Voulez vous brevet?

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March 1st 2005
Published: March 1st 2005
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Somehow, the French make cycling sound beautiful- beautifully intense. After all, who else but a Frenchman would say, “Hey, Brest is only 600 kilometers (360 miles, for all good Englishmen) from Paris, let’s ride there and back!” And off they've gone “randonneuring,” or journeying, on a “brevet” called “Paris-Brest-Paris,” (PBP for short). Every four years for the better part of the past century hundreds of rider has attempted to complete the 1200 kilometer (720 miles, Queen’s subjects) within a time limit of 90 hours. It’s a crazy endeavor, but dang it, it sounds like fun!

I must admit though that at an impressionably young age I read a story about a North American version of PBP, the BMB, or Boston-Montreal-Boston,. Perhaps it was Bicycling Magazine, or maybe it was in the pages of the slicker & slimmer Bicycle Guide, but there was a description of an epic struggle told in the first person on roads that lay just outside the door of the Springfield, Vermont Methodist parsonage. I read again and again the description of the ride from Ascutney along the Quecheee River, knowing I had ridden the same route. And I thought, “It doesn’t sound that hard.” In my teenage years I slipped away on my bicycle for tens of miles at a time, and completed my first century, a 100 mile ride, at the age of fourteen.

For a decade and a half the dream lay dormant until I picked up another cycling magazine and read of another BMB rider’s experiences. Looking back on my cycling experiences, it occurred to me that I could meet such a challenge. Sure, why not?

Fast forward to last month when I met two riders by chance one Saturday morning, both randonneurs training for summertime brevets. I rode 20 easy miles with them, a steady, easy pace around the periphery of penninsular Norfolk. And I thought to myself, “Without a doubt, I can do this!”

Stay tuned randenneur voyeurs, more tales to come!


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