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Randonneurs pump up for 1,200
km birthday ride
EDMONTON, ALTA. -- Fifteen-year-old Travis Fry is going to help his father celebrate his 50th birthday the way his dad wants - by cycling 1,200 km over a historic route. "We've started to train pretty hard," says realtor Terry Fry, of St. Albert. "The ride isn't for another three years. But you don't wake up one morning and decide that's what you are going to do." The event they plan to take part in is the Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) ultramarathon cycling event, which began in 1891. Fry says while cycling is a major sport in Europe, where its stars are hailed like our hockey heroes, the PBP event is more socially orientated, with entire families making the trip, picnicking and sleeping on the way."Cycle touring is catching on in Canada," he says. "I think in the future more and more people will enjoy carrying their gear through the country with them."
People who take part in the French event are known as randonneurs, an old word for "long distance walker" which has come to mean "supertourist." Randonneurs must carry everything with them, including tools, spare clothes, sleeping bags, a tent (if desired) and food. "We fell into the sport naturally," says Fry. "Every summer we'd organize an outdoors family holiday, doing such things as canoeing or backpacking." They went camping on their mountain bikes around the Kananaskis Lakes one year and followed it up by cycling from Jasper to Banff in 3 1/2 days in 1990. "We found the best bikes were touring bikes with mountain bike gearing," he says. "Most use bikes that cost between $300 and $500."
Last year the Frys cycled about 320 km around what is know as the Golden Triangle - Castle Junction, Lake Louise, Golden and Radium - and decided a PBP run was possible. "We averaged between 100 and 115 km a day and hit real foul weather on the last day," says Fry. "But you get used to it. There is an enjoyment in pedalling in the worst elements nature can throw at you." His son Travis is a rugby prop forward at Paul Kane high school. "It's the challenge that appeals to me," he says. "There is the enjoyment of the exercise and the country. And then there is great satisfaction in knowing you have covered a pretty fair distance."
To qualify for the PBP event, held every four years, riders must take part in sanctioned events, covering 200 km in 13.5 hours, 300 km in 20 hours, 400 km in 27 hours and 600 km in 40 hours. "The rides are not races," says Bill van der Meer, a city public works supervisor and local Rocky Mountain Randonneurs president. "It's as bad to arrive at a checkpoint too early as it is too late." The Frys now ride about three times each week - their long Sunday run is about 150 km - but plan to work up to covering 1,000 km before going to Paris. "Training is similar to that for any other endurance event," says van der Meer. "Distance is gradually increased over a period of time."
Jeff Shmoorkoff, a recently graduated medical student and a two-time veteran of the PBP, says cyclists expend some 10,000 calories in 24 hours on runs. During the last few seasons he and some of his friends have logged more than the 36,800-km circumference of the globe. "Endurance events can be tough," says Shmoorkoff. "Towards the end you sometimes tell yourself a telegraph pole, a barn or a tree is your goal. And you worry about not making it." The purpose of randonneuring, he says, is to promote individual health, goal-setting and achievement within a non-competitive environment. "You understand yourself better when you take on a challenge and meet it," says Shmoorkoof.