Today, I rode the Mountain Populaire 100K, put on by the Seattle International Randonneurs.

Randonneuring is a long-distance cycling discipline that originated in France (hence the name) way back in the 1800s. It's organized around a series of rides known as "brevets", which are pronounced exactly the way you would expect if you speak French. The goal is to finish a ride of a specific distance within a specific time limit. For example, the 200 km brevet typically has a an overall time to finish of 13:30, the 300 km a time limit of 20:00, and so on - all the way up to 75 hours for a 1000 km ride.

Given the length of most of the brevets, some clubs host "populaires", which are shorter events for new riders for "introducing new riders to the ways of randonneuring".

These rides are different from most organized rides in the following ways:

  • They are not supported. There are a few people who follow the group around, but there is no sag wagon, no mechanics, no food.
  • There are no dan henry's - you need to follow the route sheet.
  • There are controls along the route. Some are manned, where somebody will sign your sheet. Some are unmanned, where you'll need to answer a question to prove that you were there.
  • They're typically much smaller.

Instead of doing a typical introduction, the folks at SIR decided to host a "Mountain Populaire". Instead of doing a typical course, it's a course with as much climbing as possible. (note that I'm assuming that SIR is different in this regard - it may be that all Populaires are like this).

In this case, the course packs 5480 feet of climbing into 110 km. The climbs are:

There is a claimed 8th hill, but I don't recall exactly where.

So, how does this compare to the Summits of Bothell or 7 Hills? Well, 7 Hills has a lot of climbing, but only seminary hill and winery hill are really challenging. Summits of Bothell has a lot of steep climbs, but most of them aren't very long. And they're both in the 40ish mile range.

This ride is 69 miles, and while it does have a couple of fairly easy climbs - 164th and Tiger mountain - it starts out with a 1000' climb, and then finishes with a 700' climb, both of which have slopes in excess of 15%. My legs were certainly tired when I got to Mountain Park, but I had to tack back and forth to make it to the top (I was not the only one).

Definitely the hardest ride I've been on, and a nice way to end the season. Beautiful day, and a nice group to ride with.

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