>We triathletes are bike crazy. It’s part of our DNA. We spend hours & hours on the bike. We oogle over the newest speed machine online. We care about the height of our seat (but realize it’s always too high). We dream of aero wheels, carbon cranks, drag coefficients, seat tube angles. Here’s the deal, though. In reality, the distance we put on our steeds pales in comparison to the mileage that randonneurs put on their bikes.
What the heck is a randonneur, you might ask? To find out, Tri Madness interviewed Branson Kimball, a randonneur living in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina. So, sit back & read on. Enjoy this week’s version of Ten Questions With…
|Randonneur Branson Kimball (sporting a GREAT kit from Appalachian State University – my alma mater)|
TM: You’re an ultra-distance cyclist. A Randonneur. What’s the Cliff’s Notes definition of what you do?
BK: A randonneur is basically a long-distance time-trialist who’s not in a huge hurry. We ride predetermined routes against the clock, not against each other. Our routes are generally lengths of 200K, 300K, 400K, 600K, 1000K and 1200K.
TM: Lots of folks cycle. What hooked you on randonneuring?
BK: I had burned out on racing road and mountain bikes, and I loved the idea of doing challenging rides over really long distances. There’s a very active group of randonneurs here in North Carolina, and I’d heard some of their crazy stories. I thought if they could do it, I could too. Once I did my first 200K “brevet,” I wanted to see how far I could go.
TM: In 2007, you completed Paris-Brest-Paris, which is a 750 mile ride. You finished in just under 90 hours. What were some of your high points & low points?
BK: There were lots of both! My lowest point was 2:00am on the third night, slogging up a long climb to the contrôle in Mortagne-au-Perche. I was sleep-deprived, having big-time hallucinations, desperate to lay down on the side of the road and just be done with the whole thing. But I had to keep moving to make the time cut. There were cyclists in slow motion all around me, including two great friends of mine, but nobody was talking. We were zombies on bikes, just trying to make it to the contrôle at the top. My highest point was the finish. I rode in with a Japanese rider I had just met a few miles before. We came in side by side as thousands of strangers cheered us. We were both welling up with tears, then I saw my wife, who hugged me despite my waterlogged funk, and I broke down. Relief, weariness, elation.
TM: What sort of aid & support do you receive during a randonée?
BK: Like most things French, the rules for support are numerous and kinda convoluted. But essentially, like triathletes, we are on our own while we are on the route. No team cars to the rescue. [I’m looking at you, Michael Rasmussen.]
TM: What sort of preparation & training did you do prior to P-B-P?
BK: P-B-P is like Ironman Hawaii: you can’t just show up- you have to qualify. Qualifying for P-B-P is successfully completing a series of 200K, 300K, 400K and 600K brevets. Before 2007, I had never ridden more than 100 miles at one time, so I rode two series and a 1000K prior to P-B-P. Outside of those brevets, almost all of my training was intervals during my bike commute, and a 5-6 hour solo tempo ride on the weekend.
TM: Where is the most memorable place you’ve ridden, and why?
BK: I’ll never forget riding from Villaines-la-Juhel to Fougères during the first day of P-B-P. It was magical. Wide landscapes of rolling meadows, steeples sprinkled far and wide, peeking above the trees, each one marking a hidden village. Cowbells clanking softly, the whir of bicycle chains and murmurs in a dozen languages. Spectacular.
TM: Are you planning on doing P-B-P again? If yes, when? If no, why not?
BK: I’ll definitely line up for P-B-P again. When- that’s harder to say. P-B-P is run every 4 years, with the next just one year away in August 2011. Being a new father, it’s unlikely that I’ll be there, but I’ve learned to never say never.
TM: How would someone get involved in randonneuring if they were interested? Are there organized rides in every state?
BK: Just about every state offers brevets, and brevets are open to everyone. Just go to http://www.RUSA.org and “Search For: Rides.”
TM: How does randonneuring compare to participating in charity rides – such as the MS-150?
BK: The only similarities are that both involve riding bicycles with friends! For example, most charity rides really spoil the riders, compared to brevets where self-sufficiency is the name of the game.
TM: Given the amount of time you spend in the saddle…combined with the, ahem, soreness that invariably ensues…which do you prefer? Shorts or Bibs?
BK: For me, bibs are the only way to go. Many randonneurs prefer shorts because they’re easier for, how shall we say, “extended natural breaks.” But I would never trade hours of comfort for a few minutes of convenience.
TM: Since you’re used to riding so darn far, you get a bonus question. So…given the amount of riding you do, doing a century ride or the 112 miles of an Ironman bike would be just a walk in the park for you, right?
Coming soon: More great “Ten Questions With…” are in the pipeline. Look for interviews with the folks from Wetsuitrental.com and professional triathlete Bree Wee! If you have any suggestions for future interviews, please drop me a line! Thanks for reading!