October 3, 2010
The weather in Rockland County was ideal for a brevet, bright and cool, verging on cold. Prep and transport to the event start ran long, but soon the riders were fueling up, asking for reminders of route length, and getting themselves psyched:
“Daddy, tell me again what we don’t want!”
“Right, a DNF! I’m gonna try my best to finish this brevet!”
Bikes had been checked and prepped in the hallway before leaving home, so all that was left was to have brevet cards signed at the first controle and weatherproof them for the ride.
Into the saddlebags they went, apple juice went into bottle cages, and we rolled out of the controle onto a route that would comprise three full circumnavigations of Rockland Lake. Total distance: 15 kilometers.
I didn’t see any randonneurs besides the ones I was riding with, but my companions claimed numerous sightings. So either I just wasn’t noticing things—always possible on a challenging endurance ride like this—or those were just people out pootling on their bikes.
The terrain of this ride is varied, ranging from long, level flats:
to fast descents:
to challenging climbs:
But the biggest challenge was the sheer distance. Spirits were sagging and a full third of the registered riders were seriously considering abandoning by the time we reached Controle 2, the first indoor controle on this route. As usual on these rides, the volunteers were ready with food and encouragement—though it was noteworthy how much the volunteers at each controle all resembled each other.
The calories and the short rest seemed to lift spirits—but once we were out on the route again, it became clear that one of the riders was suffering, lo unto torture. How this tormented soul managed to press on so courageously, so unendurably, so loudly in the face of unspeakable persecution and utter destruction, I will never know. But by the time we reached Controle 3, he was done—and his voice was gone.
After a brief refueling, my remaining companion and I pushed off and headed onto Leg 3, the final stage of the Rockland Lake ride.
Unlike the previous two legs, this one took place later in the day. Such striking variety is the mark of a thoughtful ride designer. Where before, we’d been riding in early afternoon, it was now late afternoon. Where before, there had been a tailwind on the way out and a headwind on the opposite (East) side of the lake, now there were crosswinds at the North and South ends. And where before, we had enjoyed overhead sunlight, now it was coming in at more of an angle.
The Rockland Randonneurs are understaffed, so this ride relies more on information controles than do most brevets of its length. Here, a rider double-checks how he’s answered the question “Who are you riding with?” before remounting and pushing toward Controle 4, Arrivée.
The rest of the ride was an easy lope, with good conversation, around a stretch of lake that seemed somehow familiar. My ride partner kept having to stop as people kept calling him on his phone—his ring tone sounds a lot like a five-year-old going “Brrring! Brrrring!”—so we barely made it to the Arrivée within the generously unspecified time limit.
This being my friend’s first brevet, I explained the Lanterne Rouge—the last finisher, named after the red lantern at the back of a train—and asked how he’d like to finish. Should he be the Lanterne Rouge, or should I? But he did me the unexpected honor of suggesting we come in exactly together—so with our front wheels lined up precisely next to each other, we rolled into the Arrivée as one. And once the brevet cards were signed and ready for homologation by La Ligue Des Pères Allants À Vélo, we were done. The Rockland Lake 15K had been completed.
Homologation is unusually fast in La Ligue. An award ceremony proceeded immediately.
In conclusion, the Rockland Lake 15K is a beautiful, challenging brevet through scenic lake country, with terrific organization and the awesomest ride designer I can ever imagine encountering. But it’s the riders who really distinguish a brevet, and in this case, I have to say:
This ride outshines them all.