For the last couple years the Pittsburgh Randonneurs have hosted a series of randonees in the highlands of the Allegheny Mountains. Previously they were referred to as the AMCUP series. AMCUP = Allegheny Mountains Cruel and Unusual Punishment. The first year there were 400K, 300K, and 200K versions of the ride. I did the 300K two years ago and found it to be the hardest day of cycling I had ever done up to that point. It seems that some other people felt the same, and enthusiasm suffered. But the 200K version has been run every year – apparently 200K in this terrain is just shy of being truly cruel. Enough at least to get a small, dedicated cadre of participants. And the CUP part of the name has been officially dropped – no need to scare folks off, I guess. Not everyone enjoys gallows humor.
While it was a hard day of riding, for a mid pack rando (which I don’t quite qualify as), it’s totally do-able. Time management and pacing is the key, as it is with any hard randonee. Slow climbers will be flirting with controle cut offs all day because the serious climbing starts in the first mile.
So, overall, I liked the route quite a bit. Lots of really nice, quiet roads. The right number of controle spaced out properly. The bit of gravel was a nice addition. Views of windmills were cool, and lovely mountains and valleys. In other words, it’s a randonee right up my alley.
The fact that we rode it pretty sensibly and steady-paced was the key to enjoying it. There were no ego fueled ‘feats of strength’ performed on any of these climbs. Survival was the order of the day.
Climbing Mount Davis was a highlight. And so was the 20 miles on the GAP between Rockwood and Confluence. Normally I find the GAP very tedious. But on this day, it was nice and serene. I enjoyed getting out of the sunshine for a while, and let the legs spin a bit instead of mashing up another dozen hills. Thank goodness the trail was hardpacked and fast – I was expecting more slow trail mushiness, but we were lucky.
There was one bad experience, however. When climbing out of Confluence on the last climb of the day, a suicidal maniac came at us in our lane, as he was passing a string of about 4 or 5 cars going the other way. On a steep downhill section of a narrow, twisty country road. Luckily Jim was riding in the lead position and saw what was happening right away and called it out. I was third in line and as soon as Jim called out the hazard, all three of us pretty much pulled off the road in perfect, calm (well, sorta) unison. A well oiled machine.
(….by the way, nobody reading this should think of this is as a dangerous course; it is actually quite safe. I’d actually give it an ‘A’ rating in this regard. Fact is, stupidity is ubiquitous, and no matter where we ride we all have to keep our heads up on what’s going on around us…)
By the way, this was me, two years ago on the 300K version of this route, were I came dangerously close to crying. Right before this pic was taken. If Jim Mountain road hadn’t topped out when it did, I probably would have crawled into a ditch. And would still be there: