What to expect on a Brevet
A brevet (e.g. Horse Pens 40 200K) is a bit different from the century or club rides that you may be used to. The following will give you an overview of what to expect, along with some tips that will hopefully make this an enjoyable and successful experience!
Before the Event
Your responsibility as a participant includes:
- Showing up in reasonable physical condition for the event
- Bringing a reliable bike in good working order
- Complying with all traffic laws along the course
- Respecting the rights of all other users of the route (including pedestrians)
- Planning for the situation where you can’t finish the ride
If you are not already a member of RUSA, consider joining. The membership dues are very reasonable, and you will be able to get ‘credit’ for each brevet you complete by having your results officially recorded. This credit is in the form of awards for various levels of achievement. More importantly, if you plan someday to ride one of the longer brevets like a 1200k (e.g. PBP), you will need to officially complete a series of qualifying events as a RUSA member.
One big difference between brevets and other organized rides is that the course is not marked with arrows. You will be given a cue-sheet to follow. You should have some sort of cue-sheet holder for your bike — I find that a binder clip strapped with nylon ties or Velcro to the handlebar or stemworks very well. You should download a preview of the cue sheet from the website, and checkout your system ahead of time. You may want to reformat the cue sheet to improve the readability.
Since navigation is a big part of brevet riding, it’s a good idea to review the cue sheet ahead of time. Maps of the routes are posted ahead of time.
If there’s a chance of rain, it’s a good idea to laminate your cue-sheet. Otherwise, the cue sheet will become a soggy mess and eventually disintegrate. You can buy inexpensive peel-on lamination sheets at any office supply store. The lamination also helps stiffen the cue sheet and prevents it from flapping in the breeze while you’re riding. Before laminating your sheet, check the web-site for any updates … there might be some last minute changes due to road construction.
Make sure you have all the equipment you need and it’s in good working order.
If you’re traveling far to the event, you may want to consider staying at a nearby hotel on the night before the event.
The week before the event, you can keep training but taper down towards the end of the week so you are well rested.
Day of the Event
Wake-up early enough to eat a good breakfast and give yourself enough time to arrive at the start without feeling rushed.
Plan to arrive at the ride start about an hour before the scheduled departure time.
There will be a sign-in sheet for you to sign. You will then receive your brevet card that you must keep with you for the entire ride.
Do any last minute preparations (assemble bike, pump tires, fill water bottles, etc.) and review your checklist.
About 10 minutes before the scheduled ride start, there will be a brief rider meeting to discuss any last minute route changes, road closures, and answer any questions that riders might have.
At the end of the meeting, the ride officially starts and riders depart as a group.
During the Event
You may ride at your own pace alone, or with a group of like-minded cyclists. While brevet events are not races, there are some riders who will like to finish quickly in order to improve a personal best time. Other riders may choose to take a more leisurely pace and enjoy the great scenery on the route. Some riders prefer to ride alone while others enjoy the camaraderie of riding in a group. You are free to choose the style of riding that suits you best. A list of registered riders is posted before the event so you can make any group arrangements ahead of time.
On the route, there will be a number of ‘controls‘ or checkpoints. Each control has an opening and closing time. You must reach each control before the closing time in order to officially be recognized as a finisher. While the minimum average speed to reach the controls is rather modest (about 10 MPH), the clock is always ticking even while you are stopped. It’s best to keep your scheduled stops as short as possible. Newcomers are often amazed at how efficiently experienced Randonneurs are at getting through a control. Controls are typically at a convenience store … you may buy some food and at the check-out counter, you present your brevet card to the clerk. Ask the clerk to initial or stamp the card in the appropriate box and fill in the time using 24-hour notation (e.g. 13:30 for 1:30PM).
There may also be ‘information’ controls and/or ‘postcard’ controls. An information control is usually located at some out of the way area (like the top of a long climb). At the designated area, you stop and fill in your own card with the time and record the answer to a question about something in the general area listed in your card. A typical question might be: “What is the percent grade listed on the downhill truck warning sign?” For a postcard control, the control is at a mailbox where you sign a postcard given to you at the check-in and drop it in the mailbox. Indicate your time on the brevet card and initial it.
There may also be an unannounced ‘secret control‘ along the way, staffed by a volunteer. It’s important to stay on course. If you get lost, you must work your way back to the point where you got off course and avoid the temptation to take any shortcuts. Otherwise, you risk missing a secret control which at minimum will result in a time penalty and may result in a DQ.
Randonneuring is all about self-sufficiency: you are not allowed to get any support from a following car between controls. You may, however, have a support car meet you at a control. You may also stop along the way to get anything you need, you may get help from your fellow Randonneur, or you may get assistance from event volunteers.
In case of an emergency, call 911 if you need medical aid. Be sure that you have a personal ID with you that have contact and medical insurance information in case you’re knocked unconscious.
The cue sheet has a phone numbers to contact me if you run into difficulties or plan to withdraw from the ride. If you feel like quitting, it may be an indication that you’re not eating enough. You may encounter a particularly tough stretch and feel overwhelmed if you think about the whole ride remaining ahead of you. Instead, think about just getting to the next control or store, take a break and eat something — before you know it, you’ll be on the home stretch to the finish control.
If you are still out riding past the cut-off time, please contact me on my cell phone to let me know your intentions and that you’re doing ok.
Sign the brevet card on the back, and present it to the volunteer at the finish for the final initial/time entry or deposit card in location specified during the pre-ride instruction. The cards will be validated by RUSA and then mailed back to you at the end of the year. Within a couple of days, preliminary results will be posted on the Alabama Randonneurs website. After that, the results will be posted on the RUSA website.
If you are very tired, it may be a good idea to take a nap before a long drive home.
Revised 10/10/11 – Inspired by PA Randonneurs