Worcester, Mass.
June 21, 1998

Brevet riders endure rainiest day

By Lynne Tolman

   "Practically every outdoor event in the state was canceled," a Boston newspaper reported on last weekend's deluge. But when long-distance bicyclists plan to ride "rain or shine," they mean it.
   Thirty riders set out from Bedford on a 400-kilometer (250-mile) brevet June 13, the day of the record downpour, and all but six finished. Another 16 biked all or part of another long ride, the King's Tour of the Quabbin, with options of 62, 100 or 125 miles.
   The brevet was one in the Boston Brevet Series, which cyclists must complete to qualify for Boston-Montreal-Boston, a 750-mile randonee (literally, "super tour") in August with a 90-hour time limit. BMB, in turn, is a qualifier for the world's premier randonee, Paris-Brest-Paris, held once every four years (the next one is in 1999).
   Bob McKenney of Worcester wants to do BMB, and a little rain wasn't going to stop him last weekend. "Once you get totally soaked it's not too bad," he said the evening after completing the 400K brevet (French for "diploma"), admitting he was "still wringing my arms and legs out."
   McKenney, 37, was one of the first to cross the finish line, 18 hours and 55 minutes after the midnight Friday start; the ride, not a race, has a 27-hour time limit. He had hoped to break 15 hours and be home in time for dinner with his twin 5-year-old daughters, but the weather slowed him down.
   "My knees got really cold. I had on leggings but I should have had something warmer," he said. He also took an unscheduled break under a gas station canopy in Clinton during the heaviest thunder and lightning.
   Another problem was that his glasses kept fogging up. Maybe next time he'll coat them with the anti-fog solution Rain-X, he said.
   On long-distance rides, "You learn a little bit each time," he said. "I just really enjoy the fitness aspect and just finding out what you're capable of."
   Dale Lougee of Athol has done randonees and didn't need to prove anything last weekend. He agrees that "nobody in their right mind gets up in the middle of the night to bike 250 miles in the pouring rain without somebody holding a gun to their head." But there he was, sloshing up and down hills for 23 hours and change.
   "You don't dare go screaming down the hills" when it's wet and dark, said Lougee, 51. The danger was reinforced when the riders saw a car that had slid off Route 62 between Hubbardston and Barre. But the only real trouble Lougee had was a flat tire --within sight of the finish line. He walked the bike the last 100 yards.
   Dave Jordan of Arlington, organizer of the Boston Brevet Series, commended the 400K riders -- and those who decided not to ride in the storm -- in his Internet wrap-up.
   "Saturday was the wettest day of cycling I've ever seen," he said, "and I've done some pretty wet riding -- a 600K in the early '90s; 1994 BMB, which started with 200 miles of rain -- but this was the first time I'd seen roads almost closed due to standing, or flowing, water. Fortunately the temperature, around 60, was pretty reasonable."
   Three riders trashed their wheels in a giant pothole in Clinton just 25 miles from the finish, he said, and three others bailed out early.
   Brevet distances are challenging enough without rain. Mark and Diane Shelley of Shrewsbury rode the 300K (190miles) on a tandem May 30 and found it "pretty painful," Mark Shelley said, specifying his saddle as a sore point.
   The distance was the longest Diane ever rode. Mark had attempted a 400K brevet on a single bike in 1995 but did not finish. "My knees said, "We're done,' " he explained.
   Toward the end of the 300K on the tandem, "I was just completely blinked," he said. "Food management was a problem. You know you're talking about survival, not just a bike ride, when you start talking about "food management.' "
   "I'd do it again, though," he said.
   It turns out the vote was unanimous. The morning after the ride, "I got the best present a captain could ever get. Di announced at breakfast that we'll have to be faster next year."
   A plaque memorializing Pierre Lallement, the Frenchman who got the first patent for a crank-driven two-wheeled cycle in 1866, will be unveiled at noon Saturday in Connecticut, on the New Haven Green, during the International Festival of Arts and Ideas (888 ART-IDEA).
   Bicyclists are invited to celebrate by joining a ride around the green. Historian David Herlihy of Boston, head of the Lallement Memorial Committee, said the ride will re-enact the inventor's pioneering ride of the first modern bike, which he assembled at a machine shop in Ansonia, Conn.
   Herlihy's research has brought Lallement the recognition due for his innovation. French father and son Pierre and Ernest Michaux, carriage makers who put pedals on a hobby horse and who employed Lallement, are sometimes credited as inventors of the bicycle; Lallement said they stole his idea. But it was Lallement's patent that landed in the hands of Bostonian Albert A. Pope, who went on to make millions as founder of Columbia bicycles.
   The Connecticut Bicycle Coalition will lead a bike ride to the New Haven event from the Ansonia Mall, Route 115, Ansonia, starting at 10 a.m. Round trip is about 30 miles. For details, call Ray Aten (203 782-1000) or Clyde Gourley (203 929-4001).
   The Tatnuck Watershed Festival at Coes Pond, Worcester, which was rained out June 13 and rescheduled for yesterday, has been postponed again, to Sept. 12.
   The Limey Show, featuring dealers of classic English bicycles and parts, will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m next Sunday at Sullivan Square, Boston. For details contact Dan Field (617 242-4988).

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