By Bill Bryant
While working a rest stop at the GRR last July I had some time between riders to reflect on various aspects of randonneuring. Previously I've written about the physical and psychological benefits our sport can bring the participants, but I also realized much can be gained by volunteering to help too. Unlike being a rider, a checkpoint worker sees the event from a wider perspective and it is a first-rate show, especially on the longer events over 300 kilometers.
You get to see it all—the good, bad, and the ugly—and it's educational to say the least. Of course you're pulling for everyone to finish, and hopefully you will contribute to their eventual success. The fast guys and gals are interesting to observe, what with their focus on cycling speed and efficient stops. The middle-of-the-pack group tends to be a mix of personalities, and one can see various styles of randonneuring at work. The back-of-the-packers are interesting too. These guys are battling the clock more than the others and one can see it weighing on them more. But no matter their speed, every brevet rider has to deal with his or her own limitations—both real and perceived—and this is what makes it all so engaging. New randonneurs in particular have a lot to gain by working a few brevets as they hone their long-distance riding skills. They'll learn from others more quickly than they could on their own.
And it is fun and rewarding too. After working at the recent London- Edinburgh-London, Dave Barker wrote on the AUK list, "When Chris Crossland and I parted yesterday morning we agreed that running the Lincoln control in 2005 had been as exciting, satisfying and fulfilling as riding the event in 2001; you get the same high from feeling that the job was well done as you do when you finish. And that is because the team has been fantastic and the riders appreciative, chatty, friendly, good-humored; and you finish up meeting far more people, most of them twice." So whether you are a new randonneur learning the ropes or a veteran giving something back to the sport, give it a try, okay? Many of our events need checkpoint workers; won't you consider helping out? The riders will appreciate it a lot, as will the ride organizer. And it isn't just "work"; you'll learn a lot about determination and audacity, get to see a great show, and meet some terrific randonneurs and randonneuses. When I finished helping at the GRR, I was reminded of something my pal Dave Nawrocki once wrote: "I went out to a brevet, and found so much, much more."