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Randonneuring (also known as Audax in the UK, Australia and Brazil) is a long-distance cycling sport with its origins in audax cycling. In randonneuring, riders attempt courses of 200 km or more, passing through predetermined "controls" (checkpoints) every few tens of kilometers. Riders aim to complete the course within specified time limits, and receive equal recognition regardless of their finishing order. Riders may travel in groups or alone as they wish, and are expected to be self-sufficient between controls. A randonneuring event is called a randonée or brevet, and a rider who has completed a 200 km event is called a randonneur.  The international governing body for randonneuring is Audax Club Parisien (ACP), which works with other randonneuring organisations worldwide through Les Randonneurs Mondiaux (RM). Randonneuring is popular in France, and has a following in the Netherlands, Belgium, United Kingdom, Australia, USA, Canada, Brazil and India.
In the late nineteenth century Italy, day-long "challenge" sports became popular. Participants aimed to cover as much distance as possible and prove themselves audax ("audacious"). The first recorded audax cycling event took place on June 12, 1897, when twelve Italian cyclists attempted the challenge of cycling from Rome to Naples, a distance of 230 km, during daylight hours. Similar events became popular elsewhere, and in 1904 French journalist Henri Desgrange produced Audax regulations, which belonged to his Auto newspaper. Under the Audax regulations, riders rode as a group. Successful riders were awarded a certificate called a Brevet d'Audax. A group of successful audax cyclists formed the Audax Club Parisien (ACP), which took over the organisation of Audax events on Desgrange's behalf. In 1920, there was a disagreement between Desgrange and the ACP. Desgrange withdrew ACP's permission to organise events under his Audax regulations, and ACP created its own allure libre (free-paced) version of the sport, where successful riders were awarded certificates called Brevets des Randonneurs. This style is now popularly known as "randonneuring".
Desgrange continued to promote the original Audax rules, and on July 14, 1921 the Union of Parisian Audax Cyclistes (UACP) was formed, which became the Union of French Audax in January 1956, and later simply Union des Audax. The original style is still popular in France and neighbouring countries. In Great Britain and Australia where the original audax style does not exist, and in Brazil where it is not commom, the term audax is used interchangeably with randonneuring, reflecting the sport's origins with Audax Club Parisien.
Rules and Process
The majority of randonneuring events are classified as "brevets des randonneurs". In such events, riders follow a course through a series of predetermined "controls" (checkpoints); these are typically a few tens of kilometres apart. Each rider carries a "brevet card" which must be stamped at each control to prove completion. In some events, riders will be asked to supplement this by collecting till receipts in certain places and by answering questions about their surroundings at "information controls", e.g. recording a distance from a milepost. At the end of the event, the brevet card is handed in to the organisers who will then check and certify the results. Riders are expected to keep within minimum and maximum average speed limits. For a typical 200 km brevet, the minimum speed is around 15 km/h (9.3mph) and the maximum is 30 km/h (18.6mph). Riders who arrive early at controls will be made to wait before they can carry on! It is permissible - and common - for riders to stop to eat and rest at controls, though no extra time is allowed for doing so. Riders are free to ride individually or in groups as they wish. A brevet is not a race, and no completion order is published. Riders are expected to be fully self-sufficient between controls and must carry food, water, spare clothing and tools to meet their requirements.
In addition to brevets appearing on a calendar date, there are "permanent" (or "raid") brevets which may be ridden on any date by prior arrangement with the organiser, and "DIY permanents" where a rider proposes a specific route. In these events, the "controls" are predesignated places where a rider will stop and collect evidence of passage such as a shop receipt. In some events, GPS tracklogs are accepted as evidence that a rider has completed a route.
In addition to 200 km events, there are brevets of 300 km, 400 km, 600 km and more. These will typically involve an element of night-riding. There are also shorter events: in a "brevet populaire" (or simply "populaire"), riders follow a course of 50 km, 100 km or 150 km. These brevets are seen as a good introduction to the full-blown "randonneur" events, and also as a manageable distance for riders who want to maintain regular participation in the sport over a sustained period of time.
There are variations on the brevet theme including team events such as the "Flèche" or "Arrow", which usually converge on a single end point from many starts, and 200 km per day "Dart" events.
Bicycles and Equipment
Randonneuring bicycles are not subject to the UCI regulations for road-racing: a cycle is acceptable for randonneuring if it is solely human powered, uses wheels, and is no more than a meter wide. Tricycles and recumbents, therefore, are allowed.
Authors such as Simon Doughty describe a 'typical' randonneuring bike as being somewhere between a dedicated road-racing bike and a touring bike. Such bicycles usually have lightweight steel frames, drop handlebars, relaxed (i.e. comfortable) frame geometry, medium-width tyres, triple chainsets, moderately low gearing, and the capacity to carry lightweight luggage. Mudguards and lighting systems are also common - these may be required for some events.
Randonneurs are expected to be self-sufficient between controls except in the event of real emergency. Riders are therefore expected to carry food, water, tools, etc. Some events specifically require riders to carry specific equipment (e.g. lights, spare bulbs, reflective clothing), though this varies depending on the organiser.
The majority of brevets are relatively small and locally organised, making for a busy calendar of events for enthusiasts. However, there are also some particularly well-known and prestigious events which attract participants from all over the world.
Sometimes regarded as the Blue Riband randonnée, Paris–Brest–Paris (PBP) is an approximately 1200 km event held on an out-and-back course between Paris and Brest every four years. Begun in 1891, it is the oldest bicycling event still regularly run. It began as a race for professional cyclists, but is now a non-competitive endurance challenge. To qualify, a cyclist must complete a series of brevets within the same year. The series can be completed in any order (200, 300, 400 and then 600 km is traditional), and any brevet may be replaced with a longer randonnée.
The PBP was the first popular long distance race, initiated in 1891. After 1931 the riders were separated into three groups - professional cyclists, and two non-professional groups known as the Allure libre club and the Audax club. Allure Libre consisted of individuals riding alone in the spirit of self-sufficiency, while Audax riders rode as a group and maintained a steady pace. As interest in long distance cycling had waned in favour of stage events like the Tour de France, the professional race part of the PBP was lost in 1951, leaving only the randonneuring part of the event.
The Randonneuring part of the PBP had been governed by Audax Club Parisien (ACP) since the 1930s. In 1975 the Audax and Allure libre groups split up and formed two different PBP events. Now the ACP runs the event every four years in their Allure Libre format, and the Union des Audax runs it every five years in their Audax format.
The next Paris-Brest-Paris will be held in 2015 between August 16 to August 20. In order to qualify for the event a randonneur needs to do a super randonee series of brevets ( 200, 300, 400 & 600 kilometers) in the qualifying year i.e. by July 2015.
London-Edinburgh-London is a 1400 km event that takes place in the United Kingdom every four years. The event typically starts in north London, taking a route through the east of England, to Edinburgh, usually returning along the same route.
Boston–Montreal–Boston (BMB) is also a 1200 km out-and-back between Boston and Montreal. BMB is sometimes regarded as the North American equivalent of PBP. It was held every year except when Paris–Brest–Paris was held.
Other 1200 km and longer brevets
- 1001 Miglia 1630k (Italy)
- Big Tour of Bavaria 1200km (Germany)
- Big Wild Ride 1200 km (Alaska, USA)
- BMB Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200k (USA)
- Cascade 1200 (USA)
- Colorado High Country 1200k Randonnée (USA)
- Gold Rush Randonnée (USA)
- Granite Anvil 1200 (Canada)
- Great Southern Randonnee (Australia)
- Hamburg-Berlin-Cologne-Hamburg 1500 km (Germany)
- Korea Grande Randonnee 1200 (Korea)
- Last Chance 1200k Randonnée (USA)
- LEL: London-Edinburgh-London (United Kingdom)
- Madrid-Gijon-Madrid 1200km (Spain)
- Míle Fáilte 1200 (Ireland)
- Perth-Albany-Perth (Australia)
- Rocky Mountain 1200 (Canada)
- Sofia-Varna-Sofia 1200km (Bulgaria)
- Super Brevet Scandinavia 1200km (Denmark, Norway, Sweden)
- Texas Rando Stampede (USA)
- Taste of Carolina 1200k (USA)
- VanIsle 1200 (Canada)
- Ultimate Island Explorer 2000 km (Canada)
- Vologda-Onega-Ladoga (Russia)
- Maraton Rowerowy Dookoła Polski (Poland)
- Sicilia No Stop (Italy)
- Silk Route (Uzbekistan)
- 1200 km BRM across Rajasthan, (India)
- 1200 Chuiski tract, (Russia)
Riders completing successful events receive awards, either from Audax Club Parisien or another randonneuring organisation. Examples of these are:
- Brevet Medal - for completing any single brevet of 200, 300, 400, 600 or 1000 km.
- Super Randonneur - for completing a series of 200, 300, 400 and 600 km brevets within the same season.
- Randonneur 5000 - for completing the full series of 200, 300, 400, 600, and 1000 km brevets, the Paris–Brest–Paris and a Flèche Vélocio (in which at least three riders must start, and at least three must finish).
- Paris–Brest–Paris - for completion of the PBP within the 90 hour time.
- Many others - for example, BMB, RUSA specific Super Randonneur.
A rider who has successfully completed a 200 km brevet is called a randonneur. This is a lifelong title.
Randonneuring events must be undertaken within set time limits. There is some regional variation in these, but the following list is typical:
- 200 km - 13.5 hours (14 hours in the UK, as in the original events.)
- 300 km - 20 hours
- 400 km - 27 hours
- 600 km - 40 hours
- 1000 km - 75 hours
- 1200 km - 90 hours (or 80 or 84 hours by choice)
- 1400 km - 116:40 hours (optionally 105:16 or 93:20 hours)
Organisers are usually free to reduce the maximum speed. (This sometimes makes it easier to man controls at particularly hilly events.)
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