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July's Whatcom Wamble!
Ride date: July 26, 2014
by Étienne Hossack

Gallery Here.

So this was probably going to be my last brevet of 2014, and after riding it, it most certainly will be. I really hadn't prepared much for any long distance, and had only ridden sporadically since the VanIsle. Mostly commuting and one criterium race. The day before I had 3 hours of sleep and the night before I had maybe 6. So not ideal for going into a 300. Nonetheless, the Wamble in 2013 was my first brevet, and I felt determined to do it - despite guilt at missing my friend Pete's planned bike ride.

It was a nice morning to start things off though, and the weather really looked favourable so I was excited to do the ride once again, a proper rando series under my belt. And Nigel was going to be there to ride with, maybe even on his fancy L'avecaise! Apparently he was too fender-scared though, and ended up with his fast bike. Boooo! :-P
To be fair, I did bring my race bike, having vowed to never ride the Soma Double Cross again after the 1200 - so we weren't exactly the traditional folk!

I met Gary Sparks, did a quick bathroom run, got the food together and we were a group waiting at the start. Apparently the finish would be mostly unmanned as Gary was riding (didn't know that could be a thing!) and a quick note about the route - our $15 would be generously supporting the club, as there was 0% support - and we were off!

So it was a nice brisk pace from the start, Nigel, Andrew, Ed and myself all riding along River Road enjoying the morning cool-ness. Somewhere along the first climb Ed had gear troubles, and as we passed through telegraph road Andrew dropped back, and then it was just Nigel and I rolling along.
We had fun doing a combination of chatting and hammering down to the border, and then rode along doing the same until North Pass Road. Then it was drive at a decent clip up the climb before cresting the hill and noticing that my lack of training had really made the legs unhappy. But Silver Lake was close, so I was content to let Nigel roll off a few hundred metres ahead until we hit the info control. Zip ties are the sensation sweeping the 2014 rando nation it seems!
And we got to watch a remote-controlled plane for a bit.

But it was seriously chilly in the shade, especially when one wasn't moving. We stuffed food down, and quickly put the gas back on to escape the chills. But it was one of those moments when you watch your partner ride away from you and think, "okay, time to hit it and catch up" and you put out the strong pace output, then look down at your speedometer and go, "Oh. Only 30. Oops." It really was not to be a fast day.

Luckily Nigel was happy to wait, so we pulled into Glacier roughly together, and stopped in the shop to pick up some sugar. I seriously wanted caffeine at that point. Also, noting water, I bought a couple bottles to fill up and paid the very disgruntled and reluctant cashier. 'Why do you hate business on two people-powered wheels??'

Filling up and chugging the coke, I left one bottle for the next randonneur behind us and Nigel and I took off once more, heading eastward back and myself feeling slightly fresher. On the way we passed the riders of smiling faces, Ed, Andrew then Cheryl, before heading back up a gentle climb out of the area, and onto the 542.

Not a great, but not a long section, and then it was back on the back-ish roads on Mosquito Lake road. Surprisingly, the pavement was nice, a couple new sections in there, which made for a very nice ride. Nigel slowed considerably for me on the 'climbing' parts, and we were able to sustain quite a nice conversation for most of it.

The Valley Hwy 9 was a bit dull, but made for some good pace hitting, although, I had enjoyed some serious cramps on Mosquito Lake which slowed our pace waaaaayyy down, and I think Nigel was enjoying the same cramping as he was riding low 30s for several parts of that section - never a great sign, always adding to the fun!!! :-D
Upper Samich Rd and that section towards Alger proved to have the same nice pavement as Mosquito Lake Rd. It's as if they had anticipated this brevet! Yeehaw. Then after a final, mini-push on the road towards Alger, we arrived at the general store. It was actually a bit hotter then.

Nigel remembered that the store had a bit of a smokey smell to it, and yup. Somebody clearly just huffs outside the door. Both of us were thirsty, salt-wanting and peckish (and I had some great leg cramps dismounting my bike), so Nigel picked up some chips & V8, along with a giant jug of water for us and our followers, while I opted for chocolate milk, V8 and some spicy Cheetos. Not exactly sure Cheetos is the ideal brevet food, but you can't get those jalapeño ones, nor the spicey lime ones in Canada - if I'm forced to buy expensive food in the US, it darn well better be excellent! I noted to myself afterwards that coke and chocolate milk probably weren't the best combo; hopefully by that point the coke was through my system.
Eventually though, we decided enough was enough, and I left my can of half-finished V8, the rest of the bag of Cheetos and we left the half-jug of cold water behind before hopping back on our bikes.

The section along Lake Samish was lovely in the shade, and nice that it wasn't raining unlike last year. Nigel filled me in on the time-trials that would happen on the roads before, and we rode slightly harder as I felt slightly better. Rejoining the Chuckanut, there was some random person taking photos of us as we crested the hill, no idea why. (On Googling, I think it was the Tour de Whatcom. Maybe some photos of us will surface there).

Of course Bellingham was all stop-and-go with traffic being busy and lights everywhere. And the section on Eldridge/Marine was pretty poorly maintained, so I spent most of it dodging potholes and obstacles, while waiving to the abundance of passing cyclists. The ride to Lummi was surprisingly calm and nice, the winds being not too aggressive. Although I didn't have the energy to put up any decent pace, at least I wasn't totally beat back by the wind. When we rounded the point and rolled into Fisherman's cove, the store certainly wasn't an unwelcome sight.

Junkfood ahoy! Though Powerade probably isn't the worst when riding a 300, I enjoyed a Häagen-Dazs bar while Nigel consumed two back-to-back on our short rest, before we rolled slowly back onto the road. There was a bit of construction and a short gravel section on the road, so we got to practice our off-road riding skills. Nigel powered through on his flexy-frame and exciting new Gravel-King tires (review: supposed to be like Grand Bois with puncture protection, corner poorly, blame tire shape according to Peter Stary?), while I timidly picked my way through on my Vittoria Gravel-peon tires and rigid race bike (okay, they were Diamante Radiales, which corner like nothing else, but aren't exactly tough things). We then picked our way around rumble strips and obstacles down the straightaway before the typical sharp veer eastward toward Birch Bay.

The wind was picking up slightly, but it really wasn't much to write home about, and we got some good views, and passed the whatever-plant that is down there (gasoline?) before heading along to the actual coast. There was some uphill that slowed me down, but Nigel was ever patient, and the road eventually leveled out for me to catch up on as we pulled into the Bay. So we played dodge-the-pedestrian-hazards on the beach while drafting each other, and finally tried some sort of pace. Near Drayton Harbour Nigel jokingly complained that the roads seem to go on forever, but I was enjoying the ever-closer smell of Canada. It smells like air. Nigel did pull ahead (unconsciously) at one point up a hill, but my aero-bar getup does make those downhills a lot speedier!

After that section, there was a short dodge-the-road hazards ride through Blaine before we rolled into the border and crossed back into Canada. We stopped at the Campbell River store (the name fresh in my mind after the VanIsle) and nabbed some water (I tried to down a slurpee, but couldn't surpass the brain freeze) before almost-forgetting to get our cards signed, actually getting them signed then heading down the road for the last section into Fort Langley. We both agreed that a stop at Wendel's would be nice if possible, since our impressions of the Fort Pub hadn't been too exciting, so the prospect of some sweet grilled cheese kept me going.

As we approached up a punchy hill on 208th, I knew we were close, and was tired of being slow and dragging on the hills, so decided it was time to punch it, and ramped up the pace as much as I could along the final sections. We probably cruised at a nice average of 35+ or so for those last 15kms, running high 40s on the flats and slower on the climbs, but it was nice to no longer be in the low-energy-output phase. I allowed Nigel to drag me through a couple of the last few uphills, and gladly rode in his draft along the last section of 202 street before we eventually had to slow down to not hit people on Glover. I hear doing that has consequences.

Thankfully, grilled cheese was on special that Saturday, so we enjoyed a nice post-brevet meal in the shady deck. Ed came by soonafter, but we decided yelling at him as he rolled by going 28km/h in the middle of a pedestrian intersection with cyclists and vans around might not be the best idea. So we finished off our caffeinated iced drinks and returned to the parking lot for a chat.
Nigel was sticking around for Cheryl and Ed was itching to go, but for Andrew, so we had a nice chance to talk and relax - Ed was just pulling out as Andrew came in the lucky bum! I also had a chance to roll around on Nigel's Calfee. Sweet bike. Though it lacks my hilarious BB30 Bottom Bracket cluster and loses a ton of the stiffness. For randonneuring though, I'd take that comfort in an instant!
Seeing as nobody else was coming in, I vented the heat out of my car and drove off towards home.

Strava-file for no apparent reason but to watch my poor speed fluctuate


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