How the Seattle Int'l Randonneurs Organize a Flèche Event
By John Wagner
Running a Flèche
The Flèche is a 24 hour, team event, of at least 360 KM in distance and run similar to a brevet. Each team plans its own route with a common destination in mind. Think of a bicycle wheel. The spokes are the teams (riders) and the hub is the destination. The Flèche is a fun event fostering friendships, teamwork and camaraderie during the planning, riding and finishing celebration of the accomplishment. Here is some background on the French Flèche Vélocio event, Seattle International Randonneurs (SIR) adoption of the Flèche Vélocio rules and how SIR runs its Flèche.
The Flèche Vélocio is a creation of the French. Each Easter weekend randonneuring clubs around France ride in small teams from their respective towns to converge at a designated location in the south of France. Flèche (meaning arrow) equates to arrows to a target. Family members generally precede the team's arrival on Easter then hold a communal celebration. Rules are few but important. Randonneuring clubs around the world participate in national Flèches on the same weekend. Clubs in the northern climates are granted a one month extension from the traditional Easter date due to harsher weather.
FLECHE USA - NW Rules
The Flèche USA - NW is a 24 hour Randonnée and is organized and administered by Seattle International Randonneurs (SIR). The Randonnée is limited to teams of riders. Each team is limited to a maximum of 5 members and a minimum of 3 members. Tandems, mixed or otherwise, count as a single member. Note.. a member equates to a bicycle. The purpose of the Flèche in the spirit of randonneuring, is to promote teamwork, camaraderie and synergy of purpose. The goal for each team is to complete their stated objective, enjoy the journey and celebrate their accomplishment of this early season event.
Distance traveled is calculated on the basis of the shortest route between checkpoints. Maps are used to determine distances. In the case of forced detours due to road construction, accidents, etc., only the additional mileage verified by a independent 3rd party signature or stamp with time and location at the far point of the detour will be counted. Further, such mileage will be counted only if shown on the maps. Routes may not use the same road twice in the same direction.
Members of the same team may assist one another; however, teams are expressly forbidden to aid each other. No licensed professional riders regardless of affiliation are permitted. An exception will be made for veterans class riders more than 50 years old. Assistance from non-participants or from support vehicles following riders is also not permitted. There may be secret and roving checkpoints. The decisions of all officials are final. Those violating the rules will be notified immediately and their route cards will be marked accordingly. Any team using a following, support vehicle in any way or at any time will be disqualified and the team's club will be suspended from participating in the Flèche the following year.
This is a Randonnée, not a race. Each participant is considered to be on a solo ride and is responsible for any accidents caused by or suffered by the same. Riders must be civil at all times, they must abide by all applicable traffic laws, and they must follow the directions of all law enforcement personnel.
Only human powered vehicles are allowed. All vehicles must be equipped with functional lights. Roving checkpoint officials can and will confiscate the route card of any rider riding without lights. Lights must be firmly affixed to the vehicle and be of sufficient wattage. Riding in a group does not change the lighting requirement. All riders must use their lights.
Light colored clothing and reflective vests, ankle, and arm bands are strongly recommended. Fenders are also strongly recommended. No advertising of any sort is allowed on the rider's jersey, jacket, shorts, helmet, etc.
The minimum distance required for the 24 hour period is 360 KM. Riders may start their rides from 6:00 PM on Friday to 10:00 AM on Saturday.
To register for the Flèche USA - NW teams must:
- Submit a detailed route with controls, list all team members and not more than 2 alternates, indicate the team leader and team name after January 1 and no later than 2 weeks before Easter. (Submissions arriving after this date will not be considered and will be returned to the sender.) Upon receipt and approval of their proposed route, the team will receive final registration documentation. To speed up the approval process, please provide full details on the proposed route, i.e. copy of the map used with route marked using a yellow hi-liter, control locations, town names, total mileage, as well as both partial and cumulative mileage. The organizer will keep each team's membership and route confidential.
- For planning purposes consider the likelihood of the distance being greater than the proposed route. However, distances 15% greater than that of the proposed route cannot be certified. Similarly, distances 20% less than that of the proposed route will result in disqualification.
- Submit your entry fee with your route and controls. If a team withdraws prior to the start a administrative fee may be deducted from the returned entry fee.
Before the Start:
Each team member must have in their position their route card listing the names of the controls and the approximate time of arrival in each in the spaces provided on the card. At the start, the time and place must be noted on the route card. This must be done by a independent 3rd party i.e. a gas station, general store or a business. The start time and starting place approved by officials at registration must be used. Officials may be on hand to officially supervise the start. All team members must have their route cards in their possession at all times and must present their route cards to all officials making such a demand.
At the end of the 22nd hour of the ride, the exact time and the location of the team must be noted on each route card and verified by the signature and stamp of a local merchant, official, etc. Lack of the 22nd hour checkpoint verification will result in disqualification. All route cards must indicate the time and location of this verification. Failure to follow this requirement will result in disqualification.
At the Finish:
Teams must have their location and time verified at the nearest town or village at the end of their 24 hours. Verification must be via a stamp and a signature obtained at a place of business, a police station, or at a train/bus station. The exact time and location must be noted on the route cards as well as the mileage completed. A lost route card or missing signatures will result in the automatic disqualification of the team member(s).
For your Flèche to be registered with Audax Club Parisien and the results counted toward team awards: at least 3 team riders must be a member in good standing with a recognized randonneuring club. at least 3 team riders must have ridden the entire distance (same mileage.) at least 25 KM must have been ridden between the end of the 22nd hour and the end of the 24th hour of the ride. Under no circumstances may these two checkpoints be the same place, even if the planned distance has already be completed. at least 3 team riders must be present at the awards banquet on Sunday and have presented the team's route cards to officials between 8:00 AM and 10:30 AM that day. team riders not arriving with the team but who have met the 360 KM requirement, as well as, the 25 KM requirement between the end of the 22nd and 24th hour will be certified as individuals, but their result will nor figure in the attribution of team awards, nor will it count for the Randonneurs 5000 award.
All complaints/questions must be submitted in writing within 72 hours of the finish to the official for the Flèche. The registration fee is $25 for each team. If several teams use the same starting point, then starts for individual teams shall be spaced one hour apart. Choice of routes and starting times will be assigned by the organizer according to the order of receipt of registrations. Teams wishing to receive support at two or a maximum of three points during the ride must indicate such support at the time of registration and must indicate in detail the locations where support will be received.
Basics of running a Flèche
- Select a Flèche date and solicit a Flèche organizer/administrator
Easter weekend is the standard Flèche weekend. Up to a one month reprieve is granted to locations in the northern climate. The Flèche date should be submitted in the preceding fall, with the regular brevet dates, to be recognized and placed on the international schedule of events. The Flèche organizer/administrator (FOA) should be familiar with the requirements of organizing and running a brevet. The FOA may also participate as a team member (see caveat* later on.)
- Select a finishing destination
The First US Flèche event was held in 1998. The goal is to gain experience at the local level before progressing to a more grand scale. The US is a much larger geographically than France so holding a national Flèche presents logistical and financial burdens. A more reasonable objective would be for regional Flèches. Ideally the finishing destination should provide: varied and safe riding venues, good accessibility, a reasonably priced banquet facility with private space and cleanup/overnight accommodations nearby.
- Announce the Flèche, requesting teams to form and apply
Send out a notice announcing the finish destination, rules, awards, dates and asking for teams to form and a team leader to be selected.Event communication will be with each team leader. Dates include: date for the Flèche and a deadline for submitting proposed routes. Allowing adequate time for teams to form, plan and submit routes. This activity should commence early January. After the event destination is selected decide on what if any awards will be offered: the team that completes the most miles, the team coming the closet to a selected target distance i.e. 365k etc.
- Send out team instructions and rules packet
After teams have been identified, send each team leader a route planning packet. Include a state map, route worksheet, copy of Flèche rules and any other useful information. Each team must design their own route using the map and worksheet with the finish destination in mind. Each team's route must conform to standard randonneuring rules, the one exception is that control time limits are omitted. The team's route must be traced with yellow marker on the map. The worksheet must list each control and distance from the previous control. Additional information noted on the work sheet is which if any controls the team plans for outside support, a team name or "handle," the full name of each team member, team caption plus any alternate team members. Once this information is submitted to the FOA only listed alternates can be substituted for original team members. The completed worksheet, annotated map and any clarifications are then returned to the FOA for verification. The team's route planning session provides an opportunity to share experiences and build camaraderie, review each team's proposed route, and negotiate changes if necessary. The FOA reviews each team's worksheets for accuracy. Distances listed on the worksheet must be picked up and calculated correctly from the map. The sum of the individual leg distances must equal the total distance stated. All controls must list and define the outer limits of the route where shorter routes exist. Resolve any discrepancies with the team leader. Prepare the team's control cards.
- Prepare and send out control cards
Prepare one control card for each team member. The card contains the team name, team member's name, start location and time, each control, its distance from the previous control, running total from the start, a box for the 22 hour control and a finish control box for rider's signature and total distance ridden. Send the control cards plus a couple of extra cards with no names should an alternate be used, to the team leader. Each team's plan is strictly confidential* and not to be discussed.
- Monitor event's progress on day of ride
If the FOA is not participating on a team then checking on the team's progress on ride day is advisable. If the FOA accepts this responsibility they should plan to be at the finish when the first team finishes. With each team selecting its own starting time, the finish, 24 hours later, finishing can vary wildly. Starting strategies run the gamut from Friday evening, getting the night riding over first to starting Saturday after a good night's sleep and everything in-between. Most teams riding the minimum distance, around 360 KM, expect to sleep 3 to 5 hours, those opting for the big miles, 400 or more, don't have that luxury. Some like starting on top a mountain pass, allegedly giving a physiological advantage of a "free miles" descent.
- At the finish, process results
Each team's control cards are collected as they finish and checked for all the required control signatures, especially the 22 hour rule -- see rules for an explanation. To get credit towards Super Randonneur 5000 at least 3 members must have ridden the team's stated distance that must be at least 360 KM.
- Hold banquet and announce results and awards
After people clean up and replenish calories, introduce each team by name, it's members and any support people, encourage them expound on their 24 hour experience. Announce the distance covered for each team, present any awards and enjoy the stories. If you have questions or want copies of any documents mentioned, contact John Wagner at: email@example.com.