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 occurred 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 comprising 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 pre-date Audax Australia. Moore began the Green Valley Century (100 miles) in 1976 in New South Wales (NSW), modeled 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, based on British Reliability Rides. Long Victorian rides 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. The AUK's first 100 km brevet took place. The Greenhow Hill Super Grimpeur was a domestically homologated, multi-lap, climbing brevet with a challenging time limit, similar to the now-discontinued French TA Super Grimpeur events. AUK introduced Brevet Populaires a few years later; most are shorter than 200 km and many have minimum averages below 15 km/h. Ireland’s first Wicklow 200 was held, the non-competitive challenge nowadays attracting about 1000 riders.
AUK created their Brevet 5000 award in 1982, akin to the ACP’s R5000 although the qualifying requirements have varied over time. The first Race Across AMerica (RAAM, originally the Great American Bike Race) took place and other American long-distance cycle races followed, often no-drafting massed-start affairs like the John Marino Open (now the Furnace Creek 508). Australia’s Gerry Tatrai won the 1993 and 1998 RAAMs, between finishing the 1987, 1991 and 1999 PBPs. Some events pre-date RAAM, such as the Bicycle Across Missouri (540 miles in under 72 hours).
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 at PBP for the first time included Finland (Hannu Hauhia, Paavo Nurminen and Matti Vimpari), Ireland (Liam Little), Italy (Elio Lana) and Japan (Kyoji Kobayashi). New ancienne countries were Belgium (C Van Laarhoven) and Germany (Birgit Lutzenberger). Frenchmen G Duchene, JC Gony and L Guerin were the first to ride 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 started organising ACP brevets including Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and Ukraine. LRM validates virtually every 1200+ km brevet organised similarly to PBP, the main exception being PBP itself, homologated by the ACP.
There are many brevets ratified by local or national groups, rather than by the ACP or LRM, such as 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 and ranging up to several thousand kilometers 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 often earn gold, silver or bronze medals, depending on age, sex and finish time. The Kelloggs Sustain Cycling Challenge was a 120 km time trial north of Sydney in 1992 and 1993. It was one of the first Australian mass-participation cycling challenges of worthwhile distance, albeit with an unusual format.
Charity fundraising bike rides also proliferated during this time. North 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 their 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’ (since 1976, 54 miles and limited to 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 16,000 riders, first held in 1993 but originally an Audax Australia brevet) and 'Sydney to the Gong' (up to 90 km and 13,000 riders, 1982) are Australia’s biggest one-day rides.
The first Opperman All Day Trial (OADT) took place in 1985, the first non-French Fleche. The 1993 ‘Endorphins’ (Guy Green, Mark Hastie, Derek McKean, Nick Skewes) engraved the greatest distance onto the Opperman Shield - 770 km (team member Ken Mayberry rode 762 km). Originally finishing in Albury and Perth on the same day and then on various dates in different states, nowadays every OADT team is 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 called the ‘Bright Ride’. This Australian brevet now has over 2000 riders pedaling between 70 to 250 hilly kilometers. AUK created the Audax Altitude Award (AAA), with points earned on the basis of cumulative climbing, promoting shorter and more scenic and thus hillier events.
In 1987, 2117 randonneurs finished the ‘wet PBP’ (2597 starters), though half the Americans did not. For the next decade, this result meant rookie American PBPers needed extra qualifying rides, either an additional SR the previous year or a 1000 km brevet on top of the normal SR. 12 Australians finished including Aileen Martin, our first “ancienne du PBP” (female PBP finisher). The first Scandinavian anciennes were Dagny Aurlund (Norway) and Ewa Erikssun (Sweden) and the first Canadian ladies were Arscott, Elm, Howorth, Leier, Lepsoe, Turner and Watt. Danish (Arnung, Brandt, Christian, Damm, Doygaard, Hansen, Lyngsaa, Olsen, Rasmussen and Roboz) Chilean (Sergio Villagran), and South African (Karl Geugis) men also finished PBP for the first time. AUK’s Felicity Beard was the first tricycling ancienne while Barry Parslow and Mark Brooking rode the first tandem trike.