VIVE LE ROUTE

Ul­tra cy­cling, and the rise of Au­dax Ran­don­neur Malaysia

Cycling Plus (Malaysia) - - THE HUB -

rance’s coun­try­side is home to some of the most beau­ti­ful and bru­tally chal­leng­ing nat­u­ral ter­rains, in­clud­ing the in­fa­mous French Alps, where the up­hill climbs leave cy­clists sali­vat­ing the world over. It comes as no sur­prise that the Tour de France is eas­ily one of the most iconic and well known cy­cling events, with a his­tory that spans more than a cen­tury. How­ever, there is an­other cat­e­gory of cy­cling that the coun­try has given birth to, one of the old­est dis­ci­plines if not the old­est: Ran­don­neur­ing.

This ver­sion of ul­tra cy­cling is dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent from Italy’s great Grand Fondo tra­di­tion, which is essen­tially still a race. Also known as au­dax cy­cling, the ran­don­neurs or en­durance road cy­clists who par­tic­i­pate in these events are def­i­nitely in a league of their own, of­ten per­se­ver­ing through the harsh­est con­di­tions over great dis­tances, much longer rid­ing miles than non cy­clists can fathom. Equal recog­ni­tion is given to a cy­clist re­gard­less

Fof their fin­ish­ing or­der in a ran­don­née or brevet event, as the goal is to safely com­plete the ride within the time limit. In­ter­est­ingly enough, it can be ar­gued that the sport ac­tu­ally has its ori­gins in Italy, and not France. This is be­cause these day-long chal­lenge sports be­came fairly pop­u­lar in the late 19th cen­tury, and it then spread to other coun­tries.

But don’t cen­tury rides and those that go be­yond al­ready qual­ify for that cat­e­gory? Not quite. An au­dax event has a min­i­mum 200km dis­tance, go­ing up to 300km, 400km, 600km and 1,000km.

Those who com­plete all four shorter dis­tances within a sin­gle cal­en­dar year will then earn the ti­tle of Su­per Ran­don­neur. For those who are start­ing out, you could earn the Ran­don­neur 1000 ti­tle by mix­ing and match­ing the dif­fer­ent events to achieve 1,000km in mileage. But these are not merely about dis­tance, be­cause they of­ten in­clude some pretty chal­leng­ing hill or moun­tain climbs as well. The longer rides could even have sev­eral.

If this is al­ready start­ing to sound mind bog­glingly ex­treme, con­sider the fact that some ac­com­plish­ments in the field take more than a year to achieve. For in­stance, recog­ni­tion is also given to ran­don­neurs who chalk up 2,500km 5,000km, 3,500km, 4,500km and 10,000km in mileage within a given time pe­riod.

The most pres­ti­gious au­dax event around the world is without a doubt the Paris–brest–paris, which the Au­dax

Club Parisien or­gan­ises ev­ery four years. Essen­tially, it is one of the old­est bi­cy­cling events still reg­u­larly run since the first edi­tion in 1891, al­though it was orig­i­nally run as a race back in 1951. Rid­ers have a time limit of 90 hours (just shy of 4 days) to com­plete 1,200km.

With its roots in France, ran­don­neur­ing is ob­vi­ously pop­u­lar in its home coun­try, but has a fol­low­ing in a lot of coun­tries around the globe. Here in Malaysia, long

“Our coun­try has been grow­ing very well since 2016, when we had only 2 BRMS. In 2017 we had 5, and this year (2018) we have had one ev­ery month.”

dis­tance cy­cling has fast been gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity over the last few years, thanks to the set­ting up of the lo­cal chap­ter, Au­dax Ran­don­neur Malaysia.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion over­sees the run­ning of long-dis­tance cy­cling events in the coun­try, val­i­dat­ing and record­ing each ride us­ing a sys­tem of timed check­points.

Set up in 2015, the or­gan­i­sa­tion was first started by Sam Tow, who first came across long dis­tance cy­cling when he was study­ing in Perth, Aus­tralia. Upon re­turn­ing to Malaysia he met some new friends who were also in­ter­ested in cov­er­ing great dis­tances by bi­cy­cle without rac­ing.

“We en­joy rid­ing at our own pace, meet­ing lo­cal peo­ple, try­ing lo­cal food, mak­ing new friends; what we usu­ally don’t get to do in cen­tury rides,” Sam ex­plains. “Our first long dis­tance ride was 200kms from Ka­par to Sun­gai Be­sar- Kam­pung Soe­harto.

When we posted the in­vite in Face­book, ev­ery­one said we were in­sane. There were 10 peo­ple in our group and al­most all of us com­pleted the ride. We then or­ga­nized more long dis­tance rides, in­clud­ing a 270km ride and 320km dou­ble cen­tury from KL to Pe­nang and ev­ery­one en­joyed it.”

Nat­u­rally, the ob­vi­ous fo­cus then turned to form­ing an or­gan­i­sa­tion for all these ac­tiv­i­ties. An email query to Au­dax Club Parisien a year af­ter their first long ride was an­swered with an­other question, had they been hold­ing any such events in other coun­tries?

Au­dax was not pop­u­lar enough within the cy­clist com­mu­nity at the time, but nev­er­the­less, the folks in France were re­cep­tive. “Af­ter a few months, ACP posted some con­tracts for me to sign. The agree­ment re­quired us to or­gan­ise events which fol­low their rules,” says Sam.

With the help of his friends Johnny

Lee and Jo­han Sopiee, Sam or­gan­ised the first Brevets de Ran­don­neurs Mon­di­aux (BRM for short) or au­dax event. They set a mod­est tar­get of 40 friends tak­ing part, and were sur­prised when the num­ber of peo­ple who turned up was 10 times their orig­i­nal es­ti­mate.

Since then, the club has gone from strength to strength. “Our coun­try has been grow­ing very well since 2016, when we had only 2 BRMS. In 2017 we had 5, and this year (2018) we have had one ev­ery month.”

In be­tween these events, the Au­dax Malaysia com­mit­tee holds talks de­signed to help par­tic­i­pants com­plete their first BRM safely. These knowl­edge shar­ing work­shops are held free of charge for all the Ran­don­neurs and new­bies.

And they’re fairly ef­fec­tive too. “We had a group of ladies who went straight for BRM400. And they all fin­ished it!” says Ray Lee, Au­dax Malaysia Route Plan­ner and Work­shop Co­or­di­na­tor. “These work­shops will tell you ev­ery­thing you should ex­pect on an au­dax ride, so you can pre­pare for any­thing.”

For now, Sam and his team are busy pre­par­ing for the BRM1000 in Septem­ber, in what looks like the long­est bike ride in Malaysia ever at­tempted. Would this be one for the Malaysia Book of Records? It’s still un­cer­tain, es­pe­cially since there is a bit of money in­volved.

Ei­ther way, there’s ab­so­lutely no doubt that Sam and his group of ul­tra cy­clists are a force to be reck­oned with. Per­haps you’ll see them on the road one day, mak­ing their way steadily but surely to re­mote and un­known des­ti­na­tions.

For more in­for­ma­tion on Au­dax Ran­don­neur Malaysia, log on to https://au­dax­malaysia.com

SAM TOWCoun­try Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Bi­cy­cle: Col­nago

CHINGH TANAs­sis­tant Coun­try Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Per­ma­nent / Fleches Na­tionales Co­or­di­na­tor Bi­cy­cle: Ri­d­leyRAY LEERoute Plan­ner, Work­shop Co­or­di­na­tor Bi­cy­cle: GustoJO­HAN SOPIEEAs­sis­tant Coun­try Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Bi­cy­cle: Fo­cus

Au­dax Ran­don­neur Malaysia team com­mit­tee (L-R) Ray Lee, Jo­han Sopiee, Sam Tow, Chingh Tan. Not pic­tured: Johnny Lee & Ja­son Koh

Ran­don­neurs are equally at home on nor­mal paved roads and gravel on their long multi-day cy­cling jour­neys that are also self sup­ported

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