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This past weekend is the annual Easter weekend Fleche.

Myself and four others guys made up a team known as “In the Fleche”

Our team included
Willy in Pacifica (Me)
Tom Lawrence from Mt View
Paul Vlasveld form Saratoga
Chris Hanson from Manhattan Beach
Richard from San Jose area

For those who do not know what a Fleche (sounds like flesh) is here are a few of the rules

Must have at least 3 bikes but not more than 5 bikes. I say bikes because a tandem only counts as one bike
Must be at least 360K which is about 225 miles
Must ride for 24 hours
Cannot start to ride the final 25k until hour 22
Cannot stay in any one place for over 2 hours. This means you cannot haul butt all the way to the finish then hang out at someone’s house or in a hotel waiting for the finish time.
Must eat, must drink, must pee on the side of the road, blah, blah, blah. But these are your typical brevet rules everyone knows.

Each year there is a destination city where everyone must finish. This year it was Davis, CA. Each team must come up with their own route which can be an out and back, a loop or a point to point.

All but Richard met up at Paul’s house, near San Jose, then rode the few miles to the Safeway, where Richard was waiting, which was our official 9:15 Saturday start. We grabbed a receipt and all headed out at exactly 9:15 toward Los Gatos. Lots of bike paths thru the towns that made for nice mellow riding. It was actually a very nice morning and everyone was wondering if they needed leg warmers at the start.

We hit Los Gatos only 9 miles into our 230 miles ride and I was quick to mention to everyone that we were 4% done. I grabbed a cup of coffee to get a receipt and 10 minutes later we were off toward Woodside right on schedule.

Tom was nice enough to come up with the route since he knew the area near Davis, plus he had software for this. Not only did he make up the route (Remember he came up with this route for later) but he had figured out the times we should arrive at each control as well as what time we should be out of each control. Since the route was only 230 miles, and you can’t stay anywhere longer then 2 hours, we had to stretch things out here and there. This also meant there was no reason to ride too hard. Also, since this is a team event you really cannot ride any faster than your slowest rider. The five of us made for a very smooth team as we were all near each other in ability.

Now we are off to the very exclusive town of Woodside. This town is only exclusive if you make under 8 figures a year. We ride by Larry Ellison’s (top 10 richest people in the world) place. Actually I think in this area you do not have “places”. Here they call them “compounds”. You can tell the poor folks in Woodside as you can see their houses from the road. The truly rich have their homes set way back in with the quarter mile driveway the only thing you can see. So I guess we really only saw Ellison’s driveway and guard shack.

We hit the Woodside deli where we fill up on water and Paul and I share a Tuna sandwich. I didn’t want to east to much knowing we would be stopping frequently due to the schedule. I didn’t want to get filed up only to have to hang out at the next control with nothing to do.

Tom lets us know it is time to leave so we head north on Canada Rd toward the Golden Gate Bridge and the next Control in Sausalito. About 4 miles north Paul and I decide we should put on our rain jackets. It had been drizzling most of the way but not enough to get you wet. But know it was coming down a bit heavier so I put on my new rain jacket. I never used one before so I guess this will be a learning experience. Right away it got a bit warm inside but I just zipped it down and it was OK. Not great but I guess as good as you can expect form a rain jacket.

We continue north and hit a bike path called Sawyer Camp trial. Normally this would be filled with hikers and kids on their little bikes. But since it was raining we could move much better than your typical weekend day. About 6 miles later we are off the trails and looking toward Skyline about my town of Pacifica. We are only about 50 miles into it so no reason to bail and go home as we pass my turnoff.

We hit the Pacific Ocean then weave our way thru San Francisco. Soon enough we are across the GG Bridge and racing downhill into Sausalito. It is still raining but still nothing to write home about. Stop at the market and they have warm soup. So most of us have a cup then take off north and west toward the town of Pt Reyes Station only about 20-25 miles away. We have a couple 1-1.5 mile climbs then are heading west on Sir Francis Drake. Toward the end of this busy two lane road is Samuel P Taylor park. This is a great detour over Sir Francis Drake as there are no cars and the bike path runs next to a full creek.

We finally pull into Point Reyes Station and hit “A Whale of a Deli” Paul pulls out the credit card and before you know it Tom blurts out “Hawaiian Pizza”. Not only are we going to stop and eat pizza but this is also a video store so we get to watch the beginning of “The Shaggy DA”. Well the pizza was fantastic but we did not stay to watch the rest of the movie. But now I am going to have to rent it to see how it comes out. Does Dean Jones get elected DA? How does he become shaggy? If anyone knows please do not email me the ending and ruin it for me.

We leave Pt Reyes right on time and the rain is beginning to come down consistently and a bit heavier. We are now getting wet’ish and the sun is going down so on go the lights. I have a Schmitt Hub running a couple of E6 lights. Paul and Chris have similar setups but are supplementing it with the Cateye EL500 LED light. Richard had the EL-500 and a Night Rider type blow torch and Tom is just running two EL-500’s. I have to tell you those EL-500 are getting good. With two you can see fairly well and the batteries are supposed to last 30 hours. I have a couple but did not bring one……….but should have.

We are heading 20-25 miles to Petaluma. We have a couple hills but it is a nice ride. But it is still raining and now that it is full-on-dark it makes it hard to see the road. The reflection of the on-coming car lights can make it very difficult to see the road. When you see lights coming you have to look a ways ahead to see if there are any hazards in the road as you will be blinded for a few seconds from seeing anything with detail.

We hit Petaluma and head toward Safeway for a receipt. We have a lot of Safeway’s as controls since we know they will be open 24 hours. We don’t necessarily have to stay here but we need a place for our brevet card. Right away we head off the 25ish miles to Santa Rosa. I am liking these 20-30 mile legs. You now you will be getting somewhere new in about and hour to 90 minutes. Some brevets have controls up to 80 miles apart and that is a long time between stops. By only being about an hour I only need to carry water in my Camelbak and not have to carry extra in my bottles.

The entire ride since Point Reyes Station it has been raining. But not too bad and I am comfortable. But about 5 miles out of Santa Rosa it really starts coming down. I mean cats and dogs raining. Now my shoes and sock are soaked and that is usually the final straw to being completely wet. However, this new jacket is working great. I may be completely wet but I am comfortable. And I do not think I am soaked thru under the jacket.

Instead of the Safeway we find a Lions restaurant which is similar to a Denny’s. And this stop is to be an hour so we all walk in at about midnight soaked to the bone. The place was about empty and they throw us into the back dining room. Everyone eats a nice meal and the rain comes down at a more rideable level.

Now comes the 30-35 miles leg to Napa. I believe we will be out in the middle of nowhere for this stretch and this is where the first big hill comes in. I don’t ride out this way but they keep telling me it is a pisser. But I ride in Woodside a lot and we have Kings Mt, Old LaHonda, Tunitus Creek, and west Alpine. So how tough can this “Trinity Grade” be?

We are now at the base of Trinity Grade. It is exactly 2 AM, it is raining, we are on 35 pound bikes and we have 163 miles in our legs. Not to mention I have two hot chocolates, three eggs over easy, a sausage patty and four pancakes in my stomach.

Either no one mention it to me or I wasn’t listening but apparently this is about 3 miles and 1,800 feet. That is pisser steep. We start to climb and right away I am in my 30-27 and standing. We decided we should all stick together up this hill in case anyone has a mechanical. Plus it doesn’t do you any good to race to the top and sit in the cold waiting for those behind you. There was one huge advantage for me regarding riding together. I was the only one without a battery light. I had a small Cateye on my helmet to see my computer and it helped a bit but only going 4-5 MPH my Schmitt was useless. Not only was it useless but it was dragging me down. So I switched it off and milked my buddy’s lights. But you can only go so slow before you just fall over so when I got ahead a bit I would have to stop and wait for lights. The only problem was it was literally so steep that if I stopped I would have a tough time getting going again. But every once in a while there would appear a driveway for me to use. But it not for those driveways there was nothing. I think I stood up in my 30-27 for 85% of that hill. If I had a lower gear I would have used it.

OK, now we are finally up. Now what? Oh Crap now we have to go down the other side. So now it is 2:45 AM, still raining and we have 166 miles in our legs. This downhill is dark (in the trees) and twisty and pot holey. At least I can now use my lights but now my brakes are making funny noises like they are grinding right thru my rims as we speak. I would use my front brake till it screamed then switched to my back brake till it screamed. Front, back, front, back all the way down.

So now we are looking for the Napa Safeway for our next control. It is now 4AM and we are all soaked. Luckily for me I brought an entire second set of clothes as I am now cold and shivering a bit. I use the restroom and change everything. I am now warm and ready to go. I know I am going to get soaked again but if I headed out shivering I have a feeling I will be in trouble.

So apparently Napa is in a valley. Which means the only way out is up. We are now at about mile 180 and have another 30 miles to get to Winters our final control and out 22 hour stop. Within about 5 miles we are heading up Hwy 121 which includes a hill very similar to Trinity. The only difference I can tell is that in my 30-27 I can sit for most of the ride up. But this is a bit longer and it is really raining. Tom, Richard and I get to the top but there is no sign of Paul or Chris. We wait quite awhile before we decide it might be serious for us to check out. It takes a LONG, LONG, LOOOOOOOOOONG time to decide that we should go back down that hill. But just as we are heading backwards we see their lights coming over the top. Seems Chris had a flat. So really how much help would we have been if we did go back down the hill? I mean, how many Randonneurss does it take to change a tube? My thinking is one or two is the perfect number so really we would have only gotten in the way. Yea, that’s it.

Well after this hill we head toward Lake Baryessa and Cardiac Hill which is our final hill. Compared to the past few hills this isn’t even a murmur. We all get up this and by now the sun is up. We hit the downhills and it is a good thing we hit this area in the light as there are lots of rock slides due to the months of rain we have had.

We pull into the last control right when we should be leaving it. So I grab a cup of coffee for the receipt and we are off on our final 20 miles and about 90 minutes to get there. The route is flat so it should be no problem.

With about 10 miles to go along Putah Creek my stomach starts to do flip flops. I finally diagnose it as not eating much since Santa Rosa and then topping it off with the cup of coffee. But in the true Randonnering spirit I decide to suck it up and not stop to throw up.

We pulled up to the bagel shop 23 hours and 52 minutes and 230 miles after we started in San Jose and Lois & Bill never looked better. Seriously, I have been on lots of rides that Bill and Lois have put on and they looked great. Then I threw up. No not really I just threw that one in there for yuks. We get all checked in and now I start to shiver a bit again. Everyone suggested I have a cup of coffee but opt for the bagel/egg/bacon breakfast and afterwards am now only wet and more wet.

We have about 90 minutes before the train heads out for San Jose. So I mention we should hit the laundry mat and dry some clothes. We do not have time to wash them but dry stinky clothes are better than wet stinky clothes. So now there are 5 half dressed scraggly men in the laundry stinking up the place.

We make the train and have a whole section to ourselves. Figure that????

The 3 hour ride is extended by about 30 minutes as the train actually has to stop to let three ships pass to the refineries.

Once back to San Jose we ride 7-8 miles back to Paul’s house and say our good-byes. Boy did my butt hurt on those 8 miles but at least it did not rain.

So all in all it was a great ride. Of course I am writing this on Monday and I am completely dry. The team worked great. Noone had any down time that I know of. Everyone seemed to do fine with no complaining at all about the rain. No complaining about the route until I found out there is a flatter way from Santa Rosa to Davis. But by that time we were done and this route makes for better stories.

Willy in Pacifica

Premium Member
21,910 Posts
Great report.

A "Fleche" is supposed to be an arrow (hence a straight line) where several groups start some crazy distance away from a central point and meet for breakfast Easter morning to break their Lentan fast. (I would have eaten a lot more than a Bagel sandwich but it seems like you ate plenty on the ride).

I've always thought the Brevet rules are way too confining. I don't mind riding them but all those rules and controls and having to stop on a Fleche (but not stop too long) are not my cup of tea.

Still, there is something really cool about the team concept of a Fleche.

Thanks for posting.
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