So it's been a while since I've done a good write-up, but, seeing as the point of the flèche apparently is to tell everyone stories, I thought I'd share the nutshell of our ride for those who wanted a good tale.
(I swear I'll finish last years mini-writeups eventually...)
We set out from Harrison at 6pm on the Friday evening, excited for a long, glorious 24hours. What was Ben's first over-200 event, and Damian's first ride over 160kms was set to be a really fun time. The weather was gorgeous, and we cruised easily in our small paceline, admiring how good the weather was, and knowing that our fond memories of the event will include the first two hours. And maybe not much else. Selective memory. What a great thing.
Rolling out from Harrison
The first easy barrier was the steep way up Mount Woodside, but we were feeling good, and powered up that, down through to Derouche and into Mission. Refusing a kind yet suspicious youth's offer to watch our bikes, I did a few stretches and we rolled over into Abbotsford and up the steep Old Clayburn into Abbotsford. With a whizzing, wind whipping, wonderful wheel down Whatcom Rd, we were soon at the border, following just as Manfred's team were leaving, ensuring we had the biggest breeze crossing into the states.
With a quick stops to don our reflective gear, we were off into the night, up Reese Hill towards Kendall.
Damian's USB light proved quite effective, and we were able to comfortably navigate into Kendall for 10PM. A few more stretches (yes, it's a theme - something about my muscles being tight and ankle pain subsequently - Damian pointed out that I'd stretched more in those first 100kms than he had all season...) and we were off again.
We took a nice detour towards Bellingham, and planned to ride around North Shore road and Lake Whatcom Blvd, but some rather painful saddle problems on my part forced us to stop again. While Ben and Damian consumed the last of the first pack of mini chocolate/frosted donuts, I tilted my saddle 2º down and solved all the problems. Glory to the correct saddle angle! (Well admittedly not all, as I had residual chafing for the rest of the ride, but it prevented it from getting worse...)
Our next stop was the Shell just past Alger, but due to my stop and probably some agressive timelining, we arrived nearly an hour after the station had closed. Alas, no food for a bit yet. Excitedly I remember Sedro-Wooley and its glorious AM/PM came next, but looking over our control cards and route sheet - there was no control there, and it was 50kms away!
Post midnight arrival means no powdered mini donuts !!
Well, it turns out our route did in fact go that way, but what had happened was I had gotten lazy and hasty in the route sheet creation, and the other two, both too busy or unknowing hadn't checked the distances, and an extra 30kms had sneaked there way into the route sheet. And the control was on the GPS map but not the control card. Oops.
But at the time, we just followed the route, and from memory, I recognized the roads and knew we were headed in the correct direction to Sedro-Wooley.
Damian forgot his vest, which means he gets my stylin’ emergency sash
The am/pm was a memorable stop for sure.
More stretching by me.
The coke, sugar candy that was consumed (I think two packets by Damian, one by Ben), the chips, and basically any form of calories we could eat and stomach at that moment.
The large amount of beer purchased by this fella at 1:50.
The complaining lady at 1:58 about how she couldn't purchase alcohol. Bitter complaints.
The next discussion about how tourists can actually go to Chernobyl now. Initiated by the cashier. I mean, what else do you talk about at 2am with three lycra-clad weirdos.
The subsequent customers with some real munchies for snack foods. Wow munchies.
How cold it suddenly got.
The "it's not a flat just a slow leak", which after a few hundred metres in the wrong direction, turned into a "I guess we have to change this" stop.
Once we were finally on our way came another pleasant night trip which spat us out right at the base of the Chuckanut.
Sadly it was too early (around 3-something I think) for views on Damian and Ben's first trip, and a little eerie on the twisty descending corners with just a USB/commuting dynamo light, but it was totally empty, which was cool.
Interestingly, our traffic experiences were relatively little on back roads up until then. With the majority of traffic heading into Kendall...? I guess that's the place to be on a Friday night? It was a little busy on the 542, but we were not on there for too long.
So, over the Chuckanut, and boom in Bellingham for 5am. Except nothing was really open. At this point I was a-hurtin' for a stretchin', but we had dreams of stopping at the Woods coffee near the airport, so we continued a few kms out of town on the hunt for it. I had to slow considerably to avoid injuring myself, and we all decided that it was best to pull into a Starbucks and grab some food (and for Ben, a quick shuteye).
There we got our first round of "So what are you guys doing?", "All the way from there?", and "You're crazy!". Fun times.
Morning Mists towards Ferndale
With some food in our bellies and looser limbs, we set off again towards Lynden via Ferndale, obviously solely to hang around for the Trump visit.
But seriously, we rolled through town at about 7-something AM and people were already being shepharded in the parking lot and lined up (there looked to be about 20 people camped out) for a 3PM rally!!! Crazy.
Our energy levels dipping, we pulled into the McDonalds for a little bit of grease, caffeine and shuteye.
Collapse n' Nap time
Then it was time to power ahead and make for Chilliwack and food. We made decent time to the border, but Ben's dwindling energy and my stiff leg made it uncertain that we would be on track for our stretch goal of over 500kms.
As we neared the border though, I had a spurt of energy, and with a relatively quick crossing, I hoped we'd be able to push ahead and stop for food and rest in Vedder Crossing. But Ben needed sleep. really needed sleep. So sleep we did.
We pulled into Sumas Elementary, cleared a spot on the grass, and Ben was (mostly) out.
Vying for sleep on Vye
Damian and I kicked off our shoes and relaxed for the time, until the magical 20minute nap time had passed, I woke Ben up, and off we went.
For once I felt good, Ben felt good and Damian at the same time, and the winds were not against us, so we simply powered along to Vedder.
Pulling in for Pizza, and sad that it was closed, we popped into Subway for a quick sandwich break, sunscreen application and planning.
We were not going to clear 500 (at this point we also still believed we had covered the extra 30kms), but we might still be able to go part of the way to Yale. That had been our original plan to gain extra distance, but with 8 hours remaining and 200kms to cover, it seemed unlikely during the brief discussion Damian and I had had in the grass back at the elementary school. Still, we weren't going to sit still and sleep - at least I wanted to keep going. When I couldn't go faster than ~28km/hr, Ben got a little frustrated, wondering why we simply didn't stop to sleep, but my stubborness kept us going, and once we exited Chilliwack and crossed the Agassiz bridge, I knew I was able to resume a faster pace (helped by another brief stop for stretching).
Incidentally, the bridge wasn't too bad for us, as a truck slowed and patiently drove behind us 1/3 of the way over the bridge, so it really wasn't that bad!
Then we were off along the Lougheed with the sweet, sweet tailwinds. We really started cooking. So much in fact, I ended up getting gapped on the section past the rest stop by about a bike length and immediately dropped off the pace, overcooked, as I realised that we had been riding at about 44kms/hr, not something I probably should have been trying to bridge up to with my leg :P
So we rode with much less gusto until the final overpass into Hope, where we suffered our second (and last) flat of the Flèche.
A quick fix and we were in town, catching some ice cream at Dairy Queen.
Here I wanted to push on to Yale, but Ben and Damian, feeling better physically than me, but more tired, wanted a sunshine nap. So it was decided that I would take a brief break, then head up the road ahead of the two, and they would catch me on the #1 climb, and we would turn around at around 15:30.
At the same time, the Velo Virtuosos were just rolling into the Dairy Queen, presumably with the intent to roll back to Harrison after a rest, but I never stayed longer than a quick hello. We all knew of the headwinds to come.
So after a ten minute doze and too much drowsiness, I slowly headed up the hill, briefly altercating with a truck driver who nearly killed me, and soonafter was caught by Ben and Damian as I applied more sunscreen. We continued to climb for a while, descended down and rode a few more kms before deciding that was it, and we were due to return home. So we found a good turnaround around 500ms past the 12km marker, and returned towards the end.
Bonus mileage turnaround time
Another climb, another descent, and we decided to stop for 10 minutes to hit the 22hr mark in a nice easy to denote spot: the HWY7/1 intersection by Hope.
Signing each others cards, nibbling on the last energy bars, we set out then to return to Harrison.
Beautiful views at the 22hr mark
So yeah, there were headwinds. It was pretty strong. Our attempts to maintain a paceline mostly failed with 1 minute pulls being a difficult thing with the speeds we were going and the intensity I could maintain. It was a long haul back to Seabird Island (where the winds abated slightly).
From there, we were able to resume a much more reasonable 30-35km pace, which we held until Agassiz. I realised that our route also had accidentally ended there, not Harrison, so I stopped, lapped the GPS, and made a note for later of the distance we'd have to tack on.
And we made it appropriatly at around 5:40! Flèche complete, in time to down a beer, some watermelon and cookies, and to chat with the other finishers.
Of course Damian was not satisfied with his GPS reading short of the 500 we had wanted, and was suspicious of the missing 30kms, so he decided that the only appropriate thing to do was to head back out up the Lougheed to get the additional distance required to make the ride 500kms. Purely for Strava. Because why not.
Ben and I, however, were content to return to our hotel, shower and make for the pub to down ALL the fries. So many fries. Yum.