By Réal Préfontaine
After completing the inaugural Rocky Mountain 1200 km in 1996, I thought that an interesting challenge would be to do both the Rocky Mountain 1200k and the Boston Montreal Boston 1200k in the same year. A colleague and good friend did not support this idea. "The events are too close to each other and do not provide sufficient time to recover." I considered this opposing view as a gauntlet thrown at my feet and had no option but to accept the challenge. The caveat was that if I succeeded it would cost someone "a six pack of Boston's best*, and I do not mean beans..."
The Rocky Mountain 1200k is a circuit route starting at Kamloops (elevation of 1148 ft), in the interior of British Columbia 350 km from Vancouver. From Kamloops the route heads northwest over the Yellow Head pass (3760 ft) to Jasper. From Jasper the route turns south over the Columbia Ice field Parkway with magnificent view of glaciers from the summit of Sunwapta Pass (6676 ft), over Bow Summit (6785 ft) the highest point in the route and onward to Banff National Park. At Lake Louise the route turns west over Kicking Horse Pass (5404 ft) and historic Rogers Pass (4364 ft) with the finish in Kamloops. As can be noted by the elevations, this is a challenging route. The climbs are long but with the exception of Sunwapta Pass all are less than 10 % grade as all routes are on Provincial highways.
On July 10, 1997 thirty Randonneurs primarily from Canada, but also representation from the UK, France, Germany and USA began the Rock Mountain 1200k. The first three days were primarily rainy and even snowy at Sumwapta Pass. My time was 81:50 hours.
Four weeks later, on August 14, I started BMB with over 100 other riders including another Canadian, Grant McLeod from Saskatchewan who had also completed the 1997 Rocky Mountain 1200 km. We began at sea level and quickly climbed to 3500ft at Ludlow Vermont near the Killington Ski Area. From there we climbed to 4700 feet over the famed Middlebury Gap, which reduces many BMB riders to tears. The route flattened as we approached the USA/Canadian border, into Montreal and back to Northern Vermont, where we rode past exquisite landscapes, Lake Champlain at sunrise and the Green Mountains at sunset. The ride through scenic Vermont seems uphill most of the time, in both directions. I completed the BMB in 83:50 hours. My times for these two 1200 km events are not in the record setting range, but as we all know the objective of "randonneuring" is to establish a personal record.
Evidently the question that now comes to mind is not, "Can both events be done the same year?", but, "How do the routes compare? How do these two routes compare with the PBP?" All three routes have their unique characteristics, and for me the comparison is very subjective. The PBP has a large number of riders with well-organized control points and the "hoop-la" of spectators support along the rolling hills of Normandy and Brittany. In reference to rolling hills the BMB compares to the PBP, but to me BMB has longer and more challenging climbs. The Rocky Mountain has long stretches on isolated highways You don't lose time finding out if you are on the right route, there is only one road to follow. This unique characteristic alleviates the need of a route sheet except in the cities for the control points, which are on or near the highway. In 1998 a third Canadian, Glen Smith from Saskatchewan, completed both the Rocky Mountain 1200 km and BMB. On the latter he established a course record of 59:15 hours and 10 days later completed BMB in 79:42 hours. Records have been established for these two North American 1200 km Randonnées. The organizers of the respective events now expect more Randonneurs to take the Can-Am Challenge. Can you do it?
Note: Réal Préfontaine holds the record as the oldest finisher of the Rocky Mountain 1200k and the oldest rider to complete both events in one year. For information about the Rocky Mountain 1200k ride go to the web site of the BC Randonneurs Cycling Club; For information about the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200k go to the BMB web site.
*Upon completing the BMB 1200k, Réal was presented with a case of Sam Adams Lager, Boston's Best Beer! Réal Préfontaine was born in 1932 in Lisieux, Saskatchewan. He became a medical doctor and after two years of general practice became a medical administrator and career civil servant, first with Health and Welfare Canada and then with Corrections Canada ultimately becoming CC's Pacific Region Medical Director. He retired in 1995. In 1992 Réal found himself at the start of randonneur events. He has served on the BC Randonneur Executive Committee since 1994, and was BC Randonneur President in 1995.
After successfully completing his second Paris Brest Paris at the age of 66, Réal was elected President of Randonneurs Mondiaux. The four-year term as President follows Réal's earlier position as RM Vice President. He succeeds Jennifer Wise who served as RM President from 1995 to 1999. - Eric Ferguson