History - Main

BC Randonneurs Cycling Club


David Minter's history is a comprehensive overview of the history of randonneur cycling, touching on Paris-Brest-Paris, Audax Club Parisien, audax cycling, and other areas of organised long distance cycling. About the title: remember that, like in the UK, when an Australian uses the word "Audax", often what is meant is "Randonneur". Obviously there is an Australian perspective to this work, but the emphasis is on the international developments and readers from everywhere will enjoy this major contribution.

The author has made it clear that this is a work in progress.

[Eric Fergusson - Dec 2007]

A Little Audax History
(what we call Audax anyway…)
by David Minter

Most of us have a pretty good idea how Audax started – the French raced from Paris to Brest and back in 1891, cycle tourists joined in a few years later and some Italians riding dawn till dusk were involved early on. That’s not too bad, as far as it goes, but Audax history goes back a long way, even before the first PBP.

The Beginnings

Let’s set the scene a little. Bicycles were the fastest things on the road 120 years ago and were at technology’s cutting edge. Firmly in the focus of entrepreneurs, high society and sportsmen, they captured society’s attention. Leisure cycling for the upper classes consisted of Sunday ‘spins’ or week-long tours between railway stations. Fit young men (‘scorchers’) hurtled through quiet villages in pursuit of bragging rights. Races on the open road and point-to-point records had paid riders supported and paced by teams of cyclists to boost their speed. The public was enraptured by feats of athleticism and races got longer and tougher, pushing riders to the limit.

Maurice Martin, cycle-tourist and writer, had helped found a weekly cycling newspaper, “Veloce-Sport”, in Bordeaux. By the mid-1880s, excessive support and press coverage of races and racers had begun to annoy him. Of an estimated 25,000 French cyclists, perhaps 500 had racing licences. In response, Martin created a new type of event, not for racers or the relaxed touring cyclists but ‘vrai tourisme rapide’ (rapid tourists). The Union Velocipedique Francaise started sanctioning the first ‘brevets’ in 1888, requiring 100+ km a day; far enough on the unsurfaced roads.

Martin helped organise the 572 km Bordeaux-Paris brevet in May 1891 with Pierre Giffard (editor of “Le Petite Journal”) and riders were expected to finish in five days. Unhappily for the French, some English riders treated it as a race, hired pacers and claimed the top four places with George Pilkington Mills finishing in 27 hours. An experienced racer, he’d won the first North Roads 24-hr race in 1886 with 227 miles on a high-wheeler (‘penny farthing’). The first British 24-hr race had been in 1882. France was agog and newspaper sales soared. Bordeaux-Paris, the ‘Derby of the Road’, lasted into the 1980s as a professional race. Racers drafted dernys (special mopeds) for the second half, a relic of the paced racing of early years.

June 1891 saw the North Road Cycling Club’s first ‘York Run’, with 25 riders starting and 10 finishing the 200 miles (320 km) from London to York within 21 hrs 30 min. The non-competitive ride continued until 1973, albeit with a two-decade gap after 1916.

Giffard held the first Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) in September 1891. To prevent further embarrassment, only entries from Frenchmen were accepted. The race was so long (just under 1200 km) that there were special newspaper editions for race updates, gleaned from dispatches via telegraph and train. Each racer was allowed 10 paid pacers but had to get their route book signed and stamped at specified towns. Riding without sleep and using newfangled pneumatic tyres, Charles Terront (a pacer for Mills at Bordeaux-Paris) won in under three days with 10,000 cheering him at the finish. Alexandre Duval, on a high-wheeler, was amongst 98 finishers (206 starters) that took up to 245 hours to finish, some sleeping in hotels each night. Despite its popularity, racers complained that training for PBP meant losing speed for shorter races and PBP was not held for another decade. Giffard moved onto other endurance events - the first Paris marathon in 1892 and Bordeaux-Paris and Paris-Brest-Paris running races through to early motor vehicle races such as Paris-Rouen.

In June 1897, Vito Pardo led 12 riders 230 km from Rome to Naples and newspapers lauded the nine finishers as ‘audace’ (Italian for audacious or bold). 20 Napoli cyclists, figuring themselves equals of the rival Romans, rode the reverse route and became known as ‘Audax Italiano’; their ranks grew with subsequent rides. Aiming to finish 200+ km within 14 hours, roughly sunrise to sunset, participants rode together following ‘road captains’. It seems the group continued until World War 1.

Henri Desgrange was a bike racer and the editor of the cycling newspaper “L’Auto”. He set the first unpaced hour record on a velodrome but racers and the public were more interested in the extra speed of paced events. At the turn of the century, his paper was in trouble, with plenty of competition and not enough readers. Desgrange’s response was to hold the second PBP in 1901. He despised racers gaining an outside advantage (gear changers were later banned from some of his races), so the event was split into two categories, professional ‘couriers de vitesse’ paced by other cyclists and amateur ‘tourist-routiers’ without pacers.

Maurice Garin won the pro race in just over 50 hours, again capturing the French imagination. He later won the first-ever stage race in 1903, the Tour de France. Also created by Desgrange, this even longer event gave more time to sell newspapers. American Charly Miller was the first non-European PBPer, finishing fifth in less than 57 hours. La Societe Charly Millar recognises all Americans that have ridden PBP faster than Miller. Other countries represented for the first time were Belgium (Charles Kerff), Germany (F Krause), Italy (Rodolfo Muller) and Switzerland (Michel Frederick). 73 tourist-routiers finished with Rosiere winning in under 63 hours and 65-year old Pierre Rousset with 202 hours.

Inspired by Audax Italiano enquiring about routes for a Rome-Paris brevet, in 1904 Desgrange wrote the rules for Audax in France and gave the newly formed Audax Club Parisien (ACP) the authority to certify brevets. Finishing a 200 km brevet qualified riders as Audax members but the ACP soon organised even longer rides. Other non-competitive but challenging endurance events are part of the Audax ethos - namely walking (first brevet in 1904), swimming (1913), kayaking (1956) and skiing (1985). 100 km cycling brevets were offered comparatively recently.

The 1911 PBP outlawed pacers - Emile Georget winning in 50 hours from eight professionals (13 starters). The 120 amateurs (62 finishers) had their cycles ‘sealed’ to prevent bike changes. Garin (the 1901 winning pro) and Auguste Ringeval shared the amateur race after a competitor was disqualified for illegal assistance.

The Parting of the Ways

France rebuilt after World War One before introducing limits to working hours. Leisure cycling boomed (cars were prohibitively expensive) with touring and brevet riding benefiting hugely. Cycle manufacturers responded with technological advances (aluminium frames, multiple gearing, etc), trying to grab the public's attention. The most common methods were backing successful racers or publicising wins in 'concours', technical competitions held by various cycling organisations.

In 1921, 43 professionals and 63 tourist-routiers started PBP, Louis Mottiat winning in just over 55 hours (10 finishers). Ernest Paul, a 1911 PBP pro, took the amateur race in 62 hours ahead of 46 other finishers.

The ACP assisted at the Polymultipliee in 1921, a timed tourist event promoting the use of front and rear derailleurs. It was held by Victor Breyer, editor of “L’Echo des Sports” and Desgrange’s competitor. In response, Desgrange, as owner of the Audax rules, removed the ACP’s authority to homologate Audax brevets. Until then, Audax meant groups riding at 18 kph following a road captain, with scheduled stops to stamp brevet cards, eat and rest. With no applicable rules for their calendared rides, the ACP wrote the Brevet des Randonneurs Francais ‘allure libre’ (free pace) rules, allowing participants to ride between specified maximum and minimum average speeds. The first 200 km randonnee was in September 1921, 300 in 1922, 400 in 1923, 600 in 1928 and 1000 in 1934. The name changed to Brevets des Randonneurs Europeen (1975) and Brevet des Randonneurs Mondiaux (1983) as more countries ran brevets.

The introduction of allure libre events caused a split, with the traditionalists forming L’Union des Audax Cyclists Parisiens, becoming L’Union des Audax Francaise (UAF) in 1956. There was acrimony for some time regarding the ‘proper way to ride brevets’ and finish rate comparisons between the rival methods were common. The UAF still homologate group brevets, usually at 22.5 kph riding average, perhaps because of better roads. Often called Euraudax, this brevet style is fairly common in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands (at 25 kph) and more recently Sweden.

The 1931 PBP was actually three events. Hubert Opperman took well under 50 hours for the professional race (14 finishers from 28 starters), despite headwinds and rain most of the way. The only non-European to win PBP, the Australian’s French employer was bankrupted during the race and Oppy never collected a promised winner’s bonus. Two-time Tour de France winner Nicholas Franz was the first Luxembourger to finish PBP. The amateur race was replaced by the first PBP brevets. The ACP held one brevet under Randonneur rules, requiring a 300 km qualifier (only 200 for tandem stokers). 44 of 62 starters finished between the 60 hr and 96 hr limits, including five women - Germaine Danis, Georgette Dubois, Claire Gorgeon and Juliette Pitard stoking tandems and Paulette Vassard on solo. The UACP organised another brevet under Audax rules at a 20 kph riding average, 29 of 81 starters finishing in 85 hours. Entries from women and tandem teams had been returned.

There were abortive attempts to organise PBP during World War Two despite the German occupation, Allied bombing and the resultant night curfew. Surprisingly, although bicycle parts and especially tyres were in very short supply, some French cycling events (one-day brevets and races) still occurred.

After the War

Cycling in Europe rebounded strongly after World War Two before rising affluence in the ‘50s and ‘60s eventually shifted society’s emphasis from bikes to cars. Brevet riding was concentrated in France with rival organisations validating either fixed-pace group rides (Audax) or ‘allure libre’ events (Randonneur). The ultimate event for both organisations was PBP, until then held once each decade, although there were plenty of prestigious brevets like the 1000 km Paris-Nice (every five years since 1952).

British racing and touring clubs organised ‘Reliability Rides’ or ‘Standard Rides’, particularly in the early season, with riders aiming to complete various distances within specified times. Finishers often received certificates, usually from the Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC, formed in 1878). Existing in various forms almost since cycling began, ‘50 in 4’(miles in hours), ‘100 in 8’ and occasionally ‘200 in 24’ are the most common Reliability Rides, although brevets are now much more popular.

The ACP’s Fleche Velocio was first held in 1947. The team brevet honours ‘Velocio’ (Paul de Vivie), a renowned advocate of derailleurs and challenging rides, who died in 1930. A team of three to five machines must complete at least 360 km on a self-selected route within 24 hrs. The furthest distance so far is 777 km, ridden in 1994.

Albert Hendrix needed less than 42 hours to win the 1948 PBP race (46 starters and 11 finishers). There were 42 Audax finishers (including a tandem) from 62 starters and 152 Randonneur finishers from 189 starters. Randonneur Jean Van Den Bulk was Belgium’s first ‘ancien du PBP’ (PBP finisher). Annual distance record character Rene Menzies (61,561 miles in 1937 and one-time chauffeur of Charles De Gaulle) rode this and the next Randonneur PBP to become the first British PBPer, courtesy of dual British-French citizenship.

The 1951 PBP saw Maurice Diot winning in under 39 hours (11 finishers from 34 starters). 85 of 96 Audaxers finished (with a 22.5 kph riding average), including two women. 351 of 488 Randonneurs completed their brevet.

Although the brevets had existed for decades, it was 1952 before the ACP created the Super Randonneur annual award (SR - 200, 300, 400 and 600 in a year).

Increased popularity meant PBP switched to five-year intervals, usually with a day between the Audax finish and the Randonneur start. The 1956 PBP, the last time seals were used to prevent bike changes, saw 77 (from 106) Audax and 157 (from 250) Randonneur finishers coping with nasty weather. The first Dutch PBP Randonneurs were Hetzler, Krijnen, Millenaar, Oudshoorn, Pafort, Van Bazenburg, Van De Weerd, Van Krenningen, Van Mildert, Van Rheenen, Vervat and Vork. PBP races in 1956 and finally in 1961 were cancelled, due to lack of interest from the professionals.

The 1961 PBP had 140 of 162 Audaxers and 125 of 191 Randonneurs finish, again despite poor weather. The ACP created the Brevet de Randonneur 5000 award (or R5000 - PBP, 1000 km, SR, Fleche Velocio and 200+ km brevets to 5000 km within four years) and over 1200 have been awarded to date.

Francais et Etrangers

In 1966, the PBP Randonneur time limit was cut to 90 hours and support restricted to checkpoints. The ‘hot PBP’ had 165 Audax (from 178) and 135 Randonneur (from 172) finishers. The English-speaking world began to notice PBP with a Cycling Weekly article of Britain’s Barry Parslow’s Randonneur ride, the first on tricycle.

In 1971, 309 of 328 Audaxers and 272 of 325 Randonneurs completed PBP with Oppy (driving the course this time) encouraging riders from Belgium, Britain, France, the Netherlands and for the first time Spain (Cameros Gallego, Torras Porta and Casado Ruano). “Sporting Cyclist” editor Jock Wadley’s book “Old Roads and New” recorded his Randonneur ride, boosting foreign interest in PBP. In one week, eight Frenchmen (Belleville, Bonnin, Boubarre, Coussemene, Guillaume, Lucas, Plaine and Texier) finished both the Audax and Randonneur PBPs. Repeating the feat became harder when subsequent Randonneur PBPs moved to quadrennial intervals.

Organised century rides (100 miles = 161 km) became popular in the USA, riding on the back of the 1970s bike boom, with finishers often earning T-shirts or sew-on badges (‘patch rides’). Double, triple and even quad century options were added to some events over the following decades - California especially becoming a long-distance cycling hotspot.

A 600 qualifier was needed for the 1975 PBP Randonneur (400 for anciens). With no qualifiers in the UK, the ACP made a concession; British entrant could ride 600+ km in a 24-hour time trial. Some concession, it required averaging over 25 kph non-stop without drafting. There were 559 finishers from 667 starters. First-time PBP nationalities included Luxembourg (J Riviere and E Urbain) and Swiss (H Albrecht), along with the first American finishers since 1901 – Herman Falsetti, Harriet Fell (now Brown), Annette Hillan (later Shaffer) and Creig Hoyt. International Randonneurs was created, to organise brevets in the USA.

There were two 1976 PBP Audax starts (June and September) to reduce the size of the pelotons, with 726 finishers from 911 starters. Amongst the 355 foreigners was the first Canadian, John Hathaway. Audax UK (AUK) began the same year, running the 600 km Windsor-Chester-Windsor to qualify British riders for future Randonneur PBPs. Their name derives from the ACP name, not the event style.

The original long-distance brevet Bordeaux-Paris was revived in 1977 and it is now held in even years for three rider categories: cyclo-touriste, randonneur and cyclo-sportive. AUK introduced 200, 300 and 400 brevets, as future PBPs would need a qualifying SR. The Dorset Coast and North-West Passage 200s are still annual events. New Zealand’s first Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge (100 miles around the lake) took place. Now nearly 11,000 ride it, most doing one lap, others multiple laps, some with a BRM brevet card.

The first Cape Argus Cycle Tour (just over 100 km) had several hundred finishers in 1978 and nearly 30,000 riders last year. It spawned a host of similar South African mass-participation events – all riders are timed but only a few are racing for a win.

1978 also saw 104 riders finish the rather wet 800 km Paris-Harrogate brevet marking the CTC's centenary, complete with a cross-Channel ferry trip. It was similar to other one-off commemorative brevets, such as the 1450 km Paris-Rome (marking the 1960 Olympics, 180 finishers) and the 2003 Tour Audax du Centenaire (about 160 riders), though most have minor rule variations. Other events occur more often; the 600+ km Paris-Le Galibier has been held every decade since 1954 (most recently in 1999) to commemorate Henri Desgrange, the founder of both Audax and the Tour de France.

The 1979 PBP Randonneur introduced staggered starts for the 1880 riders (1573 finishers). Countries at PBP for the first time included Canada (John Hathaway, Dan McGuire, Gerry Pareja and Wayne Phillips), Norway (Leif Brimstveit) and Sweden (K Andersson, V Backman, I Hansson, R Klingzell and A Sivertsson). Rider fatalities, mostly in crashes involving motor vehicles, (one in 1961, one in 1966, two in 1975) prompted a change from the ‘Great West Road’ to a longer, hillier, rural course. PBP Audax mostly uses the original route but group riding and follow vehicles minimise the risk.

Antipodes and Elsewhere

Audax began in Australia over a quarter-century ago. Following near-simultaneous letters to the ACP by Alan Walker and Russell Moore, a few rides were held without ACP homologation. Riders started simultaneous 600 km rides over the 1981 Easter weekend from Melbourne and Sydney (the first official Australian brevet), finishing in Albury to form Audax Australia – the committee comprised Moore, Walker and Tony McDonnell. The club’s name derives from Audax Club Parisien’s name, not the riding style. Strictly speaking, our events are randonneur brevets, not audax rides. Until a 1080 km brevet in 1984, only standard SR distances were offered.

Some long rides predate Audax Australia. Moore began the Green Valley Century (100 miles) in 1976 in New South Wales (NSW), based on US century rides. The Green Valley Twin Century (200 km) brevet eventually offered 300 and 400 options before ceasing in the early 1990s. He also ran a ‘200 in 24’ in 1979 modelled on Reliability Rides. Rides in Victoria included the Bendigo Double Century (two 100 mile rides over a weekend), the Geelong Otway Century Ride (annually since 1980) and the Knox Hard Hundred.

The 1981 PBP Audax had 1522 finish from 1573 starters in seven groups between June and September. AUK's first 100 km brevet (Greenhow Hill Super Grimpeur) took place; a locally homologated, multi-lap, climbing brevet with a challenging time limit, similar to now-discontinued French TA Super Grimpeur events. AUK introduced sub-200 km Brevet Populaires a few years later, some with a sub-15 kph minimum speed.

The Race Across AMerica (RAAM, originally the Great American Bike Race) was first held in 1982. Other American long-distance cycle races followed, often no-drafting massed-start affairs like the John Marino Open (now the Furnace Creek 508). Some events predate RAAM, such as Bicycle Across Missouri (540 miles in under 72 hours). Australia’s Gerry Tatrai won the 1993 and 1998 RAAMs, between finishing the 1987, 1991 and 1999 PBPs.

There were 1903 finishers (from 2165) of the 1983 PBP Randonneur, including the first Australians since Oppy. The pioneers were Frank Brandon, Russell Moore and Stephen Poole. Countries represented at PBP for the first time included Finland (Hannu Haulia, Paavo Nurminen and Matti Vimpari) and Japan (Keizo Kobayashi). Frenchmen G Duchene, JB Gony and L Guerin were the first to finish PBP on a triplet. Paul Castle was killed while riding home to Britain.

Les Randonneurs Mondiaux (LRM) had its first meeting the day after PBP finished, formed from countries organising ACP-homologated brevets. Australia is a founding member, along with Belgium, Britain, Canada, France, Spain, Sweden and the USA. Many countries have since joined LRM including Brazil, China, Israel, Jamaica, Russia and South Africa. LRM now validates almost all 1200+ km brevets organised similarly to PBP. The major exception is PBP, homologated by the ACP.

There are many brevets ratified by national or local groups, rather than by the ACP or LRM, including the 260 km Brevet de Randonneurs des Alpes (first run in 1936, now held in odd years) and Paris-Roubaix Cyclo (even years, up to 261 km). Raids and Diagonales de France are ‘permanent’ brevets, identified routes ridden by individuals or groups on dates convenient to the riders and organiser, as opposed to ‘calendar’ events run on a specific date. Permanents can be point-to-point routes or loops, taking a day or multiple days, ranging up to several thousand kilometres long. ACP does run some permanents, the Tour de Corse (around Corsica, since 1956) and Fleche de France (171 to 989 km, linking various French cities and Paris) and has an award for completing 20 Fleche de France but permanents do not count towards a R5000.

Cycling events aimed somewhere between brevet-style riding and racing had existed for many years but cyclo-sportives and gran fondos exploded in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Challenges like the 300 km Vatternrunden (first held in 1966), 175 km La Marmotte (1981), 175 km Maratona dles Dolomites (1987) and L’Etape du Tour (1993) attracted thousands, with scores of similar events entering the European cycling calendar over time. Finishers are awarded gold, silver or bronze medals, depending on overall time, age and sex. The Kelloggs Sustain Cycling Challenge was a 120 km time trial held north of Sydney in 1992 and 1993. It was one of the first Australian mass-participation cycling events of worthwhile distance, albeit with an unusual format.

Charity fund-raising bike rides also took off around the same time. America has a sizeable list of MS150 rides (usually 150 miles over two days) and other single-day and multi-day charity cycling challenge events, along with traditional century rides. Some events record finish times - most issue certificates, t-shirts, jerseys, badges or other awards. Britain developed a substantial charity rides calendar; the most popular being ‘London to Brighton’ (54 miles and 27,000 entrants), along with several multi-day London-Paris and Lands End-John O’Groats rides for various organisations. ‘Around the Bay in a Day’ (up to 250 km and 15,000 riders, first held in 1993 but originally an Audax Australia brevet) and 'Sydney to the Gong' (up to 90 km, around 10,000 riders, 1982) are Australia’s biggest one-day cycling events.

The first Opperman All Day Trial (OADT) took place in 1985, the first Fleche held outside of France. The ‘Endorphins’ (Guy Green, Mark Hastie, Derek McKean, Nick Skewes) engraved the most distance onto the Opperman Shield with 770 km in 1993 (team member Ken Mayberry completed 762 km). Originally finishing in Albury and Perth on the same day, then held on various dates in different states, every OADT team in 2007 was on the road simultaneously.

The 1986 PBP Audax had 923 finishers from 926 starters in four groups. The first Audax Alpine Classic took place (originally the ‘Bright Ride’); the most popular Australian brevet has nearly 2000 riders doing between 70 and 200 hilly kilometres. AUK created the Audax Altitude Award, based on cumulative climb and promoting shorter, more scenic and thus hillier events.

In 1987, 2117 randonneurs finished the ‘wet PBP’ (2597 starters), though half the Americans did not. This result led to rookie Americans needing extra qualifying rides at subsequent PBPs, either an additional SR the previous year or a 1000 km brevet on top of the normal SR. 12 Australians finished, including our first lady, Aileen Martin. Denmark (Brandt, Peter, Damm, Doygaard, Hansen, Hope, Lyngsaa, Olsen, Oxley, Rasmussen and Roboz) and South Africa (Dennie Borjesson) were represented at PBP for the first time. AUK’s Felicity Beard was the first lady tricyclist and Barry Parslow and Mark Brooking were the first tandem tricyclists to ride PBP.

Reunion, Remembrance and Renewal

The 1988 Boston-Montreal-Boston was the first non-PBP 1200 km brevet. AUK began self-certifying 200+ km calendar and permanent brevets (valid for domestic awards) and nowadays only a few AUK events are ACP-homologated. Their “Summer Arrow to York” (domestic fleche first held in 1988) tops out at 610 km by Derby Mercury in 1994. AUK's Easter Arrow to York (ACP-homologated, started in 1995) saw VC167 recording 564 km in 2006.

The first 1300 km Edinburgh-London took place in 1989; the quadrennial London-Edinburgh-London (LEL) is now 1400 km. AUK also began the International Super Randonneur award (each SR brevet in a different country, no time limit) for LRM. Australia’s Matt Rawnsley, Oliver Portway and Bob Bednarz have earned some of the 52 awarded to date.

The Centennial 1991 PBP was celebrated with a prologue ride into Paris (longer than expected due to the lead car getting lost) and with Oppy and Parisien Mayor Jacques Chirac addressing starters of simultaneous ACP Randonneur and UAF Audax brevets. Heavier Parisien traffic meant the start was moved to St Quentin-en-Yvelines and resulted in the now familiar evening and early morning start times. The ‘windy PBP’ saw 2611 randonneurs finish within the one hour extended limit from 3276 starters, including 30 Australians. New ancien du PBP Randonneur countries included Germany (Claus Cyzcholl, Andy Gruner and Ulf Roeper), Ireland (Bayley, Byrne, Clarke, Connolly, Dalton, Doyle, E Dunne, S Dunne, Egan, Eustace, Fallon, Moroney, Murphy, O’Brian and O’Connell) and New Zealand (Ian Pollard). The first Youth PBP had 40 teenagers riding the route Audax-style over 12 stages. There were 204 Audax finishers, although another 207 had completed their PBP in June, from a total of 456 starters.

AUK created the Brevet 25000 award in 1991, requiring 25000 km of 200+ brevets within six years including PBP, LEL, 1000 km brevet, Fleche and three SRs.

In 1992, Audax Australia held its first 1200 km brevet (Victoria, Rex Cole was killed), its first 1500 km brevet (Western Australia) and created the Nouveau Randonneur award (originally 50, 100 and 200 in a year, now 50, 100 and 150).

The ACP dropped the ‘compulsory mudguards’ and ‘no advertising on clothing’ rules for the 1995 PBP Randonneur but banned tri-bars. There were 41 Australians amongst 2380 finishers (2860 starters) enjoying good conditions. First-time countries at PBP were Austria (Klaus Baumel, Gerhard Beer, Stefan Danczul, Michael Gobel and Martin Mauerbock) and Russia (Andrei Kouznetsov, Peter Misnik, Rouslan Ocipov, Mikhail Silakv and Serguei Troufanov). AUK’s Pete Giffard and Noel Simpson were the first to finish PBP on a tandem recumbent tricycle.

Audax Australia awarded the first Woodrup 5000 (similar to R5000) in 1995, honouring Graham ‘Woody’ Woodrup. The long-distance record-holder and club stalwart had died in 1992. Woody’s Murray-to-Moyne 520 km 24 hr relay team charity ride has been an annual event since 1987.

Sir Hubert Opperman – PBP winner, patron of Audax Australia and Audax UK and former Australian Government Minister - died in 1996. PBP Audax had 212 starters in three waves and 192 finishers, including American tandemists Bill Curran and Mary-Blair Matejczyk. Canada’s first Rocky Mountains 1200 took place. AUK created the Randonneur 500 (R500 - 50, 100, 150 and 200 rides) and R1000 (100, 200, 300 rides and 400 km of 100+) annual awards, along with the Randonneur Round the Year (RRTY, monthly 200+ brevets for a year).

The 1997 Paris-Rome-Naples Audax marked the centenary of Audax with a 1200 km brevet to Rome via Mont Cenis, followed by the original Audax Italiano ride.

In 1998, Randonneurs USA (RUSA) replaced the previous US organisation, International Randonneurs, and abolished additional PBP qualification requirements. AUK instituted Brevet 500 (B500 for 5 x 100 or 150), B1000 (5 x 200 or 10 x 100/150), B2000 (10 x 200 or 20 x 100/150), B3000 (3000 km of 100, 150 or 200) and B4000 (20 x 200) awards. AUK also created R5000 and R10000 annual awards (5000 and 10000 km of 200+) and the Ultra Randonneur (10 years of SRs) award.

An over-distance route diversion during the 1999 PBP Randonneur resulted in time limits for the 3573 starters being increased by two hours. One Aussie, despite cracking his pelvis en-route, joined 59 other Australians amongst 2977 finishers. New PBP nationalities included Bulgarian (Dimitar Balanski, Vassil Guzelev, Anatasse Ivanov, Valeril Kitantchev and Haroutun Tevekelian), Costa Rican (Manuel Quiros) and Ukrainian (Jurij Lekovski). Van Epps was the first paraplegic Super Randonneur (on a handcycle) but the American did not reach Brest.

Audax Australia’s first Raids were held in 1999, allowing more time than normal brevets. The first British cyclo-sportive took place, the Fred Whitton Challenge.

More Recently

The 2000 LRM calendar listed the first 2000 km brevets (Canada and Scandinavia), alongside 1200 km brevets in Australia, Canada and the USA. Audax Australia started the Dirt Series award (35, 70 and 100 rides at reduced average speeds, mostly on dirt roads and tracks). RUSA introduced R1000 and R2000 annual awards (accumulated RUSA event distance), later adding R3000, R4000 and R5000 awards. AUK created 500 km brevets and the SR2000 annual award (200, 300, 400, 500 and 600). The CTC’s Mille Miglia Challenge began, with certificates and bronze, silver or gold medals for annual totals of 500 km, 1000 km or 1000 miles in their District Association Touring Competition (started in 1952, the DATC became the CTC Touring Competition in 2008). Amusingly, most DATC events are actually AUK brevets, although the CTC have organised Challenge Rides up to 150 km since 2000.

Australia’s first 2000 km brevet (South Australia) was amongst seven events in the 2001 LRM calendar. PBP Audax had 191 starters in two waves and 185 finishers.

There were nine LRM randonnees listed in 2002, including Bulgaria’s Sofia-Varna-Sofia 1200 and five Australian events. Denmark’s Stig Lundgaard became the first randonneur to ride five 1200 brevets in a year. RUSA started self-certifying brevets (valid for domestic awards), including sub-200 populaires.

For the first time at PBP, foreigners outnumbered French in 2003. There were 3457 finishers (64 Australians) from 4069 starters. The Finn Alpo Kuusisto was the first to finish on a kickbike (scooter), not needing the half-hour extended time limit. Joseph Delalande joined fellow Frenchmen Roger Baumann and Jean Toulis with 10 PBP Randonneur finishes. First-time PBP countries included Brazil (Manuel Terra), Greece (Karampasis, Misailidis, Pantazopoulou, Plegas, Spanoudakis and Stavropoulos), India (Anurang Revri), Portugal (Antonio Goncalves-Barbosa and Fernando Silvestre Dos Santos) and Turkey (Osman Isvan).

The 2004 ‘Le Challenge du Centenaire’ 200 km brevet marked the ACP’s 100th year. RUSA started organising permanents and created the American Randonneur Challenge (at least 2 x 1200 RUSA brevets in a year), R-12 (similar to AUK’s RRTY) and Ultra-Randonneur (10 SRs) awards.

In 2005, Audax Australia introduced awards named for historic long-distance cyclists. Sarah Maddock (5 x 100 in a year) was the first woman to ride Sydney to Melbourne (1894) and Sydney to Brisbane and back (1895). Irene Plowman (5 x 200 in a year) held the Sydney-Melbourne record for many years and was renowned for regularly riding overnight to Melbourne to buy material for her dress shop. Percy Armstrong (50, 100, 150 and 200 in a year) took the Sydney-Melbourne record in 1893 and was a pioneer long-distance cycle courier in the Kalgoorlie goldfields. Joseph Pearson (2000 km of 100 and 200) was possibly the first NSW cyclist and the cycle-tourist produced the colony’s first road maps. Arthur Richardson (3000 km of 300, 400 and 600) was the first to ride around Australia (1899). Frank White (5000 km with SR in four years) was a famed overlander, riding 14,500 km from Perth to Rockhampton and back in 1898. RUSA created the Coast-to-Coast 1200 award (finishing four different RUSA 1200 brevets). The first Australian cyclo-sportives were held in Western Australia, most using an unusual team time trial format.

The 2006 PBP Audax had 134 finishers from a single group of 151, an 11% DNF rate.

Poor weather at the 2007 PBP Randonneur doubled the normal 14% DNF rate with 3603 finishers from 5312 starters, despite extra time allowances. 88 Aussies succeeded with Peter Moore and Steve Vesel finishing their fifth PBPs. Americans Paul Bacho, Johnny Bertrand, Thomas Gee, Douglas Kirby and Gary Smith joined compatriot Scott Dickson with six PBPs. Canada’s Dierdre Arscott and Brian Leier also finished their sixth PBPs. AUK’s Jim Hopper and Sheila Simpson completed their seventh PBPs. New countries represented at PBP included Argentina (Pascal Chastin), Chile (Juan Salinas), Estonia (Kristjan Kull), French Guiana (Roger Charruault), Hungary (Peter Borzsak, Istvan Fingerhut and Tamas Jarvas), Israel (Yehoshua Bronshtein, Abraham Cohen and Tal Katzir), Mexico (Braulio Nunez), the Philippines (Cristino Concepcion and Lee Millon), Poland (Fracowiak, Ignasiak, Kadziolka, Kalinowski, Litarowicz and Makuch), Samoa (Raymond McFall), San Marino (Marco Casali), Slovenia (Baloh, Blatnik, Gerlica, Kopac, Nedoh, Santin and Vidmar) and Taiwan (Wen-Cha Cheng). Italian Giorgio Pozzetti died after a heart attack, the first PBP death since 1975.

In 2007, LRM agreed to ratify 1200+ brevets in the same years as future PBPs.

Looking Ahead

Australia’s first Euraudax brevets (provisionally 100, 200 and 300) should take place in 2009 with longer rides likely to be added the following year. These events will qualify riders for the UAF’s “Aigle d’argent” (Silver Eagle – 200, 300, 400, 600 and 1000) and “Aigle d’or” (Golden Eagle – 200, 300, 400, 600, 1000 and PBP Audax) medals. Other Audax disciplines (kayaking, skiing, swimming and walking) have similar cumulative awards, along with “Audax Complet” and “Super Audax Complet” awards for multi-disciplinary achievements.

One Australian professional has won PBP and nearly 230 Australians have finished PBP Randonneur about 300 times but it seems that none have ridden PBP Audax. Interestingly, both PBPs will coincide again in 2011 - I hope to see you there.

Thanks to Keith Benton, Harold Bridge, Francis Cooke, Eric Fergusson, Ian Hennessey, Nev Holgate, Jim Hopper, Neil Irvine, Tim Laugher, Peter Matthews, Russell Moore, Malcolm Rogers, Sheila Simpson, Mike Wigley and Jennifer Wise for putting up with my questions.

It would be prudent to treat this article as indicative rather than definitive. No doubt there are several mistakes, mostly from my transcription errors. Feel free to provide information and corrections, although there are discrepancies between sources, particularly regarding PBP. This article is drawn from a number of books, including ACP booklets, but mostly from various websites including: Audax Australia, Audax Club Parisien, Audax 22.5 Stockholm, Audax UK, Audax USA, L’Union de Audax Francaise, Les Randonneurs Mondiaux, Paris-Brest-Paris, Randonneurs BC, Randonneurs Ontario and Randonneurs USA.


First posted December 2007, revised February 2008