Bill Bryant has been riding brevets since 1983 and is a two-time finisher of Paris- Brest-Paris. An organizer of local randonneuring events since 2000 with Lois Springsteen, he is also one of the founders of Randonneurs USA. Bill was on the RUSA Board of Directors from 1998-2006 and its President 2004-2005. Bill is also the recipient of the 2006 American Randonneur award. He is currently working on an indepth history of Paris-Brest-Paris.
There are many ways to enjoy the bicycle, it is surely one of mankind's best inventions. Very high among the various types of cycling is randonneuring. At first new randonneurs are taken by the sporting challenge that bicycling on their own over long distances brings; most participants come to realize this type of riding allows them to plumb the depths of their personal determination, intelligence, and character and doing brevets can soon become an addiction of sorts. But with the prodigious time requirements needed to train for the event distances, and the long hours away from family on the weekends, we do get a good bit of turnover in our sport. Add in the strong influence that comes from randonneuring's foreign origins, plus a non-competitive ethos that sometimes seems out of place in a modern society that frequently emphasizes competition and ranking in all sorts of endeavors, then it's not surprising that many newcomers might be puzzled about various aspects of our sport. So, with that in mind, below are some questions that might help new randonneurs understand this form of cycling a little better. Hopefully they'll find the info useful as they undertake their
I have noticed something in our local brevet results about a few riders doing a "pre-ride". What is that? The reason I ask is that I've got a conflict with our local 400k in a couple months; our daughter is getting married and she chose the date without consulting us. Now it seems like I'll have to drive a long distance to get another 400k if I want to earn my Super Randonneur medal this season. Could I do a pre-ride by myself?
The short answer is, alas,
Randonneuring regulations allow the brevet workers to participate by doing their ride up to 15 days before the actual event. Along with letting the volunteers earn their brevet, it also means the route gets checked out just before the brevet. These riders' times are then combined with those from the actual event and are submitted to RUSA by the RBA during the results processing process. Everyone wins: the brevet has workers to help put it on, there will likely be no route problems to surprise the regular participants, and the volunteers can still get their ride credit. However, since you will be at your daughter's wedding at that day, I can't see how you'd be available to work at the brevet*, and thus, you wouldn't be allowed to do the workers' ride. So, I think you'll be doing some traveling... But the good news is that doing brevets in unfamiliar regions is rewarding too; you'll meet new randonneurs, encounter new roads, and experience new scenery. Get a cycling buddy to go with you and make it a fun trip.
*The one possibility I can think of is that a few brevet volunteers do their club chores in the days before the event by helping the RBA. You could possibly design the route, produce the route sheets and brevet cards, handle entries, go shopping for control food and supplies, etc. So perhaps you might want to ask your local RBA about some tasks that would allow you to do the workers' ride even though you were not working on the day of the event?
While riding a 300k brevet recently, one of the riders in our group, a transplanted randonneur from England working in the States, urged us to take another road that roughly paralleled the course described on our route sheet. Even though it added a few more miles, he said he was going to take the alternative since it had a popular café along the way. It was tempting since we were all getting tired of mini-mart food and wanted a hot meal, but none of us went with him since we didn't want to get DQ'd. Aren't we supposed to stay on the official route during a brevet?
You made the right decision. A brevet has one route and riders are supposed to use it, per regulations. However, this wayward fellow's creative route selection reflects a key difference between U.S. and British brevets. While they are similar to our rides in many respects, the Audax United Kingdom and some other European countries have adopted a more liberal road selection method for their randonneuring events. Essentially, the control locations define their events more than specified roads, and the checkpoints are usually connected by the shortest possible route that can be cycled legally. However, this sometimes involves busier roads and if riders want to select a quieter, albeit longer route between controls, that is allowed. So, this chap probably didn't realize he was not staying within American (and French) randonneuring regulations by taking a different path. Next time you see him, suggest he read the Rules For Riders in his RUSA Handbook or on the RUSA website at: www.rusa.org. Have a question about randonneuring? Send it to: email@example.com