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BC Randonneurs Cycling Club


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A cycling challenge with a difference: Randonneuring
by Yvonne Blomer
Times-Colonist, July 14, 2001, B.2

VICTORIA, B.C. -- If you are looking for some challenging rides to participate in this summer, the B.C. Randonneurs club of Victoria might fit the bill. Randonnee is French for ramble or tour and B.C. Randonneurs is a club that encourages cyclists to ride farther and farther in a single sitting. Riders may have different ideas of their goals -- from seeing how far they can travel in a day to beating their own times -- but all receive the same honours for completing the events, a randonneurs pin.

So what is it exactly? There are two kinds of rides: brevets and populaires. In a brevet, French for suffering, cyclists follow a set route in their desired distance be it 200, 300 or 400 kilometres, moving up to longer rides of 600, 1,000 and 1,200 km. At specified stations they stop to check in and have their distance marked, then continue. At these checkpoints food is usually available and riders get a chance to share their experiences with others. On most courses there is a minimum and maximum time allowed. Once the desired distance is completed, riders can move up to the next distance collecting pins as they go. Randonneurs gain international recognition from Audax Club Parisian by riding 5,000 km in official randonneur events within four years. The 1,200 km Paris-Brest-Paris is one of the most prestigious rides that must be done to fulfil the requirements for the 5,000 km award. Beyond the check points, riders are on their own and must follow the rules of the road and be self-sufficient with food, water and repairs. "One of the challenges is to balance speed and efficiency - - not to mention balancing food needs and time limits," says Victoria Populaire organizer Mike Poplawski. A populaire is intended to introduce new riders to the club. Riders do not have to be club members to participate and equipment, regulations and time limits are relaxed as well as age requirements and distance. Victoria had its first populaire last July with 27 participants riding 50, 75 and 100 km. Maria Lahiffe was the only participant to complete 150 km in nine hours and twenty-eight minutes.

Poplawski has been a randonneur since 1999. Last year he completed distances such as 400 km riding from Victoria to Union Bay, south of Courtenay on the Island Highway. "The ride was long, but not as difficult as the 300 km island ride which had more climbing," said Poplawski. This year he, and another first timer Michael Ball, completed the basic series which consists of 200, 300, 400 and 600 km rides. Ball did the 400 km ride a second time after failing to complete it, and then went on to do the 600 km ride afterwards. Poplawski completed the 600 km ride in 37 hours and 8 minutes. "That was about five hours longer than I had planned but I got behind schedule because of a mechanical problem and had to allow time to sleep," he said. The time limit for the 600 km event is 40 hours. Riders who complete the basic series receive a Super Randonneur Pin in addition to their event pins.

You may wonder what the draw is for randonneurs. For many it is the desire to know how far they can push themselves in a non- competitive environment. For Poplawski it is more than just riding, "You can explore new communities and routes as well as meet others interested in long rides." Randonneur rides happen not only on the island but also in Vancouver, Alberta (Rocky Mountain Randonneurs) and Toronto, not to mention groups in France, Italy and the U.K. Poplawski is interested in riding up to 1,200 km in the Rocky Mountains in 2002 and the Paris-Brest-Paris in 2003. "I'm still pretty young at 33. Many randonneurs don't complete these events until they're older, so I feel I have lots of time." For now, Mike continues to train by doing group rides with the Sidney Velo. "I enjoy speed, as much as I can muster, and am trying out track cycling and Masters Racing, but I'm definitely a beginner at these and at Randonneuring," says Poplawski.

If you are interested in Randonneurs, check out their Web site at or for info on the Victoria Populaire check This year's randonneur event will be the Victoria Populaire 50/ 100/150 km on July 22 following the same format as last year -- beginning at Oak Bay High School. The cost for entering is $20 on the day, $15 if you enter the Friday before and $10 for children under the age of 19 (with a signed waiver). On Saturday, Aug. 4, there will be a Summer 200 km brevet, part of the official randonneur brevet series. A tentative route around Saanich Peninsula to Sooke is set for this. In addition to these events, there will be a Victoria Off Road Populaire on Aug. 26th. This will be a 75 km ride incorporating the Galloping Goose. For more information or to volunteer with registration and staffing control points call Mike Poplawski at 250-882-1239.

This Sunday, the Friends of Hatley Park Society will be offering the first Hatley Park/ Fort Rodd Hill Guided Bike Tour. With an experienced guide you can explore the history and secrets of Hatley Park through the forests, gardens, playing fields and outbuildings surrounding Hatley Castle. The tour is limited to 30 people and runs from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. Bring lunch and $15 for adults, $10 for students. Pre-register at 391-2600, ext. 4456