This years Creemore Classic will be talked about for some time to come. The route has it all, steep climbs, fast rollers, sea scapes to die for, quiet roads with next to no traffic, an incredible downhill run which includes a bike path that you can actually ride on and a control like no other...The Village at Blue.
Pat Little, Carey Chappelle, Nathan Klages, Rolf Hauckwitz, John Maccio, Dick Felton, Gary Donkers, Bill Little and Steve Rheault all participated in this years ride. Congratulations to Nathan, John, Dick, Gary and Bill on finishing their first ever 400 km brevet under very trying circumstances.
The day began with the usual 6 AM start under clear skies and a 72 deg temperature. Based on the weather forecast, riders decided to leave the cold weather gear behind and take their chances. Having done this ride before, I suggested most riders would arrive home between 2 AM and 5 AM the next day. Boy was I wrong! Although the early pace would support the suggested finishing times, mechanical problems and extreme heat began to take their toll early on. Having had my wheel tensioned earlier in the week as a follow up to a new wheel set, I figured the only issues that I would have to deal with were the usual flats. 30 km into the ride, I found out what a square wheel would feel like. A quick truing session and we were back on the road to Wiarton. Arriving in Big Bay, the owners saw our group hanging around their closed General Store and decided to open early. While the rest of the riders did some shopping, I gave my wheel another once over and decided I had better stop at Jolly's cycle shop in Owen Sound if I hoped to finish this ride. Between Big Bay and Owen Sound, Gary Donkers experienced both his first and second flats of his ride. On my recommendation, he had purchased the Specialized flak jacket tires which are unpenetrable...or so he was told. Steve Rheault got Gary started, removing the old tube and installing the new one. Gary took charge of the pump and went to work...10..20..30 psi...0 psi. Closer look showed the valve stem attached to the pump and not the tube. Back to square one, only this time Steve completed the pump work and we were back on the road.
Between Wiarton and Owen Sound, the scenery is gorgeous and the Lilac bushes, fully fragrant only added to the experience. The temperature climbed steadily after leaving the Georgian Bay shoreline. By the time we hit Owen Sound, the temperature was 83 deg. F and rising. The group sort of split up here as Bill Little and myself went to Jolley's Cycle where Shane and Ian tended to my "square" wheel. One hour later, Bill and I were back on the road. It wasn't until Walter's Falls where we rejoined the others in their sweaty splendor. The temperature was now 90 deg F and the air humid. Suntan lotion for all, something to eat, drink and we were on our way to the Top'O the Rock General Store in Eugenia. The only thing that stood in our way was the long climb out of the Beaver Valley to Eugenia. The temp had now reached 97 deg F, humid and no wind in the valley. It was during this climb that one could begin to see what kind of effort would be required to endure the days scorching temperatures. The physical conditioning required to complete these brevets is obvious, the mental conditioning, not so obvious. When under extreme physical stress, one's brain function deteriorates ..more for some, than for others. It is now that the voice of reason needs to be heard. DRINK, DRINK, DRINK, EAT! John Mac was the last to arrive at the control and his first words were "I'm cold, got the chills". This in 97 deg heat. John took a spot in the Adirondak and quickly took a summer's nap. With shallow breathing, no sweat, it was time for concern. After a few minutes, John came about and Steve R, along with others, offered their tips on hydration and fueling. Taking their advice, John refueled and felt well enough to continue on. Or so he thought. The rest of us weren't so sure but kept a close eye on him as the next control was Collingwood (50 km away) and a good place to pull the pin if need be.
We left Eugenia for Collingwood, the rolling hills and quiet winding roads through the Kollapore Highlands were pure heaven. There is a downhill into Collingwood that is to die for. Grey Rd 19 from Grey Rd 2 to Collingwood Clearview Townline. The views of Georgian Bay just before the downhill are to be enjoyed at the top, before descending, as speeds easily reach 80 km/hr and your eyes should only be on the road in front of you. 20 km before the Collingwood control, the heat claimed it's first victim. Fortunately, the rider was pulled over to the side of the road when a new Volvo, with air conditioning stopped and offered assistance. Using better judgment, the offer was accepted and the rider delivered to the Control in Collingwood where the decision was made to pull out and suffer a DNF. As difficult as taking a DNF is, I believe every Randonneur will experience this in a lifetime and it is the right decision when one's health and well being are on the line. Better to live to ride another day.
During our supper break, someone tall enough decided to hang Bill Little's helmet in a tree. Without a ladder, Bill coerced yours truly into giving him a lift (see photo) to get the helmet down.
While some of us horsed around, Pat Little gave Gary a hand with his third mechanical of the ride, a broken spoke on the cassette side. Without a freewheel tool, truing got the wheel to a state of good enough. Now we were 8 and ready to visit the town of Creemore. Rolf H. had found a Bed and Breakfast to stay at in Collingwood, purchased some civilian clothes and wished us all luck for the remainder of the ride. Heading toward Creemore, the skies approaching were Black and the thunder loud. The only relief came with the temperature drop, from 97 to 75. Half way to Creemore, with lightning overhead, we decided to take refuge at a church. Some decided to peel off their soaking wet gear, ring it out and put it back on. Sitting out the storm, wondering how to manage our time to meet the 27 hrs allowed provided some interesting discussion. But not as interesting as the Greco Roman Wrestling match between Bill Little and Dick Felton. (see photo).
After the storm passed, we continued on to Creemore, visited the Creemore Brewery and attacked the Creemore hill on our way back to Collingwood. Mechanical #5 stopped Steve R 3/4 of the way to the top of the hill. Another flat. While the others pressed on, Bill and I headed back to get Steve and with a new tube we made great time catching the others at the next control. The Village at Blue. Mingling at the Village should be a priority, but having had enough set backs and only 3 hrs in the bank, we stayed for a short 30 minutes before reluctantly departing. During this 30 mins, I worked on Gary's wheel which was starting to require a lot of attention, another broken spoke on the opposite side of the first and a solid wiggle. Gary seemed intent on packing it in here but was assured that if the wheel became unrideable, we had enough spare spokes and expertise to do the repair if and when it was required. So he made the decision to continue on. Steve Rheault said it best "I went from heaven to hell in 10 minutes!" Leaving the Village at Blue, the formidable Scenic Cave Rd has to be climbed to get back on top of the escarpment. This is 3 km of pure pain, 18% at its steepest but averaging 10% . From the top, the Collingwood skyline is pure magic, that is if you can get the salt out of your eyes to see! By now, it was just after midnight and we had a little over 100 km to go. The majority of the group had no night riding experience and were in for a real treat. Now that we were on top of the escarpment the route would have us drop back into the valley before ascending for the last time. As nicely paved as the David McNicholl Pkwy is and no traffic to speak of, the climbing to get to the Walter's Falls turn just about empties the tank. To add to this, Steve R broke his chain on the climb and John Mac got a flat. Both repairs completed we regrouped about 8 km from the next turn. Here, Gary and John discussed packing it in as they had " nothing left" and they just "couldn't go any further". I think it was Steve who asked them what they would do here...and Gary's reply was "OK, just to Walter's Falls, the general store has those big chairs and I'm getting in one and having a sleep". Onward we pushed. The group separated about a km out. Pat, Bill, Nathan, Steve and myself out front, John, Dick and Gary pulling up the rear. Arriving in Chatsworth, we stopped at the Country Time Donut Store for a well earned break. Not knowing this place existed, I took my treats back to where I hoped that John, Dick and Gary would be on course. Much to my surprise, there they were, still forging ahead. I directed them to the Donut shop where Gary and John experienced that wonderful 15 min sleep, the kind that revives you and gets you through the home stretch.
Pat, Bill, Nathan, Steve and I arrived in Port Elgin exhausted but satisfied with our efforts. Of course we still managed the old sprint to the finish and a few in between, had our cards signed and headed back to my place where we anxiously awaited the arrival of the 3 rookies in our group. Sitting in lawn chairs, we wondered when or if the others were going to make it, talked about the emotional roller coaster of the last 24 hrs, and then celebrated the arrival of John, Gary and Dick , arms raised in triumph on what will be remembered as one tough ride.
Congratulations on a job well done guys!!!!!