Randonneurs USA (RUSA) is a national organization whose goals are to promote randonneuring in the US and provide service to American randonneurs and randonneuses. Established in 1998, RUSA doesn't actually organize any rides, but rather, coordinates the brevets of the Regional Brevet Administrators (RBAs) and clubs who do. RUSA also frequently acts as the interface between the Audax Club Parisien in France and American riders and RBAs, especially with regard to ensuring correct brevet result processing. You should join RUSA to help us build a future for randonneuring in the US that encourages member participation.
What is a "randonneur"?
There is no direct English translation of the French term "randonnée", which loosely means to go on a long trip, tour, outing, or ramble, usually on foot or on a bicycle, along a defined route. A person who goes on a "randonnée" is called a "randonneur". (The correct French term for a female participant is "randonneuse", but such distinctions are often lost in America, where we tend to lump everyone together). In cycling, it means a hard-riding enthusiast who is trying to complete a long randonnée inside a certain time allotment. Note that a randonnée is not a race. Overall, about the only thing being first earns is some bragging rights. It is not uncommon for the last finishers to get as much applause as anyone else. Indeed, there is much camaraderie in randonneuring. One does it to test oneself against the clock, the weather, and a challenging route - but not to beat the other riders.
In comparison to other forms of competitive long-distance cycling, such as at the Race Across America (RAAM), where there are following cars with crews supporting the riders every inch of the way, randonneuring stresses self-sufficiency. Help can only be given at the checkpoints along the route, so support crews (if there are any) must leapfrog the rider. Any rider caught receiving assistance from a support crew in-between checkpoints (or, "contrôles" as they are commonly called) will be subject to a time penalty, or even disqualification. Randonneurs are free to buy food, supplies, or bike repairs at any stores they encounter along the route. Once riders have successfully completed a 200-kilometer "brevet", they are entitled to be called a "randonneur" or "randonneuse".
What is a brevet?
Again, this is a French word for which we have no direct translation for its cycling usage. In general, it means a "patent", "certificate", or "diploma". For the randonneur, the randonnée, they have entered is often called a "brevet". This is typically a challenging 200-, 300-, 400-, 600-, 1000- or 1200- kilometer ride, each with a specific time limit. The randonneur carries a brevet card, which is signed and stamped at each checkpoint along the way to prove they have covered the distance successfully. (Losing the card, or missing a required checkpoint is a very bad thing to do!) Also, pronounce the word correctly: "brevet" rhymes with "say" or "Chevrolet", not "get" or "let".
What do I get for my membership dues?
As a RUSA member, you will get a quarterly newsletter filled with articles about randonneuring activities, techniques, results, and history, a well maintained web site, efficient brevet administration, access to a "how to" randonneuring handbook, and the right to elect RUSA's leadership and thereby to influence RUSA's policies. We are here to help: be sure to write or call if you have particular randonneuring needs or questions. RUSA officials strive to provide timely communication to members, organizers, and other interested parties, and will respond to your letters, calls, and e-mail messages.
How do the brevet results get processed?
Riders issued cards at beginning of event.
Riders submit cards for stamps at each checkpoint
Riders sign and turn in cards at end of event and order a medal if desired
Organizer cross checks cards and approves ones that have all necessary stamps, etc
Organizer submits summary results to national brevet administrator. First time organizers submit cards (first event only) as well
National administrator reviews results and approves them, if there are no irregularities
National administrator submits results to ACP
ACP reviews results and certifies them (ie. issues "brevets"), if there are no irregularities
ACP records certified results in their database and returns certified results, along with brevet stickers and medals, to national administrator
National administrator records certified results in RUSA database and publishes them on the web site
National administrator returns certified results, brevet stickers, and medals to organizer
Organizer applies brevet stickers to cards -- thus certifying them -- and returns certified cards and any medals ordered to riders
Riders retain certified cards and medals as evidence of having done the event
Variations may occur if there are any irregularities. This is all explained in detail in the "Rules for Riders" and "Rules for Organizers". Participants and their bicycles must comply with the ACP's BRM Rules to successfully complete an event. Organizers of BRMs must also comply with the ACP's supplemental BRM rules governing the organization of events.
Do I get an award for finishing a brevet?
After successfully completing any ACP-sanctioned BRM brevet, the participant may purchase a handsome commemorative medal from the event organizer. The cost is typically $6-$8, depending on the exchange rate and postal charges from France. RUSA will make sure that the medal purchases are handled expeditiously, but it usually takes several months. Please note that in a Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) year, the ACP does not return many medal orders until after PBP. This is because the brevet medal design changes the year after each PBP, so to minimize expenses, the ACP likes to have the exact count prior to striking the last set of medals before the new design is used. Consequently, only the stock on hand at the beginning of the PBP year can be distributed prior to PBP, i.e., most medals are not delivered until after PBP.
What is the "Super Randonneur" medal?
Any randonneur who successfully completes a sequence of 200-, 300-, 400-, and 600-kilometer brevets in a single year is considered to be a "super randonneur". A special medal is made for this award by the ACP. It is given out to each PBP rider at the start of the event since the brevet series is also the requirement to enter PBP, but other randonneurs not going to PBP, or those doing the SR series in other years, may purchase this medal through their RBA as well.
How will riders know if their brevet results have been processed?
RUSA publishes all brevet results on the RUSA web site as soon as they are received from the ACP, as well as in our quarterly newsletter. If you need to find your brevet results quickly in order to enter some other event, such as PBP or BMB, the RUSA web site will have them the soonest since publication of the newsletter takes longer. Click on Brevet Results to find yours.
Can a person do a brevet series without joining RUSA?
RUSA membership is required, for insurance reasons. RUSA insurance covers your brevet rides. That said, we at RUSA are dedicated to encouraging randonneuring by anyone, no matter what their affiliation or nationality. For example, imagine a British rider with a busy work-related travel schedule trying to earn his SR medal. He could do a brevet in England, one in France, another in America, and his final one in Canada. The results from all the various events go to the ACP in France, which issues brevets numbers validating a BRM ride. Once each ride is validated by the ACP, the approved card(s) with the validating brevet sticker is returned to the rider. One's national affiliation is not a consideration in these matters, nor where they did their brevets. What matters most is that they be ACP-approved BRM brevets and that the rider successfully finished each event inside the appropriate time limit, as noted on their brevet card.
When I show up for a brevet, particularly one in another region or country, how will the RBA know I've done the previous distance successfully?
If you are a member in good standing of RUSA your brevet results will be available online as soon as they are processed.
Do I need to belong to a local club in order to do brevets?
Participation in brevets is open to all amateur cyclists. Local clubs may limit participation in their brevets to club members (for insurance purposes) so long as they make membership available to any amateur cyclist regardless of their other affiliations.
Is there any special recognition for those of us who ride two years of brevets in a row?
Not at this time, although two years of brevets are recommended for anyone attempting PBP or BMB. You might also look into the prestigious "Randonneur 5000" award from the ACP described on the Randonneur Info web site. Your extra brevets will be useful for reaching that goal.
I often hear or read the word "Audax" in relation to randonneuring. What's that about?
Randonneuring began over a hundred years ago. Back then there were a lot of local bicycling activities in and around towns, or racing on the velodrome, but lengthy rides over hill and dale were not at all common. Given the primitive conditions of most roads, and the fragile nature of bicycle tires of that era, this shouldn't come as a big surprise. In Italy, however, a group of hardy club cyclists set out to prove that ordinary riders, not just the specialist racers, could successfully ride long distances. On June 12th of 1897, they set out on a one-day, 230-kilometer trek from Rome to Naples--quite a formidable challenge even today. They rode as a group, with a captain who ensured the pace was sufficiently high to get the job done, but without dropping anyone. Their ride ended successfully and was a unique accomplishment for the time. It garnered much attention in the press and one popular journalist called it a bold display of the potential of the bicycle and human determination. Before long the Latin root-word "audax" from "to dare" began to circulate among cycling enthusiasts to describe these audacious, or daring, long-distance runs.& In 1904 Henri Desgranges, fresh off organizing the first Tour de France the previous year, and the second Paris-Brest-Paris race in 1901, began the Audax Club Parisien to promote this challenging type of cycling for enthusiasts. The standard was to ride 200 kilometers between dawn and dusk, always as a group. Audax riding became quite popular in France in the years leading up to World War I, so much that the ACP was soon overseeing other regional cycling clubs' audax activities. Trophies were awarded, not for speed or racing, but for the clubs with the most participants who successfully met the challenge. In time 300 and 400-kilometer brevets were added to the slate of events.
After the war, though, trouble came to the ACP. A sizeable faction wanted to be set free and ride their own pace(s). Eventually, in 1921, there was a painful split and the audax riders went off and formed their own club. Since then the ACP has been an "allure libre" club, which means its members can ride at their own speeds. This is still the formula of the ACP's "Paris-Brest-Paris Randonneurs" run every four years. There is also the "Paris-Brest-Paris Audax" run every five years by the Union des Audax Française. In that event all the riders stick together, just as in the old days. Brevets sanctioned by RUSA are of the "allure libre" type since we are affiliated with the ACP. Note that some free-pace randonneuring clubs and organizations in the greater ranndonneuring world mistakenly use the word "audax" in their name, but they probably didn't understand its significance when they got started. That the ACP still uses the word "audax" in its name has created a good bit of confusion outside France. But to be accurate, there isn't much true audax riding on our shores, except for the Easter-weekend "Flèche" team rides. Nonetheless, the differences, if any, between the abilities, determination, and "audacity" of free-pace randonneurs versus their audax brethren is very slight. If you saw the finish of either type of PBP, the riders' faces always reveal an equal amount of pride, satisfaction, and happiness.
What is the difference between a RUSA brevet and an ACP brevet?
There are two types of brevets on the American randonneuring calendar. They are essentially the same type of event, with the same time limits and regulations, but there are some differences too. The most common are the ACP-sanctioned brevets and they make up the vast bulk of the events on the RUSA calendar. These are run under the auspices of the Audax Club Parisien (ACP) and follow the same rules and regulations in all 25 nations of the Randonneurs Mondiaux. (The ACP-sanctioned events are often called BRM events owing to their global scope.) The standard ACP/BRM brevet distances are 200, 300, 400, 600, and 1000-kilometers. These events are scheduled on the international calendar during October before the next year. They are the only brevets that count toward ACP awards like the Randonneur-5000 and Super Randonneur medal, and ACP brevets held in the US also count for all RUSA awards. These events are the only brevets that can be used for qualifying to enter Paris-Brest-Paris. An ACP/BRM brevet ridden anywhere around the world counts towards these things, no matter the nationality of the rider. Perhaps the main drawback to organizing only ACP/BRM events is that the dates must be chosen by October 1st of the preceding year and this calendar is fixed. Rescheduling is impossible (except for unforeseen safety issues), as is adding new events once the cycling season has begun. The first ACP free-pace 200k brevet was run on September 11, 1921 and records have been kept since then listing all the riders who have completed these types of events. A numbered certificate is issued to each rider who successfully finishes a brevet and this is proof they are indeed a hardy long-distance cyclist.
Along with the ACP/BRM brevets, RUSA also sanctions its own brevets. They are very much the same type of event, but there are also some key differences to take note of too. First, they do not count toward any ACP awards, nor PBP qualifying. On the other hand, they can be scheduled much closer to the actual event date, up to 3 days beforehand. Another difference is that they can be of any distance from 200k upwards, such as 250 or 500-kilometers, while the ACP/BRM brevets must always be the standard distances listed above. Having greater distance flexibility, the RUSA brevets are useful when other factors make the familiar ACP/BRM distances unacceptable. The RUSA brevets also count for qualifying for all American 1200k events, and may be acceptable as qualifiers for other long events around the world (except PBP). However, you should check with that ride organizer for a final determination of whether the RUSA brevet will qualify you for their event. RUSA brevets also count toward all RUSA awards.
In addition to the brevets described above, RUSA also sanctions shorter brevets than the time-honored 200k distance called populaires. These may be any distance from 100-199 kilometers. For more information, the RUSA handbook will be helpful in understanding the various types of events on the American and international calendars.