By Jennifer Barber
Over the past few years there has been an explosion of interest in extreme sports. A byproduct of this seems to be an increasing interest in distance cycling. Throughout the United States riders have participated in a record number of randonneuring events. RUSA and ACP sanctioned events in the United States now span the calendar year. To support this activity your local RBA puts in many hours to develop quality events.
RBAs have had a wide range of reasons for their interest in organizing events, from wanting to ride events closer to home to a desire to share the scenic beauty of their area. All RBAs have a strong interest in seeing distance cycling thrive. Our sport serves a wide variety of abilities and attracts interesting people. This is often a driving force for an RBA's continuance.
After becoming an RBA, organizers must develop rides and maintain various records. All RBAs must secure insurance and ensure there is a structure in place to allow brevets to continue in the event that they must step down from the position.
Most RBAs develop a website and create entry forms and advertising materials to promote their rides. For some with extensive computer experience this is easy. For others, it is a large time or financial commitment. For all RBAs, maintaining their websites takes time, especially during the season. It is definitely time well spent as it is an extremely cost effective means of advertising. Most randonneurs find events through the Internet.
Creating cue sheets is likely one of the most important and challenging aspects of an RBA's job. A minor typo can send riders off into the wilds for hours. Developing clear directions for interesting routes is the most time-consuming, yet can be the most enjoyable, activity in which RBAs engage. Long hours are spent scouting routes via bike and car. RBAs try to meet various riders' desires: flat vs. hilly, main vs. rural roads, services vs. scenic. It's always a balancing act. For example, in the Northeast it is easier to find 24-hour services but difficult to find direct routes. In the Southwest it is hard to avoid main routes due to the low population.
RBAs must set their calendars with RUSA and the ACP by October 1st, far in advance of the season. All RBAs in the United States struggle with climate when scheduling their events. In the South, events are held earlier in the season to avoid the hot summer days. In the North, events are scheduled as late as possible to avoid cold nights and freezing rain common in April.
The scale of ride organization varies across the country. Some series serve 10-15 riders per year, while others serve close to 1,000 riders per year. The larger series require more volunteers but have a wider base from which to pull. Some of the smaller series organize their events with one or two people carrying the load. All RBAs work hard to ensure the events are run in a professional manner.
After each event, RBAs submit results through the RUSA website to allow riders to receive credit for their rides. This is the last step in the process, but is very important for riders wishing to qualify for the 1200km events and various awards. RBAs wait for the matriculation stickers from France to complete the control cards for return to the riders.
Being an RBA is akin to running a small business. Not one of the RBAs does this for a living. Only a handful of the RBAs are directly involved in the cycling industry. All RBAs organize these rides with little or no compensation and do so year after year to the high standards demanded by RUSA and the ACP. These dedicated individuals form the backbone of our organization. Next time you see your RBA don't forget to thank them for their efforts. And please remember that comments regarding your RBA to the Board are always welcome and appreciated.