Northern California's Davis Bike Club is renowned for its history of organizing long bicycle rides. Their famous Davis Double Century was begun in May of 1970 and remains an annual West Coast favorite, while its Foxy Fall Century in October is the traditional season-ending event in the nation's busiest cycling region. All the club's events are known for their strong rider support. This ethos was carried over to the first Davis brevets in 1990, organized by Gerry Petersen. The DBC brevets were not the first randonneuring events in northern California, but they quickly became the most popular due to their high level of organization and rider support. Participation grew and grew so that before long the DBC brevets were by far the most popular randonneuring events in the entire United States. It wasn't uncommon to see entrants travel a long way to do the DBC brevets, they were that good. When it came time for Gerry to take a well-deserved break after organizing the 1995 Paris-Brest-Paris qualifiers, everyone wondered who would take over?
Happily, it was Daryn Dodge.
Beginning in 1997, and working closely with Dan Shadoan and other club members, Daryn toiled like a Trojan to make the DBC brevets even better. Before long the word "Davis" became an iconic word among domestic and foreign randonneurs. It stood for challenging courses, excellent rider support, and unusually large participation that meant you were rarely alone on the road—no small thing at 3 AM on a Sunday morning with 450 hilly kilometers in your legs, but with 150 more still to go. At a time when most American brevets were lucky to have 20 or 30 riders, the size of the Davis brevets was astonishing. By the late 1990s, it wasn't uncommon to have upwards of 175-200 riders on the 200k brevet, and 80 or more on the longer events. All sorts of long-distance riders entered the shorter DBC brevets because they knew a fine day of cycling lay in store. The hardcore randonneurs looked forward to the 400k and 600k events due to the care lavished upon the riders at the checkpoints, plus they were well looked after in-between by the roving sag support team headed up by Lee Mitchell. Bob Lepertel, the legendary leader of the Audax Club Parisien in France once said the Davis Bike Club was the best club in America and others should follow their example. Indeed, from 1997 to 2003, the DBC was among the very best randonneuring clubs in the world. The club sent 80+ riders to the 1999 and 2003 Paris-Brest-Paris events and came home with trophies for largest regional club entry, most women finishers, and most tandem finishers, and a very good finishing rate that showed the class of the riders. And their leader was Daryn Dodge.
The DBC has put on many randonnées from 200k to 1000k—there's hardly a place in northern California that they haven't visited. The club also hosted several 24-hour flèche team rides at Easter, and twice, in 2001 and 2005, the club organized the epic Gold Rush Randonnée. And there was Daryn Dodge at the helm, making it all happen. But a list of "what" the club did in those halcyon days isn't the whole story—more importantly, it is also about "how" Daryn did it. It might be stating the obvious, but the rides are a difficult test of cycling ability and personal fortitude, and there are a lot of regulations that need to be followed in order to ensure each brevet finisher's diploma is earned correctly. But behind all the paperwork, checkpoints, and time allowances, randonneuring is essentially a simple story of personal struggle against time and distance. Sometimes riders try their hardest but fail, and it hurts to not make the cut after so much energy has been spent before and during the brevet to do otherwise. Daryn always looked after these riders as well as anyone could. Along with arranging for motorized transportation so that they wouldn't be stranded far from Davis, he had genuine sympathy for the unsuccessful randonneurs and provided heartfelt encouragement afterward to dust themselves off and try again. Even though he is legendary for his cycling prowess, Daryn cared for all the riders, not just the fast ones he usually saw at the very front of the pack. How often did the "back of the packers" see Daryn speeding back to Davis from the turnaround alone ahead of the others, while they still had a long way to even reach the halfway point. Then, somewhere on the return leg, they would see Daryn again, but this time in street clothes manning a checkpoint in the wee hours of the morning. Or, when they finally pulled into Davis many hours after having started, there he was with his clipboard—and a knowing smile and earnest words of congratulation. He understood what they had gone through to reach the finish line and he was proud of them all—fast, slow, or in-between. Not only is Daryn a very fast randonneur with four PBPs, a BMB, and a Randonneur-5000 medal on his resumé, but more importantly, he is an indefatigable worker who does his utmost to ensure each and every rider gets the same attention the front- runners do. None of that racing hierarchy for him—no, Daryn truly believes in the randonneuring ethos which means that anyone who finishes inside the time allowance is a winner, not just the first person back to the finish (which was usually Daryn.)
In addition, there was so much others didn't see him doing before and after each event. The words "many hours of work" don't even begin to relate how much time he has given to our sport. Yes, he was part of a hardworking team of DBC volunteers, but more often than not, he did a lot of it himself. Whether it was scouting new routes, painting directional arrows, shopping for rest stop food, arranging for the use of checkpoint facilities, making route sheets and brevet cards, processing results, mailing out rider packets before the event, or returning completed brevet cards and medals afterward, Daryn put in countless hours to our sport. A lot of people don't know that he also worked quietly behind the scenes to encourage the growth of randonneuring in regions outside Davis. In particular, he also supported the birth and subsequent growth of Randonneurs USA in order to spread the BRM randonneuring movement across America, and he backed this up with monetary donations generated from Davis brevet entry fees. Whether we hail from Davis, or elsewhere, the list of what Daryn did for us all was… well, stupendous.
And Daryn did it for no other reason than because he loves our sport and the participants. No doubt he would have had many more hours to spend with his family or on personal pursuits, but year after year he worked to make Davis randonneuring the success it was. Daryn is a shy and modest fellow and hates being in the spotlight. He'd be the first to say he was merely the leader of a good group of volunteers. But every successful team needs a captain and everyone is fortunate Davis had Daryn Dodge—what a classy guy. In the end, we are all the richer for it.
But times change and now Daryn is stepping aside for a well-deserved rest, just like his predecessor. But before he leaves, all of us should salute an unsung sporting hero. Not so much for how he turned the pedals—though he was without peer there too—but for how he worked tirelessly for others so that they could know the satisfaction that comes from riding a bicycle a long way in a short amount of time. The challenge of randonneuring is timeless and will live on, but it needs guys like Daryn Dodge, and clubs like the Davis Bike Club, to organize the events that make it all possible. When, we all must wonder, will another person like Daryn come along?
The Board of Directors of Randonneurs USA sends Daryn Dodge, the American Randonneur of 2005, very best wishes for tailwinds whenever he rides, and a full moon to help see the potholes hidden in the dark. His contributions to our sport won't soon be forgotten. Bonne Route!