by Jim Kuehn
Each spring, randonneurs push their fitness and endurance by
completing a sequence of brevets of increasing distance and difficulty.
For many, the goal is to finish the series of brevets (qualifying rides)
required to participate in the 1200 km, 90-hour Paris-Brest-Paris
randonnee. Others have more modest goals.
The season began with the 200km brevet in mid-April. This ride
attracts many club cyclists who want to take a step beyond the standard
club century and get a taste of the randonneur challenge. While not an
extraordinary distance, this event is run just a few weeks after the end
of winter and requires significant early-season preparation.
Starting an hour before sunrise and ending near or after sunset,
the 300km brevet gives participants their first experience with fitting
lights and reflectors on their bicycles. All riders and their bicycles
are inspected before the start to ensure that the safety requirements
are met. Tasks that one takes for granted when riding during daylight
hours (such as reading a cue sheet or bike computer) have to be
re-thought for night-riding.
The mood at the 400km and longer events is entirely different
from the earlier, shorter ones. This is a serious ride and everyone
knows it will be a long day in the saddle. With the right attitude, a
comfortable pace, and proper attention to feeding and hydration, the
course will be completed. Covering 250 miles under your own power gives
you confidence in your ability and training.
The 600km brevet is the first multi-day ride and most riders
elect to get a few hours of sleep after the first 400km before finishing
it. Those who finish the 200km, 300km, 400km, and 600km events are
given "Super Randonneur" distinction and are permitted to participate in
the Paris-Brest-Paris randonnee this August. For participants seeking
additional training or an alternative to P-B-P, the three-day 1000km
event is available.
None of the brevets is easy. All include a mix of rolling to
mountainous terrain and average 5000' of climbing per 100 miles covered.
While the first four brevets were held under almost ideal weather
conditions, the 1000km event coincided with the record-breaking heat and
humidity on July Fourth weekend. Temperatures soared near one hundred
degrees each day and all but one rider succumbed to heat- related
problems (see accompanying story). All told, seventy-four randonneurs
participated in PPTC-sponsored events in 1999. Not including the 1000k,
there were 172 brevets completed of 181 attempted -- an outstanding 95%
completion rate. No crashes or injuries of any sort were reported.
Collectively, the riders completed in excess of 37,000 miles.
The accompanying table summarizes the results. Many more
participants are eligible to go to Paris than would appear because
brevets can be done in other regions of the country. Congratulations go
to all the participants.