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What's it like to ride a 1000k brevet? by Jim Foster

posted Jul 12, 2017, 5:37 AM by Mark Beaver

What is it like to ride a bike 1000 km in about 61 2/3 hours? Let me tell you. It is like getting up at 03:15 Saturday morning to shower, eat and load the car for a drive in heavy rain to the start point in Dartmouth at 05:00 and meeting eight other people of questionable sanity ready to tackle the first 415 km along the Eastern Shore and across the causeway to St. Peters. 

The rain in the first 100 km was unrelenting and for reasons unknown one of the riders dropped out at about 70 km. I can only assume he had a good reason to abandon the ride as he had driven from Ontario to do the brevet and is an experienced Randonneur. One hundred ten km in at the Fairwinds Motel and Restaurant in Sheet Harbour we experienced an act of kindness when the staff offered to put some of our wet clothing in their dryers as we ate breakfast. 

Leaving the restaurant the rear derailleur on Mark’s bike went into the spokes causing a catastrophic failure of the derailleur. Mark removed the derailleur and shortened the chain to make a “single speed” which he rode the next 80 km to Sherbrooke. Our support van was able to pick up another bike at deliver it to Sherbrooke. Dave and I waited with Mark for the bike to arrive and the rest of the group headed for the Isaacs Harbour ferry. It is important to time your arrival at the ferry or be delayed by up to ½ hour. When Mark’s bike arrived there was a little re-configuration to be done and we were off to catch the boat. Working together we kept a good pace to Port Bickerton and realized there was a chance to make the next crossing so the sprint was on! We made the boat with seconds to spare and re-united with Danny, Gary, Jody and Michline. Adam and Cliff had made the previous crossing. 

Now there was only 70 km to go before supper in Guysborough. On a long ride like this you tend to set your goals on making it to the next meal stop. Leaving Guysborough around 20:00 and were now 115 km from the first night hotel in St. Peters. Riding along the shoreline of St. Georges Bay as the sun went down was quite pretty with the lights of Point Tupper across the water. Riding up and over the hill at Aulds Cove worked up some body heat then crossing the causeway was chilling, there is no place to stop on the causeway so I had to wait until the other side to layer up. After leaving Port Hawksbury we basically rode through “Bumf@#k Nowhere” along tore up highway, gravel roads and even a 1 km section of mountain bike trail to St. Peters (although I’m sure it would have been a scenic ride in daylight and good weather). 

The hotel in St. Peters was a sight for sore eyes and tired legs. Our support crew had food and beer ready for us. Ron and Ted were fabulous the whole trip, I can’t praise their support enough! It was about 01:45 Sunday morning and we had to eat, shower and prepare for an early start in the morning before getting some sleep. Day 1 route 

After less than 3 hours sleep it was time to get up and prepare for day two, 350 km to Antigonish. The first 100 km was foggy and misty but not cold. It took us through the woods past L’ardoise, Grand River, Fergusons Lake, St. Esprit, Framboise, Forchu and Gabarus to lunch in Marion Bridge. If you have never heard of any of those communities you are not alone. Somewhere around Marion Bridge the sun came out and the wind came up. Much of the next 4 – 5 hours would be spent going against that wind. 

Passing through Sydney was a minor navigation challenge with a stop to consult the GPS map and one extra trip around a roundabout. From Sydney we followed highway 223 west along the shoreline of the Bras D’Or Lakes to Grand Narrows / Iona and a late lunch at Iona Heights Inn, the pan fried haddock was most excellent! This was the 600 km point of the ride and four of us including Adam, Dave and Mark left together and would stay and finish together. Danny, Jodi, Gary and Michline were somewhere behind us. 

Continuing on by Orangedale, Marble Mountain and West Bay we stopped at a beautiful viewpoint overlooking the Bras D’Or Lakes for a snack and a few minutes reflection. When doing long brevets, time management is important so we never linger too long regardless of the beauty. Now it was on to Port Hawksbury and a stop to re-fuel at Tim Horton’s. Dave and Adam were kind enough to allow me the last bowl of chili in the store! As we left town there was a bright orange moon on the horizon. After crossing the causeway to the mainland we followed mostly secondary roads running parallel to highway 104, crossing the TCH five times and riding on it for about 9 km including one 3 km stretch of divided highway. This was my least favorite part of the ride. Adam, 

Dave, Mark and I arrived at the Maritime Inn Antigonish around 00:15 Monday morning. Again we were greeted by the smiling faces of Ron and Ted who had pizza, beer and potato chips along with an assortment of healthier but less tasty treats. There was also a well-stocked first aid kit to treat the now rather uncomfortable condition of “monkey butt”! The end of day two was easier than the end of day one with more time to prepare for the final assault and a little more sleep. With a good forecast for Monday and every intention of finishing before dark the bike fenders and lights could now be removed and sent back with the support crew. Not sure what time I turned in but likely got at least one hour more sleep that night. Day 2 route

I had ordered room service for the morning, Belgian waffles with whipped cream and strawberries but they didn’t arrive in time for our early departure so it was breakfast at Tim Hortons – yummy! Checking out of the hotel we learned that Jodi and Michline had arrived at 03:00 and Danny and Gary around 05:00. Cliff was picked up by his wife between Iona and Port Hawksbury as he had to work Monday. Day three was only about 235 km and I could see a glimmer of light at the “end of the tunnel” The weather was sunny and pleasantly cool as we left Antigonish towards Malignant Cove and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. After only about 10 km. we had to stop and take layers off as the elevation was increasing and temperature rising. Once we arrived at Malignant Cove the temperature was moderated by cool breezes for the next 40 km but the price was a headwind. Approaching Stellarton we stopped at a food market in Thorburn to re-fuel. The temperature was now in the high twenties. 

After the stop we zig zagged through Stellarton and Westville to Highway 289 travelling west toward Brookfield. At some point on the 289 I needed some time alone so pushed on ahead (too much time in the previous 800 + kms looking at men’s asses). A few kms from Upper Stewiacke Dave caught up and we rode to the Co-Op store together. Time for a drumstick, Mr. Freeze and Gatoraide. At this stop we re-grouped with Adam and Mark and enjoyed a few minutes rest in the shade. Leaving Upper Stewiacke our group got spread out with Adam in the lead, me a few hundred metres behind and Dave and Mark (who had briefly stopped) taking up the rear. A dark grey car slowly passed me then pulled to the shoulder of the road and light up like a Christmas tree! It was an unmarked police car!! Honest officer, I wasn’t speeding – I said. Turns out one of our group had forgot his credit card at the Co-Op store. It wasn’t me so she headed up the road to check with Adam. It was Adam’s card so he earned a few “bonus km” riding back to retrieve it. I would have asked the nice lady police officer to get it for me. 

Just before arriving at Brookfield a large dark cloud passed overhead and spit a few large cool drops of rain on us. The shade was definitely welcome. Brookfield would be the last fuel stop before the finish and I filled up with Tim Horton’s chili. So many of our rides finish on highway #2 that we can go on auto-pilot the final 80 km. Everyone was feeling good as we left Brookfield with a strong tailwind. Unfortunately the helpful wind did not last long and we again were being buffeted by unhelpful turbulence. Entering Milford we noticed a familiar figure by the road. It was our friend and fellow Randonneur, Seana waiting to escort us the final 50 km. Somewhere around the Enfield Big Stop I felt a surge of energy and Dave seemed to feel it too so we picked up the pace a little for the home stretch. At the end of some long brevets I sometimes feel like continuing on riding – not wanting it to end so soon. This was not one of those times! Getting off the bike felt good, walking – not so good. We celebrated the effort with a cold Bud Light Radler, kindly brought to the finish line by Kim. Happy as I was to be done my thoughts turned to the four Randonneurs still on the course hoping they would finish safely. They all did complete the brevet within the 75 hour time limit and Nova Scotia Randonneur history was made when Micheline McWhirter became the first Nova Scotian woman to complete a 1000 km brevet!!! Congratulations Micheline!!!!…/long-distance-cycling-brevet-halifax-ca…

Day 3 route