Newsletter - 2001 Archive

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The Sweetest Ride
(an account of the 2001 interior 400 , 427 actually!)

Peter Mair


There are few things in life as sweet as a smooth stretch of road and a strong tailwind on your back - such was the case for probably one half of this year's Interior 400.

Bob Boonstra had organized a new route for this year's spring series 400 km. So on June 9 @ 5:00 a.m. with the threat of showers (typical June weather for even the interior), 5 official riders (one unofficial tagged along to Merritt) headed south out of Kamloops on the old highway 5A through the Nicola Valley to Merritt. What a treat Bob had in store! After the initial 6 km to 7 km climb past Knutsford the road promptly plummets 250 meters in elevation in 3 km with grades up to 11%. In the back of everybody's mind I'm sure was what a wallow this was going to be on the way back. My friend from Kamloops (the unofficial rider) and I rolled on ahead but by Stump Lake Allan needed to stop to access his food supply and the tandem of Bob and Richard caught us up. As the next 10 km south was perfect cruising terrain for the tandem we tucked in until the hills got a little long and we drifted away again. By Quilchena Allan sat up exclaimed he "was baked!" so we bid good-byes and I carried on to Merritt into headwinds and rain showers.

As I was reloading my bike at the Robyn's Donuts control Allan showed up. He was going to call his wife to come pick him up as he turned around and rode back the way we had come. Bob and Richard rolled into the control as I left for the slog up to Aspen Grove. The "initial" Connector route other than the big climb went easy as a tailwind pushed me up to the high point brake check. The rolling terrain to the turnoff to Aspen Grove provided some relief. The route south to Princeton began with showers sprinkling down but through beautiful cattle country, groves of patchy aspen and pine, decent pavement and little traffic. There were slight headwinds, which fortunately turned about 20 km north of Princeton. The next 50 km to the purported turnaround at km 208 was a sweet ride on flat terrain with speed well into the 40's in places. At km 210 (on my odometer), I pulled over, perplexed - "where the heck was the control?" Rural housing and barking dogs in the middle of nowhere began to give me an uneasy feeling - especially since my odometer had read right on Bob's route description distance at Merritt. I concluded it must still be ahead. At km 213.7 the Whistle Stop Café was a welcome site. I wasted little time filling water bottles and my back bladder. After explaining to the woman and her daughter the insanity of Randoneering and that hopefully all five of us would make the turn-around she exclaimed "good heavens - of course you can use the bathroom. We had expected 40 of you to roll through!" There was a very conspicuous sign as one entered the establishment requesting a $1.00 charge for non-customer use of the bathroom - apparently due to a temperamental septic system? I dashed in for a pee and promptly saddled back up. Tailwinds into the control where now headwinds out. But it wasn't that bad. The tandem passed me speeding to the control about 17 km out and after I swung through Princeton I stopped and chatted briefly with the sweepers - Randy and Rob a few km's north. They sounded a little flat having suffered a puncture earlier in the day and were looking for incentives. I told them the next 35 km would be great but then they would have to face the headwinds. That raised their spirits a mm or two and we parted company.

I slogged north and began wishing for the tailwinds, which came a little later than expected. They did however materialize and the next 50 km through Aspen Grove to the high point on the Connector before the big hill to Merritt went very quickly. The hill had to be pedaled down - literally. The strong cross winds at the top and a full frontal blast as the highway swung west on a 7% grade reduced gliding speed to under 40 km/hr. As soon as the turn was made north back to the Merritt control though I could hardly contain my excitement as the wind now pushed as strongly from behind.

Never have I looked so forward to a 92 km ride - that was what was left.. The Knutsford hill seemed a mere bump 76 km distant. I had a leisurely hot chocolate at Robyn's Donuts and cranked up the blood sugar for the last stretch.

The 92 km was pure sweetness. The wind was like a motor on the bike and all I had to do was keep turning the pedals to keep up. You know those days when you feel like Tiger Woods fist punching the air for the pure joy of it all. I've never ridden that far, that fast under any circumstances. The only disconcerting factor was my heart rate failing to go above 134 bpm. In speaking with someone later they commented it was probably "cardiac drift" due to fatigue and as long as it wasn't fluctuating wildly up and down - it wasn't, not to worry. The Knutsford hill went well. The worst part was listening to a rattling bolt that had come loose in my rear fender 14-½ hrs earlier. The final 13 kms were flat or downhill. What a way to finish with speeds in excess of 70 km/hr to the day's starting point. Good route Bob! Bring on the 600 km.