Press Coverage - Main

BC Randonneurs Cycling Club


Next Article --->

Riding 1,200 kilometres in 80 hours caps dream
by Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald, October 5, 1991 D.5

CALGARY, ALTA. -- Dan Paarsmarkt hops aboard his $1,000 bicycle for a photo session on a quiet northwest street. Amid the bright autumn colors, it's a more relaxed atmosphere than in late August, when the University of Calgary student piloted his two-wheel vehicle 1,200 kilometres in 80 hours during a rally in France. "It was a feeling of relief when you look back at it and just the achievement of finishing it," says Paarsmarkt. "Yeah, I did it. That's what I set out to do." The dream was five years in the making. The fourth-year U of C economics student is a member of the Rocky Mountain Randonneurs club, a group of marathon cycling enthusiasts. The motto on the club's brochure reads: `Challenge Your Mind, Body and Equipment.' Paarsmarkt took the motto to heart with the Paris-to-Brest- to-Paris race.

The competition is to the sport of randonneur what the Boston Marathon is to runners. There were about 4,000 riders in the event, including Calgarian Ian Olthof, three from Edmonton and five from Fort McMurray. "For the past few years, I've been looking at this as my big goal," says Paarsmarkt. "It was a big sacrifice. I put everything on hold. When I was finished it was like a five-year achievement. I've got a big void now. What do I do now? This is what I always wanted to do." What he did is take his 18- speed Myata touring bike and his 27-year-old body to the ultimate challenge. For 80 hours, he pedalled through French streets, up and down hills, in almost ideal conditions. The winner finished the event in an amazing 43 hours. "After the race, my knees were swollen up, my ankles were swollen up. I walked around like I needed crutches or a wheelchair. But that only lasted 24 hours. And you don't want to sit down. Everytime I moved it hurt." Besides the physical strain, there was also the mental pressure. During the endurance test, Paarsmarkt broke 10 spokes in his back wheel and spent a few hours correcting that problem. While doing that, he watched other riders leaving him behind. During the race, he had no showers and slept very little. "It really is a mental game trying to finish the race," he says. "Just knowing you're mentally strong enough to finish is quite an accomplishment. "It's only physical to a certain point. If you can ride for say 400 kilometres, then after that point it becomes mental rather than physical. You just have to push yourself past that mental barrier."

Paarsmarkt took up the sport in 1987. The club runs a series of ultramarathon cycling events in the province each summer. Randonneuring is taken from the old French word for "long- distance walker." The rides are of a preset route and distance to be completed within a set time limit. The sport is more like rallying than racing. Riders compete against themselves and the route rather than their fellow riders. "I like riding my bike. I like touring but I needed a challenge," says Paarsmarkt, whose cycling these days is confined to 50- to 70-kilometre "pleasure rides" around the city while anticipating the return to next summer's competitive schedule. "I don't have the mentality or the money or the time to get into racing." So what's his next challenge? "I've been thinking about doing a Western Canada ride," he says. And what distance is that? "Oh, maybe 3,000 kilometres," he says matter-of-factly.