In considering the 2007 American Randonneur award, the RUSA board had a field of worthy nominees to choose from. This year's honor goes to Iowa RBA Robert Fry.
Robert is the founder of RUSA's highly successful permanents program, which has literally transformed randonneuring in the U.S. An import from the randonneuring scene in the United Kingdom, Robert once held the annual mileage record there with 21,200 km.
When Robert moved to the U.S in 1994, his lengthy experience with populaires and permanents convinced him that a similar plan was needed here. Borrowing heavily from the rules of Audax UK, Robert launched the U.S. permanents program in the fall of 2003 and served as its coordinator for the first four years.
By Robert's own admission, things got off to a modest start, with only 37 routes on the books and 90 rides completed in 2004. "I was actually worried for a time that the rides were not catching on," he said. That concern evaporated in 2005 as the program gained traction, in part through Robert's promotional efforts in RUSA's newsletter.
A total of 282 rides were completed in 2005—triple the 2004 total—and the number of routes reached 107. The explosive growth continued in 2006. By that year's end, 210 routes were available. With dozens of riders spurred on by RUSA's new R-12 award, the permanents program rapidly reached the historic milestone of 1,000 rides completed. As RUSA launched its 2008 season, there were more than 300 permanent routes, and the number of rides completed approached the 3,000 mark.
Robert summed up the program's benefits in a November 2007 article for American Randonneur. "It has given members the opportunity to participate in brevet style rides beyond the constraints of the events put on by each local RBA, and to credit these towards mileage and other RUSA awards," he said. "It has also given rank and-file RUSA members an opportunity to actively participate in the club's mission, in a way that is perhaps not always very easy under the RBA structure. Because of the regional nature of this enormous country, permanents may actually have turned out to be a more important supplement to brevets here than they are in the UK."
Said RUSA Board member Eric Vigoren, " Without Robert's efforts, who knows where the RUSA permanents program would be today? In my experience, he has always been responsive, courteous and helpful. His rigidity for protocol is a welcome attribute that maintains order in what could easily be a chaotic environment. His historical perspective has been an added benefit for RUSA."
On behalf of every member who has ridden a permanent, the RUSA board is pleased to present Robert with the 2007 American Randonneur Award as a fitting and deserving "thank you" for his exemplary service to our sport.