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Here come the randonneurs

Quiet and undulating roads with scenic views are a highlight of the brevet in Thiruvananthapuram, say members of Trivandrum Bikers Club   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Helmets strapped to their chins and with a tinkle of bicycle bells, cycling enthusiasts in the city and beyond gear up for what is Thiruvananthapuram’s first ever randonneuring event, a.k.a. ‘brevet’, on November 29.

‘God’s Own Vistas’, the brevet that starts from Kuravankonam and goes all the way to Punalur and back via scenic Thenmala, exactly 201 km, has to be completed by participants in 13 hours and 30 minutes.

“It’s a ride rather than a race – brevets are non-competitive. The ride is at your own pace, and you get to enjoy the sights and sounds of the route, with the spirit of friendship and camaraderie coming into play rather than competition. All those who complete the ride get the same recognition irrespective of the position they finish it in. Also, brevets are self-supported rides, which mean that participants cannot receive external support, except at the designated check points. These limits, while challenging, still allow the ride to be completed at a comfortable pace – there is no requirement to cycle at racing speeds or employ road bicycle racing strategies,” explains Santosh Kumar, avid cyclist and a core member of Trivandrum Bikers Club, which is organising the event.

“Over the past year or so, the cycling scene in the city has shifted up a few gears and there are many people who now cycle for fun, fitness, the pure love of cycling, or all three. Brevets have become a common feature in the events calendar of metros such as Hyderabad, Bangalore and Kochi, with tens of riders participating in each, and we thought it is high time for one such event for cyclists in the city,” adds Santosh, who is the director of Human Resources for a multi-national company in Technopark. “I started cycling around two years now after developing a knee problem. I have found it a good exercise regimen, which is largely injury free when compared to walking and running,” he says.

This will be Santosh’s first time pedalling a brevet. “The rides are usually 200km to 1,400 km. First-time participants ideally complete a 200 km ride, before proceeding to a 300 km ride, followed by 400km and 600 km. Riders looking for a bigger challenge can, if they wish, take part in longer distance rides, with the Paris-Brest-Paris, in 90 hours, covering 1,200 km and held every four years, being randonneuring’s most prestigious ride – the dream of just about every randonneur, including myself,” he explains.

A few members of the club went on a recee trip to chart the route for this brevet and to identify locations for check points (official and ‘secret’ ones), which are paced every 20 km or so. Although it’s a beginner’s ride, ‘God’s Own Vistas’ is not your regular brevet, say the organisers. They are even calling it “one of the toughest in India”, a one-of-a-kind brevet ‘where you can get high conquering the climbs, be thrilled blasting downhill and get a kick out of sprinting across the flats’.

“For one, the route is very scenic, winding through valleys, hills, rivers, and lush forests to the seafront at Sanghumughom and the city itself. Secondly, the terrain of the district is largely rolling, with around 60 to 70 km of the first 100 km, for example, being an uphill ride,” explains IT consultant Praveen R., another member of the core team. He is a randonnuer, having earned his stripes at a 200km brevet in Kochi last year, where he rode from Palarivattam to Chalakudy via Athirapally and back, coming in an hour under the prescribed time.

“Anyone, men and women, the old and the young, with a bit of interest in cycling can do a 200 km brevet. It’s just that you have to overcome the mental block. Already a dozen cyclists have signed up for the event, with a handful of participants hailing from other cities too. We aim to make many randonneurs out of the cyclists in the city,” says Praveen. Ride on!

What's a brevet?

Brevet or Brevet de Randonneur Mondiaux (BRM) is a long-distance bicycle ride in the sport of randonneuring, where participants follow a designated but unmarked route, within prescribed time limits, checking in at control points along the way. Brevets are also called audax rides or ‘randonées’ [meaning ramble in French], with the riders known as randonneurs. The event in the city is being organised in accordance with the rules set out by the sport’s governing body Audax Club Parisien, based in France, and in association with Audax India Randonneurs.

Going the distance

Randonnuer Manu Balasree, a veteran of sorts, who completed three brevets - 200 km, 300 km and 400 km last season and is also a member of the core team, has some tricks up his sleeve to finish the ride comfortably. “They key to completing a brevet is to meticulously plan, manage and execute the ride. Start training for the ride well in advance to build up stamina. Since it’s a self-supported ride, you yourself have to fix whatever mechanical issues that may arise. So carry a puncture kit, hand pump and the likes. Take food that weighs less but gives more calories, items such as chocolates, peanut bars and protein bars. Be sure to drink water/ ORS and hydrate yourself every few minutes even if you don’t fell the need, especially on stretches of road where there is less shade, where the heat and humidity can get the better of you. Read the map and the route carefully and try as far as possible to ride with a group, not only for help, in case there is a mechanical failure of some sort, but for moral support too,” he says.

The Route: Kuravankonam- Kowdiar- Ambalamukku- Nedumangad- Thenmala- Punalur- Kottarakara-Kilimanoor- Attingal- Kazhakuttom- Chakka- Shanghumugham- Palayam- Museum- Kowdiar

Distance: 201 km

Time: 5.30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For details, contact: 09400727982, email: trivandrumbikersclub2013@gmail.com. or log on to the Trivandrum Biker’s Club Facebook page

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 5:38:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/thiruvananthapuram-randonneuring-event-brevet/article6590761.ece

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