By John Lee Ellis
Somewhere the lightning bolted, the thunder pealed, hail stoned, and tumbleweeds tumbled … but in 2005—for once—it was somewhere else than on the Colorado Last Chance 1200k. Good thing, too, as 31 brave souls—bursting the seams of the 30-rider cap and more than double the ridership of past years—faced more expanse and fewer trees than most were used to. And as in years past, most (80% or so) came from far and wide to experience the Colorado prairie and its big sky.
This Last Chance may have offered the most beneficent conditions of any US 1200k of the year—no tires exploding from ovenlike heat, no rain- drenched hypothermia over mountain passes, no gale-force winds traversing vast lakes. Newcomers groused about the relentless headwinds skirting across the plains; locals reassured them that this was calmer than usual. Flatlanders were slowed by the swelling rollers coming into Last Chance, Colorado, but admitted it was a nice change of pace from flatter sections.
After a chillier-than-usual start, riders faced windy conditions heading to the Kansas line … an improvement from VERY windy conditions in past years. A cold-front passage overnight brought only a few showers, bestowing comfy highs the 80's, and—incredibly ——tailwinds the second and third afternoons. As in 2004, the final, Colorado night was chilly, dropping to 37 degrees by morning.
As always, a high degree of ridership and camaraderie shown through, while riders beamed at meeting "the friendliest people anywhere" in Kansas and Eastern Colorado. This public warmth is a touchstone with Paris-Brest- Paris, while in so many other respects (ridership, tree-count), PBP and Last Chance make such a contrast!
It was a good first 1200k for riders like Karen Bataille from Columbia, MO and David Miller from Columbus, OH. It was an especially fine fourth and final 1200k of the year for Ken Bonner (riding his third Last Chance, and breaking his own course record), Dan Clinkinbeard, Gerry Goode, and Kevin Main. For Arizona RBA Susan Plonsky, it was a nice cool-down from BMB a month earlier.
For 1000k riders Peter Noris, Tom Rosenbauer, and Chris Kaiser, this put the finishing touches on the prestigious Randonneur 5000 award from France.
Spencer Klaassen (MO) rode the course on his fixed gear, echoing John Evans (England) in the inaugural Last Chance, and upholding up the 100% finishing rate of fixie riders. Same for recumbent riders Dean Zimmer (Manitoba) and Peter Noris (CO).
Robert Pogorelz (CO), Paul Rozelle (OH), Ray Rupel (CO), and Mike Sturgill (AZ) qualified for RAAM by way of the Last Chance, all of them riding without support … and at times without comfy accommodations, as when Ray Rupel and Mike Sturgill snoozed on a concrete slab in Anton, CO in the chill of a High Plains night. (The 2004 Last Chance RAAM qualifying riders also rode without support—to me this is an inspiring sign.)
A special thanks to the dedicated Last Chance staff: starter and Byers bagdrop chief John Hughes, headquarters coordinator Patricia Heller, Tom Foss managing registration, and Catherine Shenk helping at the finish line, and a special thanks to trail boss and Atwood bagdrop chief Charlie Henderson, who in more than one way is the inspiration for the Last Chance.
On a personal note, I have ridden hillier and more rider-populous 1200k's, dating back to the inaugural BMB in 1988, but there is a quiet yet challengingly existential experience to the Last Chance. Will you join us for a PBP warm-up in 2006?
RUSA# Time Rider Orig. 89:25 BARACH, Charlene AB, Can. 2741 87:00 BATAILLE, Karen MO 1009 66:10 BOL, Timothy FL 894 54:46** BONNER, Kenneth BC, Can. 71:30 BOUHUYZEN, Henk ON, Can. 89:25 BURNS, Rowan Tas, Aus. 1837 87:00 CLINKINBEARD, Dan MO 153 81:25 ELLIS, John Lee CO 3086 83:41 FAUST, Thomas MO 60 83:53 GOODE, Gerald AZ 679 86:34 HIMSCHOOT, Ron WA 3067 dnf INGOLD, John AK 934 dnf JONES, Tim CA 1599 68:42 KAISER, Kevin GA 2318 87:02 KEHR, Jim CA 1989 83:40 KLAASSEN, Spencer MO 81:10 KNOBLAUCH, Tom CO 50 83:53 MAIN, Kevin CA 2754 83:24 MILLER, David OH 991 87:00 PLONSKY, Susan AZ 66:55 POGORELZ, Robert CO 2955 63:24 ROZELLE, Paul OH 3112 64:42 RUPEL, Ray CO 41 74:00 SOLANICK, James FL 1847 57:11 STURGILL, Michael AZ 1555 81:47 WALLACE, Daniel FL 462 64:32 WEIBLE, Jeff MO 341 dnf WERNER, Glen CO 83:41 ZIMMER, Dean MB, Can.