Training For Randonneur Cycling

BC Randonneurs Cycling Club

Training For Randonneur Cycling, Case 3: Deirdre Arscott

The Commuter Plus Plan
by Eric Fergusson

Deirdre Arscott is a year-round commuter cyclist. She has been cycling for most of her life and has been a randonneur cyclist for 22 years. She has completed PBP (Paris-Brest-Paris) six times and also is one of the few of randonneurs anywhere to have earned six BR 5000 pins ("Brevet de Randonneur 5000 km"). She has been a Super Randonneur 20 times. Every year Deirdre does at least the number of brevets for her to qualify as a Super Randonneur, and then moves on to her summer riding which includes some touring and often (usually) at least one 1000 or 1200 km randonnée.

Deirdre complains sometimes about her out-of-season conditioning, but you won't find too many people with such a high level of year-round fitness. She bikes the 7 km to work and then home almost every working day. Sometimes she walks or runs the same route. She supplements this with some after-work cardiovascular work and weight training at her fitness club. On off-season weekends she often runs, cross-country skis, and roller blades, as well as cycles. I don't have the impression that she is necessarily training for the randonneur season when she is doing these other activities - I think she just enjoys the activities. But her general fitness is an important factor in allowing her to comfortably take the next steps in preparing for the coming season.

Her preparations for PBP '99 serve as a good model, so let's take a closer look at this. As early as January Deirdre started including longer weekend rides in her schedule. The plan was to start with a modest distance (~50 km) and increase by 10-15% each week. Once the brevet season began she made it part of her weekly routine to ride the road up to the Seymour ski resort in North Vancouver (about 12 kms from base to chairlifts - medium grade steepness), as well as running/hiking the 'Grouse Grind'. On her Sunday rides, she rode with some strong cycling partners who could push her pace and help her to build cycling strength. Deirdre has said that having extra strength (and the resulting extra speed) is important to her because it allows her extra time for sleep on rides over 400 km.

The principle here is pretty clear. Establish a solid general fitness level through commuter cycling and other fitness activities, and then prepare for the randonneur season by adding a serious weekend ride. Once the randonneur cycling season begins, the brevets themselves become the long Sunday rides, and so hill work and also speed and strength training can become the focus.

Cool as a cornichon !
No PBP jitters here. Hours before PBP '99
Deirdre catches up on some knitting.
Photo: Denis Préfontaine

© Eric Fergusson 1999, revised as needed