Randonneuring in the upper Midwest
Continues to grow and add events
By Richard Mueller
Since last March’s Silent Sports article on Randonneuring in the upper Midwest, the sport has continued to grow and more challenging events are awaiting riders who are interested and well prepared.
Randonneuring is long-distance unsupported bicycling that offers sanctioned events (the rides are called brevets and populaires) that have a time limit, but are not races. The sport is known much more for its camaraderie than for its competitiveness. Anyone interested in long-distance cycling – including cyclists who tour, race or compete in triathlons – may wish to consider this form of riding to increase their training mileage, explore other areas of the beautiful upper Midwest, try new or different events, and enjoy the company of like-minded cyclists.
There are several randonneur groups in the Upper Midwest including:
* Minnesota Randonneurs – based in the Twin Cities, Rochester, Western Wisconsin and Sioux Falls, S. Dak.
* Great Lakes Randonneurs – based in Delevan, Wis.
* Iowa North – based in Ames, Iowa.
* Quad Cities – based in Davenport, Iowa.
* Western Wisconsin – based in Richland Center, Wis.
* Falls Area Randonneurs – based in Sioux Falls, S. Dak. – part of Minnesota Randonneurs until 2017.
There are about 50 randonneuring groups across the US and many other randonneur organizations are active in countries around the world. A full list of the rides scheduled in the U.S. can be found on the Randonneurs USA (RUSA) website at www.rusa.org.
To provide an update on how last year wrapped up and to ask what is in store for this year, I contacted Rob Welsh, Regional Brevet Administrator (RBA) of the Minnesota Randonneurs and what he reported follows.
This was a Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) 1200K year (this event is held once every four years) and we had a great showing, with 16 Minnesota Randonneur riders travelling to France for the event. A total of 6,000 riders from all over the world participated in an event that has been run since 1891. The ride starts on the outskirts of Paris, heads west to the coastal city of Brest in northwest France then back to Paris. Riders have 90 hours to complete 1230K (780 miles). Over 85% completed PBP in 2015. What makes PBP so special – aside from the challenge of the ride and the opportunity to make new friends from around the world – is the unbelievable support the local French people show the riders, cheering them on at all hours of the day and night, offering snacks, meals and refreshments along the route. They also volunteer support for the 10 controle stops along the way that provide sleeping accommodations, food, first aid and repairs.
Here in Minnesota, we had another excellent year with continued growth in the number of riders doing our events and a growing variety of events, including traditional road rides from 100-600K in length, gravel rides (100-150K) and several urban events (100-200K) that utilize the great cycling infrastructure within the Twin Cities.
A big change is the way RUSA ensures randonneur events will make it easy for cycling enthusiasts to try randonneuring without having to pay event insurance fees or join RUSA. All events less than 200k (125 miles), which includes about 2/3 of our rides, are now insured by RUSA at no cost to local randonneur groups. Minnesota Randonneurs does not charge any additional fees to ride these events, so these are free and open to anyone.
Rides longer than 200K (300K, 400K, 600K, 1000K and the Fleche team ride) do require either a RUSA membership ($25/year) or a $5/day fee to cover insurance costs. Some longer rides (600K, 1000K and the Fleche event) do have fees to cover logistical costs such as bag drops, overnight sleep stops, food and support.
With a full calendar of events (30 in all), there are a wide variety of long distance cycling opportunities available in 2016. Visit the website at www.MinnesotaRandonneurs.org for the full schedule with descriptions and registration information as well as ride reports, pictures and other information for randonneurs.
Some 2016 event highlights in Minnesota and Wisconsin include:
* May 20-21 Fleche team ride. This is a classic randonneur event run every spring around the world and it is one of the most fun to do. Riders put together a team of 3-5 members (tandems count as one member), develop a route of at least 360K (230 miles) that ends up in Woodbury on the east side of the Twin Cities metroplex, and ride it in exactly 24 hours. The emphasis is on cooperatively working together as a team, following the route and rules accurately and enjoying the experience. A reception with pizza and cold refreshments greets teams on Saturday afternoon and we gather again the next morning for a buffet breakfast, to present some fun awards and give each team the chance to talk about their experience.
* July 30-31 – Black River Falls Randonneur weekend in Black River Falls, Wis. Enjoy great routes on some of the nicest roads you will find anywhere with a ride on Saturday (200K or 300K), Sunday (100K or 200K) and a BBQ on Saturday evening.
* Aug 18-21 – Northwoods Ramble 1000K, Woodbury, MN. Challenge yourself with a 625-mile ride in 75 hours or less, starting in Woodbury in the eastern Twin Cities metroplex, heading up to Duluth and the North Shore, where the very popular Tall Ships® exhibition (http://tallshipsduluth.com/) will be going on, back through Western Wisconsin down to Nelson/Wabasha then back up through SE Minnesota to the finish in Woodbury. The route will pass through many small towns in Minnesota and Wisconsin on some of the best roads in the U.S. Expect lots of forests, lakes, rivers and streams. The terrain is moderate, with some rolling hills and the occasional longer uphill, but no super granny gears are needed. The 1000km course overall has less than 20,000’ of climbing. Overnight stops with food at quality hotels are included along with bag drops, on-route support and lots of encouragement. There are no formal qualifications to enter but a good training program would include a Super Randonneur series (see below) and lots of miles on the bike under day- and night-riding conditions.
* Four gravel rides of 100-150K, with routes in Rosemount and Rochester with two more under development.
* Several urban events of 100-200K, based in the Twin Cities that utilize the great cycling infrastructure in the metroplex. A favorite event is the City Slickers 200K (Sat., May 7th) that circumnavigates the Twin Cities.
* Two Super Randonneur series that offer the rider the opportunity to complete a Super Randonneur (SR) series of 200K, 300K, 400K and 600K in a single season. This is a significant accomplishment for any randonneur, with special medals and recognition at the RUSA national level. In 2016, over 30 Minnesota Randonneurs completed a SR series. A few did two or even three series.
* South Dakota randonneuring – this is the final season of a four-year program where Minnesota Randonneurs has supported the development of randonneuring in South Dakota. Next year they will be a fully independent randonneur group directly reporting to RUSA. This year the Falls Area Randonneur group, based in Sioux Falls, is offering a full Super Randonneur series and welcomes any visitors for their excellent routes. Note in particular their new 600K event scheduled for September 10-11, the first event of this length ever offered in the state.
If you are interested in increasing your training mileage for touring, racing, triathlons, enjoyment, etc., or if you just like the idea of long-distance bicycling with like-minded cyclists, give riding with a randonneuring group in your area a try. Randonneur events are challenging so be prepared, but the environment is very supportive and the pace and non-competitive aspect of randonneuring encourages cooperation and riding together to reach the goal of finishing every event.
Richard Mueller has ridden with the Minnesota Randonneurs for three seasons.