Early in the interview, Texas RBA Dan Driscoll interrupts the conversation to make a point.
"I'm very sensitive about this being appearing to be a competitive thing," Driscoll says. "I don't want this to seem like a bunch of damn Texans bragging again."
Fair enough. But it's hard to ignore what has just happened in the Lone Star state, where nine riders topped 10,000 km in official miles during 2007. Two of those cyclists crossed the 20,000 km mark, averaging 400 km every week.
Five of the riders are women: Pam Wright, Shellene Foster, Brenda Barnell, Robin Phelps and Sharon Stevens.
"We have a saying down here—'Ride like a girl,'" Driscoll says. "A lot of the guys hope they'll be strong enough one day to do just that."
The men include Driscoll, Mark Metcalfe, Val Phelps and Jerry Austin. The group of nine is known as the "K-Hounds," Driscoll says, "with the 'K' standing for kilometers. We're the barking dogs chasing down Ks."
Many of the Texans have nicknames. For instance, there's "Brenda Baby" Barnell, so named because she's the youngest. "She is also the one who rushes people through controls with 'Choppie Choppie' or 'Do I need to get ya a mail box?'" Discroll says. "Pam Wright is 'Cream Puff.,'" he says, "as in: 'Slow it down, Cream Puff, you're dropping them off the back.'"
Robin Phelps is "Cup Cake" and Shellene Foster is the "Shelacker." For his part, Driscoll is known as "The Goalkeeper."
"I'm always giving everybody goals," he says. "The people down here are incredible athletes, and they don't know how good they really are. So if you give them a goal, they can achieve it." Driscoll's own goal for the year was to do not one but four full super Randonneur series. His ultimate prize is the Ultra Randonneur award, which requires 10 series.
Other Texans were chasing that same honor in 2007, according to Driscoll, so they began racking up miles early in the season. The 10,000 km goal was almost an afterthought, he says.
"By the time we went to PBP in August, several of us already had quite a few kilometers, so it didn't look like a very big leap to get to 10,000 km," he says. "Then, once one person said out loud that's what they were shooting for, the others joined right in."
Another motivating factor: "We have riders who are chasing the R-12 award and other awards RUSA has put in place to get us up off the couch," Driscoll says. "Locally, the R-12 has gotten people into randonneuring and kept them there. They come out and do a 200 km one month, and a permanent the next month, and all of a sudden they're two into the R-12. I give Bill Bryant credit for that. To me, the R- 12 and the Ultra Randonneur awards were pure genius."
Setting goals is only one part of the formula. Equally important is a support group that has your back, Driscoll says.
"We're a nurturing club, and we encourage group riding," he says. "We try not to leave anyone out in the middle of the night or the middle of nowhere to fend for themselves on a 400 km." RUSA's permanent program made the 10,000 km goal easier to achieve. Besides a healthy brevet schedule, Texas has more than 12,000 kilometers of permanent routes. "We have a permanent almost every single weekend," Driscoll says.
"Sometimes we run two or three over a weekend. I think we have more permanent routes than any other state. "A person could actually earn a 10,000 km without ever doing a regular brevet," Driscoll says. "I give a lot of credit to Robert Fry, who worked his tail off for the permanents program (see related stories, pages 8 and 10.) They're a huge part of what has given us these Ks." Also contributing to the K-Hounds' success is the region's mild winter weather.
"It's conducive to riding every weekend," Driscoll says. "And what has happened is that instead of randonneuring being a four event- a-year sport it has become almost a way of life. All of our friends are out riding permanents. If you're out riding with your buddies every weekend, all of this stuff is easy."
"It's not about grinding out the miles for the simple purpose of grinding out the miles," Driscoll says.
"These people are not riding for notoriety. It's what they do."
Driscoll has a bit of advice for would-be K Hounds.
"If I had to write one paragraph for this article, it would be, 'Kids, don't try this at home if you have a wife or friends, because you may not have them when you get done,'" he says. "Luckily for me, my girlfriend is Pam Wright, and she's as crazy about this as I am, and my friends are all Lone Star Randonneurs."