Ride Report – Camrose 2009


“A Tale of Veterans and Virgins”

By Willi

The definition of a Veteran:

“A person who has had long service or experience in an occupation,
office, or the like ….”

OR, in Randonneuring Terms:

“A person experienced with many kilometers in the saddle, who although not being a glutton for punishment, keeps returning brevet after brevet; generally open minded and willing to share hard-earned wisdom with those of lesser accomplishments; always a strong rider ………………”

The definition of a Virgin:

“Any person who is uninitiated, uninformed, or the like …………..”

OR, in Randonneuring Terms:

“A person who knows little of what they dream to accomplish, who though despite their innocence, turn up for their first brevet overflowing with unbridled enthusiasm; generally keen and open to challenge; willing to learn from Veterans; variable experience and strength as a rider ……………”

The 2009 version of the Camrose 200 was blessed with the presence of Veterans and Virgins, ultimately resulting in a successful ride for all concerned. Despite threats of variable and uncertain weather, and unseasonably cold temperatures, five hardy and willing souls convened at 06:30 at the Millwoods Town Centre in Edmonton to prepare for the first official Edmonton brevet of 2009. Registering with Bill Vandermeer, the Ride Coordinator, were:

  • Wim Kok (61), Veteran Extraordinaire, from Fort St. John, B.C.
  • Phil Haswell (62), also a Veteran and long time Randonneur, from Edmonton
  • John Devlin (54), perenially strong rider, from Edmonton
  • Marvin Soderberg (52), experienced cycle-tourist and Randonneuring Virgin, from Edmonton
  • Willi Fast (51), always willing rider, from Edmonton

It was with disappointment that we heard that Bill Vandermeer would not be riding with us this day, however in typical Vandermeer fashion, Bill had prepared the ride well. Pre-ride preparations included a complete pre-ride of the route the previous week (although aboard his new BMW, so his ride will likely not qualify for credit!), as well as full documentation including route maps, cue sheets and brevet cards. Bill met us at the start, gave last minute instructions, wished us well, and sent us on our way precisely at 07:00.

The group of five headed south out of the city at an easy pace, with a lot of typical early-ride chatter. Lots of story telling from past rides, successful or not. Wim, in particular, had a lot of wisdom and experience to share. He is a Veteran of many years, having completed numerous 1200 km brevets, including the Rocky 1200, the Van Isl 1200, and of course, Paris-Brest (at least twice!). It is a joy and an honour to ride with someone who shares so freely and openly their past experiences, and let’s those of us with lesser experience ‘learn from those who have gone before’.

In no time we were flying down the hill out of Beaumont, turned east, and then south towards New Sarepta. The pedaling was still easy, and we were riding in ‘peloton groupo’ – all together – or perhaps more appropriately, ‘peloton groupeto’, since were only a group of 5. The store at the first Control in New Sarepta (38 km) was open, and the proprietress was happy to sign our Control Cards (08:43). After a wrong turn heading south from New Sarepta that lead to gravel, a quick turn-around got us back on course towards Miquelon Lake and the second Control.

Again, the south-bound pedaling was easy, and the east-bound leg into Miquelon Lake, on new smooth black-top, was enjoyable. We arrived at the second Control (59 km, 09:40) without incident, and again the store owner was happy to validate our Cards, although was not able to provide Ice Cream because it was not yet ‘In Season’ !

The southbound leg to Camrose and the third Control was more easy pedaling, and some of us began to suspect that we were riding with the aid of a favourable wind, that although not perceptible on the bike, made it possible to maintain a pace of close to 30 km/hr with relative ease of effort. Was this a harbinger of things to come? And what would this foreshadowing mean for us later this day, when we would be turning north again for the return leg to the start?

As we reached Camrose, we stopped at the third Control (90 km, 10:52), the Race Trak gas station at the northern edge of town ( “Bill always stops here.” ), then pedaled into town and found the bike path and bridge along and over the creek in town ( ” Bill always takes this trail ” . ). We found our way to the SubWay ( ” Bill always eats here. ” ), and stopped for a quick early lunch. Yes – the spirit of Bill accompanied us this day – too bad he was not on his bike with us!

As we dismounted, John noted a few white flecks falling from the grey sky overhead. Hmmmm – let’s not think about those right now! A bowl of soup for all, a sandwich and cookies for some, fill up the water bottles, visit the bathroom, and off we were again. All in all, I think we spent about 40 minutes for lunch.

From rides on this route, we recalled that the shoulder of the highway between Camrose and Wetaskiwin was wide and good quality pavement. We looked forward to a good ride west, perhaps riding ‘two-up’, side-by-side. Not to be! The wind started to pick, blowing from the Northwest at 20 km/hr, with gusts up to 30 km/hr. We quickly formed into a single pace-line, deciding to rotate the lead (and the work!) every kilometer. Because the wind was coming at us from almost 45 degrees, John suggested that we ride an ‘echelon’, each rider finding some shelter from the wind in the sweet-spot behind/beside the rider in front of him. The wide shoulder made it possible to ride an echelon 4-wide, with the fifth rider hanging on at the back directly behind the 4th rider – not much advantage in that position, especially after dropping back from the front, but positions 4, 3 and 2 in the echelon made for very easy pedaling, and we were glad for the reprieve from the work and the wind while in those positions. Our Rando-Virgin, Marvin, pedaled easily and efficiently, seemingly in a comfort zone, taking his turn on the front and contributing admirably to the group effort. Thanks Marvin!

Maybe 10 km out of Camrose, Wim got a flat rear-tire – we all pulled over to the side of the road, and when Wim discovered a substantial side-wall tear in his tire, he pulled out a spare tire from his pannier, exclaiming: “This tire has been on Paris-Brest – surely it will get me home!” The tire was easily changed, and we were on our way once more.

Despite the advantages of the echelon, the wind and hills began to take a toll on the group, and mid-way between Camrose and Wetaskiwin, we became a ‘groupeto’ of four. We told Phil we would see him at the Control in Wetaskiwin. The newly formed ‘Gang-of-Four’ continued on, and we were glad to reach the fourth Control (131 km, 13:32). Chocolate milk for some, coke for others, and cookies all around made for a quick and refreshing stop. As were preparing to pull out again, Phil arrived at the Control, assured us he was OK, and wished us ‘Bon Courage’ as we headed north towards home.

Now we were heading almost directly into the wind, which was becoming a bit stronger, and we formed a single pace line, again rotating the lead every kilometer. The wind was relentless, and my mind would not release the image of Phil, who would have to wage this battle all alone. With the advantage of the pace line, we rode this leg at a respectable pace, and reached the fifth Control in Leduc (165 km, 15:18). “Bill always stops at the 7-11 – he says there’s a post-office there and we can get an ‘official’ Canada Post stamp on our brevet cards – the ultimate validation.” Alas, as in previous years, there was no post office (it moved), but the clerks were happy to sign and stamp our cards. Retreating from the wind on the sunny south side of the 7-11, we had one last break before the last push home. Again, we thought of Phil, and wondered when he would arrive?

Heading east from Leduc, we knew we had two more hills to climb: the big dip on Rolly View Road, and then the climb back into Beaumont. Each was ascended easily by everyone in the groupeto, and soon we were on the last push back into Edmonton. We began constantly comparing distance/odometer readings on our computers, to ensure that we would complete the full required 200 km. As I suspected, we would need to add a small out-and-back loop on 66th Street in Edmonton to give us the full 200. With the addition of the loop, my GPS read “201′ when we arrived back at the cars and the final Control (201 km, 17:17).

All four of us finished in 10 hours and 17 minutes. We are still waiting to hear from Phil about his finish.

Thank you to Bill Vandermeer for his organization and support: “Your spirit was with us Bill!”

And – thank you to each of my riding mates – you made the miles fly by, and I value the new friendships we established, and the old ones we strengthened. The Veterans lead admirably, and the Virgin was enthusiastic with his showing. Let’s do it again some time!

My next scheduled brevet will the Red Deer Pines 300, organized by Charlene Barach, on Saturday May 9th. Anyone care to join me for that?