The Last Chance Randonnée has seen worse weather in previous years but that was little consolation for the 34 randonneurs fighting gusting winds as they rode out and back from Colorado to Kansas this past September. Support crew Margo Bonner described near zero visibility conditions in Kansas as tunnels of dust engulfed the road. Winds at the finish in Louisville, CO were 47 mph, gusting to 62 mph.
The Last Chance Randonnée is named for the town of Last Chance, Colorado through which it travels. The route extends from Louisville (between Denver and Boulder) in the plains of eastern Colorado to the farm fields of Phillipsburg in western Kansas.
For John Mazzola (Cedar Crest, New Mexico) it was his first randonnée. Being an accomplished mountain bike racer, John easily detected a competitive spirit among the Last Chance riders, many of whom had time goals. However, as the miles and days went by, he said, you eventually became more concerned with your own performance and less concerned with what other riders were doing.
Camaraderie extended to the support crews as well. Brevet rider Liz Mazzola crewed for her husband, John, and anyone else who happened to ride into the checkpoint. When she wasn’t supporting the riders, Liz used her time to soak up the local culture. She learned from the locals how to make silage (winter feed for livestock) and the difference between ranchers and farmers. Between checkpoints Liz took pictures of John Deer tractors which dwarfed her Air Stream trailer.
What impressed veteran randonneur Ken Bonner (Victoria, BC) more than the gusting winds and farm implements was the warmth of the Kansas people. Once a rider enters a restaurant or store in that state, it’s hard to get out as people want to know where you’re from and to where you’re going. It seems each randonnée has its own challenges.