Monday, May 14, 2012

My first Brevet

Yours truly somewhere around Shoreham.
My brevet card listing the controls with accompanying initials and time registers. These get turned in and certified. 
The rider just visible in this photo I started referring to as "the grail" since he was  just out of reach for about 25 or so miles.  I was grateful he was there because he gave me something to focus on. He moved on at the next control not to be seen again.

Saturday I entered my first official brevet; a 200 kilometer course.

A brevet is any of a series of long, non-race, timed rides that form the basis of the randonneuring tradition . It is a spirited ride in which the rider must complete the course (unsupported) within an allowed time limit. No one wins a brevet although there is the personal challenge of seeing how well one can do and the motivation of ones fellow riders facing the same challenge as you.

According to wikipedia: "A rider who has successfully completed a 200 km brevet is called a randonneur. This is a lifelong title." Once my brevet card is officially certified I will have the proud honor of calling myself a randonneur. 


With some apprehension I signed up last Wednesday evening without being fully committed to doing the ride, but allowing for the opportunity should I decide I wanted to. By sometime Thursday it was clear that I wanted to do this and started to work out the logistics of equipment, getting to the start at The Old Spokes Home in Burlington at 7:00am, food, clothing, etc..

The 200km (the ride was 131 miles all said and done) needed to be completed in 13.5 hours to qualify as a successful completion and --having not done one of these rides before-- I was allowing for the possibility that I might not finish or finish very close to the time limit.

Riders are given a cue sheet that dictates the route. Stops are indicated along the way which are referred to as "controls". The controls are most often a cafe, a gas station, or some other place to stop for refueling and getting water. Each rider is responsible for having their brevet card signed with the time noted at each control. In some events there are secret controls not listed on the cue sheet, but there were none on this ride.

The ride itself was quite a pleasure with some moderated climbs in the early stages, some short but tough hills in the midsection, and then some merciful terrain for the last 30 or so miles back to Burlington. There were a crop of strong riders I rode with to the first control in Richmond but then fell behind as we moved into the hills. Throughout the day I hopscotched with 2 or 3 other riders and fell in with two others for the last fifteen miles or so back home.

As it went, I finished handily in just under 11 hours. That felt very good and gave me a benchmark for future rides of this nature.  Other then a sore knee, I felt as good as I might have hoped for a ride of this distance.

Over the course of the season there are longer and longer brevets: a 300k in June, a 400k in late June, and a 600k in August. I'm not committing to anything at this point, but I am intrigued and motivated by a really great experience this first time around.

It was so much fun to be with a clan of like minded riders and to be a part of a venerable and old cycling tradition that emphasizes a certain degree of collegiality and focused but easygoing competition.

Hats off to Mike Beganyi who organized this route and managed the event. You can read his post and see more photos at littlecircles.

6 comments:

greg said...

Hi there.

Nice job on the ride.

I was on the 200k as well. Didn't see you out here but glad you had fun.

It's addictive :) Maybe I'll see you around in June for the lake 200k!

Dave said...

Hi Greg,
Thanks for the kinds words and saying hi. At this point I think I'll be back for more in June. Hope to see you there.
Dave

bmike said...

nice work dave! you certainly finished in style. that course is a bit deceptive - the front loaded climbing tends to slow folks up, and the sharp rollers in the mid section can be trouble after lunch - especially on a warm day.

glad you enjoyed yourself. looking forward to your Flèche report... and hoping to see you for the Lake200 or Lake 300 in a couple of weeks!

Dave said...

Hi Mike,

I had a great time and at this point am planning on the 300k. I just gotta sign up and start planning around it.

Unfortunately I still have not ridden a Fleche ride yet, although I am anxious to do so. A group from here did a ride from Red Hen across VT into the White Mountains and then on to Portland last weekend. I think for my first I want to minimize the vertical challenges in the way of simply finishing...

Thanks again for putting on a great event. See you in a couple weeks.

Dottie said...

That's awesome - congratulations!

I love the idea of being a randonneur, but I've never done a ride anywhere near that long.

Dave said...

Hey Dottie, I'll bet from all your commuting you are way more able to go some long distances then you think, not that you have to or should, but I'll be you could if you wanted to.

I recall as a commuter being intimidated by longer distances, and then slowly going on longer and longer rides and now it just doesn't seem like that big a deal to go 60 or 70 miles or further. I think bikes are magic that way; they alter our perception of time and distance and before you know it you've travelled what, in a car, would seem like a long way and had a great time along the way.