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Shenandoah 600 Pre-ride Report

There is already a detailed description of the route for the Shenandoah 600 on the sign-up page of the DCR website. Both it and the linked RWGPS will repay close study. This is our most spectacular brevet, but it is also our most challenging and, at times, rural. Knowing where you are on the course and where you need to get to for supplies or for rest will pay big dividends.

1. Roads

The roads the route uses are in remarkably good condition. There is some broken chip and seal on the slow drag up from Buena Vista to Vesuvius (miles 223 - 40), and that is about it. Otherwise, road surfaces are quite unblemished, although there are significant stretches of energy-sapping chip and seal from Goshen to Buchanan (miles 150 - 96), Buena Vista to Raphine, and from the turn off VA 252 up to Buffalo Gap (miles 265 - 74).

We saw very little gravel on any of the roads, but that can change quickly with rainfall, so keep your eyes open.

2. Climbing

The route climbs over 20,000 feet from start to finish, but that is the product more of constant ups and down that it is of big-name climbs, such as Big Flat on the Frederick 300 or Kittatinny Mountain on Northern Exposure. Nevertheless, the most notable climbs are obvious enough on the RWGPS:

  • The climb leaving the Fort Valley over Edinburg Gap that summits at mile 35.5.
  • The gradual but ultimately leg-sapping uphill section heading down the valley from Edinburg (mile 40) to above Walkersville at mile 126.
  • The three climbs between Goshen and Buchanan: up VA 780 to Interstate 64, Big Hill, and Buffalo Gap. The steepest is Big Hill, which is the most challenging single climb on the route.
  • The climb from Buena Vista up to Raphine that ends Day 1.
  • The climb up VA 252 from below Raphine to just south of Stanton that begins Day 2.

3. Descents

All the climbs listed above have fast descents, as does the road from Raphine down to VA 252 to start Day 2.

The descent from Edinburg Gap is well-paved and clearly lined, but it is turny and fast at the top.

The descent to Walkersville that begins at mile 126.0 is particularly narrow and twisty. In addition, its pavment is rougher than most and can collect gravel, although we didn't see much, if any, on the preride. Take care here.

All three descents between Goshen and Buchanan are steep and twisty, although their pavement is better than that of the Walkerville descent. Take special care after dark, as there is a lot of wildlife along this section, including many deer.

The descent from Raphine that starts Day 2 is twisty enough that you'll want to take it at less than full throttle in the morning dark. And be sure to dress warmly. The air is likely to be cool at that hour, and your body will not be warmed up.

4. Food

You won't have to pay too much attention to resupply spots for the first 100 miles of the ride or the last 80, where they are reasonably frequent. But for the other 195, you'll need both a general strategy and the ability to improvise depending on how things play out during the ride. In part, this is because there aren't many resupply points at the southern end of the course. In part, it is because many of the resupply points that do exist have staffing issues and, as a result, uncertain hours.

Here's what Mimo and I did on the pre-ride, and it ended up working pretty well:

We did not try to eat a meal before the start. If you do, your options are the Liberty convenience store across Reliance Road from the EconoLodge and the 7-Eleven up Reliance at its intersection with US 11.

We ate a large breakfast at the Southern Kitchen at mile 56.0 as you leave New Market. Excellent food, reasonably fast service. It opens at 07:00, so only the fastest will get there when it is still closed. If that doesn't appeal to you, a number of other options cluster around the intersection of US 11 and VA 211 at mile 55.7.

There is food at the KOA campground control at mile 65.5, but the store that sells it does not open until 09:00. The control does feature IRFs at the end of the building the store occupies.

There are many food options in Bridgewater at mile 89: fast food, fine food, 7-Eleven, and grocery store. We topped up on liquids at the 7-Eleven and moved on quickly.

We did stop for foot-long subs at the Subway that is rolled into Jake's Convenience at mile 108.9, knowing that there wasn't going to be anything of substance between there and Goshen.

You'll have two options in Goshen at mile 149: BG's restaurant (quality unknown; open until 21:00) and the fairly limited selection at the BP convenience store (closes 22:00) that is the control. Mimo and I opted for the BP after our two solid meals earlier in the day. But you definitely do not want to leave Goshen hungry and unsupplied. It's a long 55 miles to Buchanan if you do.

Mimo and I started late, so the South Buffalo Market (closes at 21:00) wasn't open when we got there. It can be a ride saver if you run out of liquids on a hot day. Otherwise, a few more miles of climbing and you'll make the quick descent to Buchanan.

Now it gets interesting. The Burger King in Buchanan at mile 196 is gone, but the Exxon it shared space with is still there and has a covenience store with indoor tables and seats. It closes at 23:30. The Good Times Cafe a little farther down US 11 is open until 02:00 Sunday, but their grill closes at 22:00, and I'm not sure you want to wander into a rural bar too long after dark.

The Shell at mile 198 is open 24 hours, "if the night clerk shows up for work" the clerk on duty told me.

The Exxon entering Natural Bridge at mile 205.8 is supposed to be open 24 hours, but it probably won't be because the clerk Mimo spoke to said she's the night clerk, and she isn't working the night of the ride.

As you ride through Buena Vista beginning at mile 221.5, you'll pass a variety of restaurants that close at 21:00 or 22:00. If you get there after then, as we did, the Exxon, which is the control at mile 223.3, is a good bet to be open 24 hours, as it was for us.

We'll have food for you at the Raphine overnight, so you can safely ride past Smiley's Travel Center at mile 243.6 even though it is open 24 hours.

We'll also have breakfast food at the overnight. If you don't like what is available, the Dunkin down the street opens at 05:00. But don't leave Raphine hungry. It is 30 miles mostly uphill to the very limited covenience store in Buffalo Gap, and another 6 to the Riverside Grocery in Churchville. The latter opens at 09:00.

As it did on Day 1, Bridgewater at mile 296 will offer you a number of resupply opportunites. Eat a good meal there, and you won't have to think too much about food the rest of the way.

You may be tempted to ride by Larkin's Grocery at mile 346.8. But while the route trends downhill from there, it is not flat. Top up your liquids and eat a snack or something more substantial from their quite respectable deli. Unlike many convenience stores that seem to have gone out of their way to eliminate all seating in front of the store, Larkin's has quite pleasant wooden benches out front. An ORF is around the corner at the north end of the building.

5. Weather

Mornings can be colder than you expect in the Shenandoah Valley, so don't dress too lightly. Buchanan isn't far north of Roanoke, so be sure to check the weather at that end of the course and not just in Middletown.

Mimo and I had tailwinds down the valley on Day 1 and strong headwinds going back up on Day 2. The result was a non-stop string of PRs for me on Strava going down, and a time 60 - 90 minutes longer than previous rides going north. By the same token, we had gail-force tailwinds riding up the valley in 2015, and many of us rode times 60 - 90 minutes faster than normal. Most of the course north of VA 39 is across open farmland, so any wind there is on ride day will play a role in your outcome.

Northern Exposure 400k Ride Report

15 riders departed the Frederick Fairfield Inn and Suites at 4AM on Saturday morning to start the 2023 DC Randonneurs Northern Exposure 400k.  Weather was very good and temperatures moderate. After the start the organizer drove up to Horse Valley to check on a possible detour spotted on the pre-ride that might have gone into effect, but the road was open and the contingency plans for a detour were scrapped. This was fortunate as some riders considered this the most scenic leg of the ride.  Mimo spotted a roadside "self-checkout" tent offering up baked and other goods, and tried to get others to come see what he had just found.  Then the scenic segment to Newport, which had been removed several years before (probably as a detour), was restored this year as well.  The forecasted rain did appear on cue around 5 PM but did little to dampen the spirits of the riders on an otherwise excellent day to ride. The first riders to finish -  Andrea, Bryan, Clif, and Kyle - were in well before midnight. The next one in was Bill, an outstanding finish considering he had considered giving up riding this distance but showed up this year just to see how it might go.  In all, 14 of 15 finished the ride, including first-time 400k riders such like Chuck, Tom, and Jason (and perhaps others). Those preregistered for Paris-Brest-Paris having completed their ACP 200k/300k already can upgrade to “registered” as soon as these results are homologated — hopefully very soon.  

Next up is the Shenandoah 600k on June 3rd, presented by Roger Hillas.  

Who We Are

DC Randonneurs sponsors long-distance cycling events in the Mid-Atlantic region ranging from 100 kilometers to 1,200 kilometers (60 - 750 miles) in length. Rides start from the Baltimore-Washington region but travel as far afield as State College PA, Buchanan VA, and Warm Springs WV.

The terrain we ride ranges from the flatlands of the Eastern Shore to the rolling hills and valleys of the Piedmont and the sometimes steep flanks of the Appalachian mountain ridges to our west. Our routes, many of which we've ridden for years, take quiet back roads through gorgeous and varied scenery, with regular stops for supplies and rest.

Our rides are unsupported. There is no sag wagon, and help of any sort can be miles away on some of the more remote stretches of road we ride. But we ride together, creating bonds of friendship and camaraderie along the way. Our ride organizers and volunteers work hard to make sure that every rider is accounted for, from start to finish.

Our rides are timed, with riders required to reach intermediate control points, as well as the finish, within a set window of time. But our results are listed alphabetically. Our style of riding is know as allure libre, meaning riders ride at their own pace within the limits set by control opening and closing times rather than riding as a group at a steady pace set by its leaders, which is the audax style of randonneuring.

Randonneuring is non-competitive, but we challenge ourselves and each other -- to ride farther, to ride faster, to ride longer than we might have though possible. We aspire to relentless forward progress but take time to help each other when in need, whether that need is for emotional support, an energy bar to cure a bonk, or a cleverly improvised fix to broken equipment.

DC Randonneurs is affiliated with Randonneurs USA and operates according to the rules promulgated by that organization by adoption from the Audax Club Parisien.

Rides in our Club
Membership included for guest registrations

Click on ride name for details
  • Jun 03

    Shenandoah 600 Econo Lodge - Middletown
    ACP 600
    Members: $60.00
    18 registered
  • Jun 17

    Smoketown Brawler Smoketown Brewing Station - Brunswick
    RUSA 100
    Members: $7.00
    None registered
  • Jun 24

    Firefly 400 Hampton Inn - Warrenton
    ACP 400
    Members: $25.00
    None registered
  • Jul 08

    Liberty & Union Populaire Frey's Brewing Company - Mt Airy
    RUSA 100
    Members: $7.00
    None registered

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