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Long-distance cycling growing;
EDMONTON, ALTA. -- Like lots of other students, Jeff Shmoorkoff likes to get out on his bike during the summer holidays. What makes him a little different is that he has cycled 2,000 km more than the distance around the world during the last few summers. "I hadn't thought of it in those terms until someone asked me how far I cycle during vacations," said the third year University of Alberta medical student. "I got out my log book, added up my miles since 1985 and discovered I had covered 38,000 kilometres. `Hey that's more than the distance around the world,' said my friend."
Twenty-seven-year-old Shmoorkoff's mileage got a major boost in 1986 when he notched an impressive 12,000 km in a cross-Canada trip.
"It's not that far across the country," he said. "But I took the scenic route. "I dropped down there and popped up to somewhere else. "I had just graduated and was ready for a long hard ride." It was during his cross-Canada trip Shmoorkoff logged some 200 km days and began thinking about a marathon event which sees participants cycle from Paris to the Atlantic port of Breast and return. The P-B-P event, as it is known, is held every four years and dates back to 1891 when French newspaper editor Pierre Giffard announced a 1,200-km P-B-P cycle race. "The race will unveil the bicycle as a practical way to travel," he declared. Horrified doctors announced: "The bicycle in such large doses will kill the rider just as surely as an overdose of arsenic." But 300 riders sped out on the 10-day-limit event and the winner returned three days later. "I trained hard and qualified to take part in the 1987 event by riding in Saskatchewan," said the medical student.
"Randonneurs Mondiaux, the world governing body for the P-B-P event, had given Saskatchewan permission to stage qualifiers." Cyclists qualify by covering 200 km in less than 14 hours; 300 km in under 20 hours; 400 km in 27 hours and 600 km in 40 hours. "You find the biggest hurdle is psychological," said Shmoorkoff. "The distances seem incredible at first but you keep raising your own expectations as you progress." Shmoorkoff founded a randonneurs club in Alberta - there are now chapters of the Rocky Mountain Randonneurs in Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Calgary and Medicine Hat - and has been given permission to hold qualifying events for next year's P-B-P event.
A recent addition to local randonneuring fraternity is Dr. Scott Taylor, an orthopedic resident. "I had been cycling about 60 kilometres three times a week when I heard about Jeff and randonneuring," he said. "It appealed to me immediately. "Instead of being competitive, you challenge a distance with your friends. "If someone has a flat, you help them or at least wait for them. "If they are slow, you ride in front and brake the wind for them. "There's a tremendous spirit of camaraderie. "Miles fly by as you chat with friends."Jeff tells me that in France whole families take part in events, picnicking en route." The 34-year-old doctor has completed a 200 km event and plans to complete a 400 km distance this summer. Many distance events are planned this summer, but the randonneur's executive hope to attract more people into the sport next year by staging 50 km and 100 km events. Shmoorkoff is delighted that plans are well advanced for a 1,310 km ride from Vancouver to Calgary this summer. In a challenge list published by Randonneurs Mondiaux, three Canadian clubs placed in the top 10 after points were given for kilometres covered in sanctioned events. "The BC Randonneurs were only one point behind the winning British club and we placed sixth," said Shmoorkoff. "Internationally, Canada placed third behind France and the U.K. "That's incredible. "In many European countries, cyclists rate right up there with deity." A June 9 clinic will tell cyclists how to survive a randonneur. Cost $20.