On June 11, 2016, BC Randonneurs had multiple choices of rides to do. One was the Vancouver City Limits 200, with thirty controls, and a route sheet that would give a navigationally-challenged rider like me nightmares. At the other end of the spectrum was the Valemount 600. Half a page for the route sheet. No traffic lights. No Tim Hortons. No Starbucks.

The Valemount 600 route was my first 600 km brevet, back in 2003. It was ridiculously hot- close to 40 degrees C, and I had no idea what I was doing. To say I struggled with it is an understatement. On paper, this looks like an easy ride. I can't give an elevation total- I killed my gps in the rain at the 400, but none of the climbs exceed 6 %. It follows the North Thompson River, so one would think that it would be mostly uphill on the way out, downhill on the return. Wrong. Due to a regional geographical anomaly, it is uphill both ways. Then there is the wind. There is always the wind. Generally from the south, sometimes from the north, but always there. So why do we use this route? Stunning scenery, easy navigation, and relatively low traffic make it more than worth the effort.

Leading up to the event, the weather forecasts went from bad to worse. On Thursday, Dierdre phoned me, and laughed gleefully as she read to me, town by town, the probability of precipitation. Thanks, Dierdre. The Mabel Lake 400 still fresh in my mind, I loaded up my Carradice with wool, lots of wool, plus toe and hand warmers, garbage bags, nitrile gloves and anything else I could think of. All in multiples, to allow for sharing. After all, what's a few more pounds. Things looked a little more promising as I drove to the start. I could actually see a few stars.

The pre ride briefing was as brief as the route sheet. I told the riders "We've had no dnf's in the Interior this year, and I'm going to be really mad if anyone screws that up". At 05:00, six riders rolled out onto the Yellowhead. Peter Nickerson, on his first 600, Roxanne Stedman and I were riding together in cool early morning sunshine, although clouds further up the valley looked a bit menacing. We were delayed a couple of times because things kept falling off Peter's bike, the first of which was Peter. It was my fault. I didn't communicate loudly enough my need to stop and commune with nature, and when I slowed, so did Roxanne. Peter bumped the back of her bike, and I heard the unmistakable sound of a crash behind me. Despite losing a fair amount of skin and blood, Peter seemed less shaken by the incident than Roxanne and I. We continued until the next problem. Peter's pedals stopped going round and round. His cassette lockring had fallen off. Although I have a tool for that, I had left it at home. We did the best we could with my multi tool and hoped for the best.

The climb up the Messiter has gotten much smaller since 2003 (or have I gotten stronger?). We were delayed for about ten minutes by paving, but it was not an unwelcome rest. All three of us had support at Blue River, and after attending to Peter's wounds and restocking snacks (Susan's famous espresso cookies), we continued. By this point we had only had about 15 minutes of rain. We made really good time to Valemount, bring our rolling average up to 27 kmh, enjoying sunshine and a strong tailwind. After a leisurely sit down feast of Chinese food and bad coffee we turned south- into the wind. Not far out of town we met Mike, Connie, and Will, all looking strong. As it started to get dark, a big waterfall across the valley seemed to glow white against the darkening mountain. It started to rain, but not very hard. When we got to where the new pavement started, the combination of the rain and the warmth of the pavement created a two foot deep layer of fog across the whole road. I've used many words to describe riding in the rain in the dark, but this is the first time I would say it was beautiful, and we had the road all to ourselves.

We arrived back in Blue River at about 11:00 pm, and agreed to meet at the Husky restaurant at 05:00 for breakfast. It turns out the organizer didn't do his research. Although the website said they open at 05:00, they actually open at 07:00. Poop. Making do with coffee and what we had, we headed out into the drizzle. It was a little chilly on the Messiter descent, but the drizzle eased and finally stopped. We caught Will near Avola and invited him to join our paceline, but he wasn't quite up to it. Except for the headwind, the weather got better and better the further south we got. By the time we hit Clearwater, we were fading noticeably. A good breakfast at the A&W fixed that, and we were off again. The rest of the ride was uneventful, but warm, sunny and scenic. Peter stopped for a break at the rest area south of Barriere, so we didn't see him again until the finish. We got a bit of a reprieve with a tailwind between McLure and Heffley Creek, but it was short lived, and the headwind returned for the final few kms.

Congratulations to all! Mike, Connie, and Peter are now Rocky Mountain 1200 qualified!

We did well with wildlife, spotting two black bears, two deer, and one coyote. All along the route were spectacular wildflowers, and wild strawberries, so big and ripe I could smell them, although we resisted the temptation to stop and eat them (mosquitoes were a deterrent). It is truly a beautiful route and it will definitely be used again. Just give me a couple of years to forget about the wind.

Results

Member Time Bicycle Class Sortable time
Danicek, Will 38:15 Single 137700000
Eder, Mikel 38:52 Single 139920000
Goodison, Bob 34:30 Single 124200000
Nickerson, Peter 34:54 Single 125640000
Stedman, Roxanne 34:30 Single 124200000
Van der Ree, Connie 38:52 Single 139920000