The ride is called the Kittens and Puppies Populaire, acknowledging that this if a newb-friendly event with relatively few hills and straightforward navigation.
This ride was no different. I knew a few of the riders (Mikhail, Jon, and Stef). People formed up at the start on Neville Island (under I79) on schedule, there was a group briefing, we were all issued a brevet card to have stamped at the turnaround point (the 7-11 in Ellwood City), and we started without any drama exactly on time.
I would say there were about twenty men and five women. Road bikes, all diamond frames, no 'bents. Stef rode fixed-gear, I didn't notice any others. Some really excellent equipment.
Boy these folks are strong. I stayed with the back of the group until Stoops Ferry Hill, and then I was off the back. The nature of the event is that it's not a group ride, you're responsible for your own navigation and passage.
The route is excellent, it's basically PA Bike Route A. Gastronomically, the route includes The Fountainhead Cafe, Waffles Incaffeinated, and Oram's Doughnuts so there were vittles to be scrounged enroute. The briefing was that there was an initial hill at Stoop's Ferry, then a series of rollers on the east side of the Beaver River.
Hah, rollers, a funny phrase that. It's very pretty country right there, and I had the time to enjoy it as I pedalled up the rollers at 4mph remembering a 1965 movie The Hill, about a man-made hill in a British military prison used to break men's sprits. My favorite part of the film is about a half-hour from the end, when a noncom played by Ossie Davis decides he will no longer be part of the Army, and in an instant changes from a dutiful sergeant in the ranks to a polished, comfortable man who refers to his officers by first name; the officers are so confounded by his suave manners that they are forced to interact with him as a peer and are unable to engage his dereliction. It's one of the finest moments of acting film that I've seen.
Anyway, while emracing the rollers I managed to stay true to the path while the other riders deviated and added a few more miles to their ground track, which had the effect of moving my arrival at the 7-11 to within 30 minutes of the main group.
Departed after a snack and drinks with the last of the other riders and fell off the back again in the hills. Beautiful day for a ride. I made it back to the final control with :20 minutes to spare before the time cutoff, and I received a Populaire pin for my bike bag for completing within the time range.
I really enjoyed the populaire format and my goal is to complete a 200K within the time parameters this year.