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Maybe it wasn't such a surprise that 2003 was a big year. All the indications were pointing to another jump in ridership, though maybe not such a big one. Club distance total cracked the 200,000 km mark for the first time (222,606 km). We had an astonishing 53 Super Randonneurs which easily exceeds the 1991 record of 43. And a lot of the action happened away from home... 39 BC Randonneurs went to PBP - by far our biggest contingent ever.
Paris Brest Paris
And 'big' wasn't just happening in BC in 2003. It was the biggest PBP ever with over 4000 entries, including 84 from Canada. The extended heat wave that had plagued France earlier in August was gone by PBP week, leaving behind perfect riding conditions - warm and generally sunny days, cool but pleasant nights, almost no winds, and dry roads all the way around the course. The event organization was as tight as usual and bursting with hundreds of helpful volunteers, to say nothing of many road-side supporters.
A few people have been around the course a few times now. Among this year's BC finishers were Ken Bonner, Keith Fraser, and Manfred Kuchenmuller who have now completed four PBPs each, and Deirdre Arscott who can now carve a fifth notch into her saddle. (The only other Canadian to have done five PBPs is Brian Leier from Manitoba.) At the other end of this continuum, over half of the BC finishers were PBP first timers - 16 of 31.
There were many remarkable stories this time, and as always, a few disappointments. One PBP disappointment that didn't happen was Jason Abrams's. Jason's Achilles failed around the 750 km mark - too far out to finish, right? Wrong. He rode the remainder of PBP (450 km), in pain and, with the bad hoof out of the pedal. Thing is... he forgot the whole slow-down-and-take-it-easy part of being in rando survival mode. The clock stopped at an impressive 67:20 - the 3rd fastest BC time, and 7th for a Canadian. Bon courage mon ami, c'est magnifique.
And Keith Keith Fraser had a fast 2003 here in BC including a 41:25 Island 1000, and the quickest ever BC 600 (22:19) on the challenging Cache Creek route (breaking his own record of 22:59). So maybe expectations were a little high for PBP. Harold and Dan had signed on as his PBP support team On night one of PBP Keith didn't link up with Harold and Dan at the Mortagne control. The three of them spent hours trying to reconnect while Keith's chances of an elite finish evaporated. Many would have abandoned. But despite the calamity, Keith did eventually get back on track and then rode straight through. He ended up finishing in 59:41 and skunking us all - he was the first BC rider back and the third Canadian. His time is well off his '95 Canadian record time of 50:09, but after PBP '03, the '95 record still stands.
Above - not the typical five year patterns for people easing their way into randonneur cycling. Someone forgot to pass along 'The New Rando's Handbook' (with that chapter on sensible annual distance increases) to Sarah Gallazin and John Little, a couple on loan to us from the ultra marathon running world. But maybe they were just casing the joint all this time toying with us for four years, then pouncing.
Before 2003 Sigi Palme had no brevet distance to his credit whatsoever. On any other year his impressive total of 4300 km would be the chart topper, but this year he'll have to settle for an honourable mention, and banana raspberry power gel.
The other first time Super Randonneurs are Jason Abrams, Randy Benz, Jacques Bilinski, Andreas Brade, Kevin Bruce, David Gillanders, Bob Goodison, Tina Hoeben, David Kirsop, Paul Lahti, Paul Lee, Alard Malek, Stella Meades, Derek Shackleford, Sarah Tennant, Brian Westerberg, Val White, and last but not least, our 2003 club president Frances Caton. Yaaa Frances!, and congratulations to all 19 of you.
Brevet De Randonneur 5000s
With PBP comes a new batch of Randonneur 5000 pins. And the winners (so far) are: Susan Allen, Deirdre Arscott, John Bates, Ken Bonner, Eric Fergusson, Keith Fraser, Manfred Kuchenmuller, Danelle Laidlaw, Mike Poplawski, Réal Préfontaine, Michel Richard, and Karen Smith.
Four riders - Ken, Michel, Eric, and Real - earned their 5000 pins all in one year. But it's Real's number that really jumps out at you. He rode a 400 km Fleche, added the other compulsory ingredients (200, 300, 400, 600, 1000 + PBP), and then added a spicy three brevet (900 km) topping just enough with not a smidgeon of excess. Yes, his total in 2003 was a perfect 5000 km.
Au revoir Réal
It was quite a season for Réal, and not just as a rando rider. It was his final year as Randonneur Mondiaux President (the world-wide association promoting randonneur cycling); he organized much of the PBP information dissemination, including the workshop in February for first-time PBPers; he masterminded the always delicate process of arranging our PBP accommodation at the Le Pavillon des Gatines in France; and in addition to his rando riding he won the BC seniors games road race and the time trial, and he 'silvered' in the hill climb (age category:70-74). Many will be saddened to learn that Réal is moving away (to near Ottawa), to be closer to family. Thanks Réal, for your many efforts over many years.
Wil Roberts (who is a grad student from England studying in Seattle) rode only two brevets in BC in '03, but they're arguably our two toughest. In June he rode the Crowsnest 1000 (Vancouver to the Alberta border on highway 3)(and by the way he rode back to Seattle afterwards), and then in August he tested himself again with the Switchback 1000 in early August. Nice guy, strong rider, excellent climber.
I should mention that in both cases Wil was joined by Michel Richard... Michel had attempted the Switchback in 2002, but failed due to a mechanical problem. Despite the BC interior heat the route was no probs this time for either Michel or Wil.
Another person who had no trouble with the August Switchback 1000 was Henry Berkenbos. But tragedy was stalking Henry this year. On the Flèche Pacifique, Henry, the most cautious rider among us, had been surprised by the new rumble strips on Highway 1 west of Hope, and crashed badly. But Henry, who has never in his life been east of the Rockies, was determined to go to PBP. He was well enough to gingerly ride the Kamloops 600 in early June and earn a last minute PBP qualification. But the real tragedy happened after Henry was fully recovered. On the eve of his flight to Paris (connecting in Toronto) much of Ontario and the North Eastern US was hit by the biggest electrical blackout in history. Most BC riders were already in France; some of us were en route; Henry never made it out of the Vancouver airport. C'est pas juste.
'99 '00 '01 '02 '03 Ken: 5054 5839 6700 12,594 12,229
Above - not the typical five year pattern for well, anyone. Several years ago it seemed incredible that Ken Bonner had tallied a life-time event total of 50,000 km, but suddenly 100,000 km doesn't seem so far away. It was no surprise that Ken has won the John Hathaway trophy (a.k.a. the Iron-butt trophy) for the most event distance ridden by a BC randonneur in 2003 - nobody else was in the same ballpark. Mike Poplawski has pointed out that the distance totals of the next two people on the list still fall short of Ken's incredible 12,229 km total. And oh ya Ken ran 9 marathons last year, bringing his total to 146!
There is an important footnote to this file in 2003. Michel always-a-bridesmaid-never-a-bride Richard rode several of events in France after PBP which are not included in his '03 event distance totals: Raid Pyrénéen (800 km), the Diagonale: Hendaye-Menton (1000 km), and Randonnée Alpine (740 km). These events, though not recognized by ACP or Randonneur Mondiaux, are in character a lot like our randonneur events: they're long distance cycling events usually with time limits that recognize a successful completion with a medallion or other distinction. So just for fun, let's add Michel's event total of 6429 to his 3 other French events (2540) to get the impressive (but strictly unofficial) total of 8969 km. For those interested in this sort of cycling, I have put together a French cyclo-touring info page.
The iron butt list itself grew considerably in 2003. The riders who registered 1500 km or more increased from 43 riders in 2002 to 51, and it included 19 new names.
Bon Voyage & Merci Rando 500 / 1000
2003 marks the end of 'short rides' series and the accompanying Randonneur 500 and 1000 awards. It was an initiative of Dan McGuire's back in 1997 inspired by a suggestion from fellow BC Randonneur founding member John Hathaway, and modeled on a similar formula used by Audax UK. It was a series enjoyed by many riders, some of whom have gone on to ride the longer brevet distances.
The thing I haven't mentioned is the sad start we had to the season. Roger Street died of a heart attack while riding his bike near 16th and Blanca in Vancouver. He was 55 and in good shape at the time. He was a tough rider, a wise club treasurer & advisor, and a great friend to many of us, and we will remember him with great fondness.
While acknowledging the gravity of tragedy there was something a few people were saying at the time that sticks in my head - what a beautiful way for him to have gone (i.e. out riding his bike). What a great way for any of us to go it was however, for Roger, 30 years too soon. A bien tôt mon ami.
2004 - Ready or Not Here We Come
So what about the coming season? 2004 is a 'PBP hangover' year, and no doubt there will be a little more elbow room at the start of many of our brevets. [One of the more revealing record pages for tracking the four year pattern that seems to be so much a part of randonneur cycling, is our Super Randonneur archive page - have a look HERE. See what I mean?]
But let's not forget that there is one particularly big item on the menu for next year. In 2004 all eyes turn east (except yours Wim -> look south) as we prepare for the 6th running of the Rocky Mountain 1200. If you plan to ride be sure to submit your entry on time (March 18) - there will be a lottery if the 100 entry limit is exceeded - or if you're not riding, consider contacting Doug, Susan, or Sharon if you think you can offer a helping hand.
One final note... are you still looking east? Now look a little south. Tina Hoeben is organizing a 200 in Penticton in September 2004. Good luck Tina, on rando cycling's newest frontier.
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