got to Dunham, whereupon I would eat, drink, and be merry, and have a relaxing ride back to Montreal.
NO SLEEP TILL DUNHAM!
So it was that I spent 10 hours looking over my shoulder to see if my tire was deflating, and looking over my other shoulder to make sure nobody could hear me talking to myself. I very nearly caught a group of riders at the giant cross where the route leaves the 112, but they took a wrong turn, continuing on the bike path instead of the rang de la Grande-Barbue (the name of this road always makes me think of a 6-foot tall bearded drag queen, but I guess it’s actually… a kind of fish?)
After this point things became pretty uneventful. I planned and executed my control stops with laser-like precision (locate cheese curds, purchase cheese curds, refill water bottles, get back on bike). After Knowlton the packs of cyclosportifs started to come out by the hundreds. I saw an idiot driver cut off and nearly crash into a cyclist at a right turn, and for some reason the only thing I could think to yell at the driver was “mets tes esti de flashers mon tabarnac” though clearly not using his turn signal was the least of his problems… While riding down Bolton Pass a group passed in the opposite direction and I heard a woman telling the other riders that “c’est du monde qui fait des brevets de 200, 300 km pour Paris-Brest”. Indeed!
Just as the climb of Covey Hill defines the 200k route, the climb of Route Scenic defines the 300k. Of course, on this ride there are actually a bunch of other hills, but this one is the most notorious. As I hoped, I found it considerably easier than last year, though I purposely didn’t try to set any personal records and kept my heart rate under 160 for most of it. I finally got cooled off by a passing shower near the summit, and decided to take it easy on the descent into Abercorn since I was unsure of the road conditions. At Sutton I finally caught up with Trevor, Martin “Defrag”, Jim, and Samuel, then quickly took off again mentioning that I’d be having a pint and lunch (at 3PM…) in Dunham if anyone cared to join me. As it happened they caught me just as I was turning left into the parking lot for the brewery, and I waved to them from my comfy chair in the cozy alcove-terrasse that looks out onto the main road from the brewpub. They would end up finishing a good 35 minutes ahead of me, about the same amount of time I spent in Dunham (though they rode much faster).
Despite having already eaten a good quantity of cheese curds, I really had my heart set on poutine, but it was not to be as the kitchen was not open. The waitress helpfully directed me to the sandwich shop next door where I picked up what will probably be the best végé-pâté sandwich of my life, and I settled down at my table with a pint of BMW (Berliner Melon Weisse), a 3.8% alcohol, sour beer, which is just perfect for 215 km into a brevet with another 100 to go (incidentally the very same beer that I drank here on my ride back from the Vermont Brewer’s Festival). I had hoped to see some more riders go by, but it seemed like everyone else was much further behind the group of four that I had seen at Sutton.
At 3:30 I felt just fine and decided to head off again, thinking I might even make a pretty good time if the wind didn’t cause any problems. Amazingly, there was almost no wind at all! There was however one small problem, which was that I was completely out of food. Since I had the heart rate monitor I decided to try to ride in “fat-burning zone” (under 130 bpm) in the hope of conserving energy. The strategy seemed to work, and luckily so, since this was a long stretch with not even a dépanneur in sight. Finally, after the voie de contournement of Farnham, I popped into a gas station, plunked down a can of Pepsi, a bottle of fake V8 (Oasis 10-legumes – it has 2 more vegetables!), and a bag of barbecue cheese curds, and declared to the cashier that I needed sugar, salt, and caffeine, and I needed it now.
With my stores replenished, the ride along the Yamaska River to St-Césaire was an absolute delight under the hot afternoon sun. I decided that I’d simply punch in quick at the gas station, grab a couple bags of candy, and head on out, but I ended up spending a good 5 minutes waiting for some guy to buy a couple of lottery tickets, then decide he wanted a couple more, then a couple more… and then some cigarettes… and then COME ON!!! Back to the 112 for me. Really starting to hate this road. I thought I might take the bike path from Chambly but decided to just stick it out on the road, which actually does get a lot better at that point anyway. For a while it looked as if I would be able to cleverly thread my way through the thunderstorms, but in Richelieu the rain came on heavy and I took refuge under the overhang of a garage, where, luckily, there was a soda machine and a nice bench to sit on. After 10 minutes the rain let up and the cool air sped me back through the endless suburbs to the final control.
Finished! In 13 hours and 51 minutes, no less, a good hour faster than last year! For the 400 we’ll see if I can survive it in under 18 hours – last year was 18:36 which I found remarkably fast. I think I’ll get some new tires between now and then… and keep riding up and down the one hill in Montreal, eternally…