By Jennifer Wise
It's January 7 at six in the morning, I'm on a plane, I've had no sleep, and I'm late for an important international meeting in a foreign country. My stomach flips with excitement and anxiety as the plane touches down at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.
RUSA President Bill Bryant and the RUSA board chose me to represent RUSA at the annual Audax Club Parisien (ACP) Awards Ceremony in Paris.
Acting as Goodwill Ambassador for RUSA, I was to accept an award on behalf of each and every RUSA member who finished at least one ACP brevet in 2005, (3302 of them) and therefore contributed to the USA being the country with the most amount of brevet points. Points are assigned to each brevet result, and the ACP keeps a tally of all the brevet results submitted by each country. At the end of the year, the country with the most points wins an award. In 2004, and again in 2005, RUSA has been the number one country and won a sizeable trophy.
In France, before you meet, you eat. There's food, and then there's cycling. I arrived at a bistro near Les Halles and was greeted warmly by Bob and Suzanne Leptertel, respected ACP administrators, Pierre Theobald, President of the ACP, Constant Devos, Vice President of Randonneurs Mondiaux, Claus Czycholl, head of Audax Randonneurs Germany (and his interpreter Rainer) and Jean-Gualbert Faburel, Administrator of all brevets for foreign countries. This was a power-lunch, with a little French dressing.
After several toasts, delicious food and spirited conversation (during which I found out the dates for PBP 2007 are August 20-24), we adjourned to walk off the incredibly huge mousse au chocolat before the meeting started.
At the Salle Von Dame auditorium, I encountered my friend Avery Juhring, an American expatriate who has been living in France for over 20 years. He is friends with Bob Lepertel, helps with ACP functions, and is a founding member of Randonneurs USA, who wore his RUSA jersey throughout the 1999 PBP. Every year Avery saves L'Equipe from each day of the Tour de France for me, and he handed them over. What a treat!
The award ceremony was attended by about 100 people, predominantly French. Most all of the awards were for French events, and awarded to French randonneurs, with one exception. RUSA member Nicole Honda of San Mateo, California was mentioned for having participated in a 1000k French brevet (see November 2005 American Randonneur.).
Over 30 awards were handed out; Flèches de France awards, Flèche Vélocio awards, awards for youngsters between 14 and 20 participating in the 12-hour version of the 24-hour Flèche, and awards for French club participation. A moment of silence was observed in memory of Robert Grison, a beloved ACP administrator, who passed away in October, after having managed the Flèches des France for 20 years.
Naturally, they saved the best award for last. Jean-Gualbert took the stage to recognize the achievements of foreign countries. Of the 26 countries participating, the USA dominated the results with a whopping total of 10,280 points. France was second with 3953 points, followed by Canada with 3368 points.
I was dwarfed by the large trophy that was presented to me. Along with the trophy, Jean-Gualbert gave me a small basket of fresh flowers in appreciation of my work with Randonneurs USA. Then he handed me the microphone. I was suddenly struck by the enormity of the achievement. I thought about the remarkable RUSA members who collectively earned this award for our organization and our country. 3302 of the 4293 brevet results processed by RUSA, were sent to the ACP culminating in this award. I was honored to represent those 3302 RUSA brevet finishers at that moment. I thanked Jean-Gualbert for his excellent work in processing all those international brevet results, and expressed appreciation to Bob Lepertel for his unwavering support of RUSA, since day one. It was a short speech, in French, and was met with thunderous applause. The President of the French Federation of Cycle Tourism said a few words, then Pierre closed the formalities and invited everyone to a champagne reception. (Did I mention that there is always French champagne after a French ceremony?)
After a sip of the bubbly, I slipped out into the cool Paris night, with the trophy in one hand, and flowers in the other. The Eiffel Tower twinkled in the distance and I remembered the woman on the other side of the world, who sat at her computer every night and carefully processed each brevet results for each RUSA rider. The weight of the trophy became symbolic of her cumbersome workload. I held the trophy aloft in her honor. Lois, this one's for you.