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.