On the 12th of June, 1897, a group of Italian cyclists travelled the route between Rome and Naples, a distance of 230 kilometers, in a single day. Given the difficult cycling conditions of that time, this effort was considered to be “audacious”.

In France, at the end of the nineteenth century, the first cycle tourists had begun to organise, together with hikers. The creation of the Touring Club de France, on March 31, 1890, was the result of this coming together.

In 1904, Henri Desgrange, founder of the Tour de France in the previous year, founded Audax France on the model of Audax Italiano. He conferred on the Audax Club Parisien, newly created on November 30, 1904, the authority to certify brevets ridden under Audax rules in France.

From the outset, the club was a success. The A.C.P. members were all experienced cycle tourists hardened by long distance cycling. They became adept at the task of “ride captain”, and at guiding group rides at an 18 kilometer per hour pace, which, until 1945, was considered to be the correct Audax pace.

At that time, only the 200 kilometer distance was considered to be a brevet, the completion of which entitled a cyclist to be designated “Audax”. Beyond this, rides of 300 and 400 kilometers, were organised by the A.C.P.. 600 kilometer rides would appear a little later.

By 1921, the designation of “Audax” had been conferred on about 4,500 French cyclists.

Le Velo

In that year, Victor Breyer (Translator’s note: formerly a journalist with Paris-Velo and a sometime colleague of Henri Degrange: he was the journalist who researched and scouted the original route for Paris – Roubaix), who at that time was editor of the newspaper L’Echo des Sports, undertook to organise a hiking event that had been in abeyance, the Polymultipliee. He asked for the assistance of the A.C.P. which had helped to stage the two previous editions of this event in 1913 and 1914.

The assistance given by the club to L’Echo des Sports, a competitor of L’Auto, prompted Henri Desgrange to write an editorial in that paper rescinding the right of the A.C.P. to certify Audax brevets.

This led to a break up of the organisation. Several ride captains and hikers left the A.C.P. and continued to organise their events under the direction of L’Auto. They created L’Union des Audax Cyclistes Parisiens (U.A.C.P.) which was later to become L’Union des Audax Francaises (U.A.F.).

The U.A.F. today certifies brevets ridden at a constant speed of 22.5 kilometers per hour ridden under the direction of ride captains, whom riders may not overtake. These rides are known as Brevets Audax.

Those members that remained loyal to the A. C. P. immediately organised the Brevets des Randonneurs Francaises over distances between 200 and 600 kilometers, to be ridden at a pace chosen by each ride participant. The first 300 kilometer event was held on the 11th of June, 1922; the first 400 kilometer ride on the 22nd of July 1923; and the first 600 kilometer ride on the 30th of June and the 1st of July, 1928.

Abernat 1920

The first 1,000 kilometer event was organised somewhat later, on the 15th of August, 1934, three years after the first Paris – Brest – Paris in which non-professional cyclists were permitted.

In 1991, the club celebrated the centenary of Paris – Brest – Paris, an event first organised by Le Petit Journal in 1891.

Another noteworthy event was the creation, in 1923, of the Federation Francaise des Societes de Cyclotourisme (FFSC) which grouped together French clubs devoted to bicycle tourism. Gaston Clement, a founding member of the A.C.P. was the first president of this organisation. This Federation became, in 1942, the Federation Francais de Cyclotourisme (F.F.C.T.) that remains the principal association of French cycle tourism to this day.

Today, the Audax Club Parisien is one of the largest cycling clubs in Paris and in France. Since 1976, brevets certified by the A.C.P. have been ridden in countries outside of France. These are known as the Brevets des Randonneurs Mondiaux.

History of Randonneuring in India

On 31 January 2010, a group of about 60 cyclists, including 5 riders from Pune, gathered in the pre-dawn hours, at a traffic island near Worli Seaface, Mumbai. We had signed up to ride 200 kms within 13.5 hrs. This was the first Brevet (BRM) ever to be conducted in India and most of the riders had never before attempted riding such a distance within a day! By the end of the day, India had its first group of successful randonneurs, and India had arrived on the global randonneuring scene.

In August 2010, Divya Tate of Pune Randonneurs took the lead in organizing Brevets, starting with India’s first overnight Brevets, a 400-km BRM in August, followed by a 600-km BRM in September 2010. Though the first Brevet was organised in Mumbai by the then-representative Satish Patki under the club name of Randonneurs India, he neglected to organize any rides during the PBP qualification year 2010-11. Pune Randonneurs in its second year of organising BRMs provided both Pune and Mumbai randonneurs with a full series of brevets to qualify for PBP2011. R Venkatachalam of Bangalore Brevets started organised BRMs in Bangalore in January 2011, drawing a large participation right from the start and offering a 1000-km BRM for the first time in India.

That was the year of PBP 2011 and after qualifying as super-randonneurs, 15 people represented India at the Paris-Brest-Paris Randonneur in France for the first time. (Read more about India’s participation in the PBP ) After PBP 2011, and before that calendar year was over, Delhi joined in, with BRMs organised by Chiro Mitra and Manas Arvind . The following year 2011-12, Sunil Menon of Hyderabad (Hyderabad Cycling Club) and Partha Datta of Chennai (Madras Randonneurs) also started organising brevets; while in Bangalore, BRMs were being organised by Sreepathi Pai of IISc Randonneurs. Anil Uchil of Mumbai Randonneurs took on the organising of brevets in Mumbai. With six cities now conducting brevets, it was time to scale up the Organisation of Randonneuring in India. Audax India Randonneurs (AIR) was formed in October 2011, when Satish Patki of Randonneurs India resigned as the representative to ACP in the face on united opposition from Organisers and Riders across the country. Link to Details of COMPLAINTS against him.

Goa Randonneurs started off in March 2012 with Ajay Dongre and Terence Moniz started organising brevets in Goal; and this calendar year, Pradeep Menon of Cochin has got approval for two BRMs in 2013. Eight cities in three years is a phenomenal growth, providing randonneurs across the country with a wide choice of climates, terrain and routes to choose from. This year, for the first time in India, two 1200-km BRMs have been planned. One will be conducted by Anil Uchil of Mumbai Randonneurs and the other by Chidambaram S. of Bangalore Bikers Club. Another first this year is a Fleche in February 2013 planned by Arvind Ganesh of Bangalore Bikers Club.

The first Brevet de Randonneur Mondiaux was conducted in India in January 2010. In the year-and-a-half that followed, BRMs were conducted in 3 cities. Of these, 15 Super-randonneurs, 5 each from Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore, registered to ride in Paris-Brest-Paris Randonneur 2011. This was the first time that India was participating, and only one woman had qualified and registered.

Many riders almost lost their chance to come for PBP 2011 as the French Consulate in Mumbai refused visas to five riders. However, thanks to an official invitation letter from ACP and a personal guarantee by the Pune Organiser, the Consulate finally did grant visas. All 15 participants from India started the PBP 2011, although one rider was granted his visa only two days before PBP and managed to reach Paris just the day prior to his ride.

Two riders (Samim Rizvi and Kailas Patil) completed the route successfully within their respective times. Another rider (Shreyas Kumar M.) completed the route outside of 90 hours; a claim is being investigated by the homologation team, and his final ride result is still awaited at the time of writing this report

All the others had to abandon the ride at various stages between Carhaix and Dreux… an outcome that was not up to the expectations we had set for ourselves. The high dropout rate could be attributed to the challenges of travelling to a foreign country with cycles for the first time, dealing with climate and environment changes, jet lag and obtaining the right food (for the vegetarians amongst us), as also the fact that India was debuting at the PBP. However, the combined experience and guidance of this pioneering team should help India put up a much better performance in PBP 2015.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the organizers and their team of volunteers who extended every assistance along the route to all the riders and made this ride a truly memorable one for all the participants. And a very special “thank you” to the people of France for being such gracious hosts, especially those along the entire PBP route, who encouraged us in every possible manner.