Brevet, an international cycling event that makes its debut in Kochi, Kerala, will give an impetus to the sport and a healthy lifestyle.
Pedalling into the city, in the New Year, is the international cycling event Brevet. Kochi will be hosting this long distance cycling event, for the first time, on January 19, and will be the eighth city in India to join the group of cities to hold a Brevet. The city has over the last few years built up a fairly large community of committed bikers. Many clubs that encourage the sport have sprung up. This Brevet called the Cochin Classic 200 BRM (Brevets Randonneuts Mondiaux) is organised by city-based clubs Cochin Bikers Club (CBC) and The Happy Bikers. The two have been active in promoting the sport by organising city events consistently and encouraging folks to join in.
Brevet has its origins in Audax (from the word audacious) a cycling sport in which participants attempt to cycle long distances within a defined time limit. It is a non-competitive sport and success is measured by its completion.
Abraham Clancy Ross, a biker with CBC, explains, “Randonneuring is a long distance endurance cycling sport internationally administered by Audax Club Parisien, France, through accredited clubs or organisations in various countries. Brevet is a randonnuering event in which a cyclist has to complete the allocated distance, 200 km or more within a certain time frame passing through various check points.” The route charted out will take bikers from Palarivattom to Muvattupuzha and back, a total of 216 km.
Abraham elaborates that any vehicle solely powered by a human is allowed to participate in the Brevet. Thus persons using modified cycles too can participate. The ride has to be completed in 13 and a half hours.
The charted route makes a loop in the city and then moves into the countryside via the Seaport-Airport Road, to Piravom and Muvattupuzha. The organisers who are expecting riders from outside the State too have drawn up a route that combines a slice of the city with the beautiful rural countryside.
First run in 1891, the 1200-kilometer Paris-Brest-Paris, or “PBP” as it is commonly called, is a grueling test of human endurance and cycling ability. Organized every four years by the host Audax Club Parisien, the Paris-Brest-Paris Randonneurs is the oldest bicycling event still run on a regular basis on the open road.
Beginning on the southern side of the French capital, it travels west 600 kilometers to the port city of Brest on the Atlantic Ocean and returns along the same route. Today’s randonneur cyclists, while no longer riding the primitive machines used a hundred years ago over dirt roads or cobblestones, still have to face up to rough weather, endless hills, and pedaling around the clock. A 90-hour time limit ensures that only the hardiest randonneurs earn the prestigious PBP finisher’s medal and have their name entered into the event’s “Great Book” along with every other finisher going back to the very first PBP.
To become a PBP ancien (or ancienne for the ladies) is to join a very elite group of cyclists who have successfully endured this mighty challenge. No longer a contest for professional racing cyclists (whose entry is now forbidden), PBP evolved into a timed randonne or brevet for hard-riding amateurs during the middle part of the 20th century. The event is held in August every four years
As in all brevet events, there is emphasis on self-sufficiency. Riders buy supplies anywhere along the course, but support by motorized vehicles is prohibited except at checkpoints. There is a 90-hour limit and the clock runs continuously. Many riders sleep as little as possible, sometimes catching a few minutes beside the road before continuing.
Participants must first complete a series of brevets (randonneuring events) within the same calendar year as PBP. The time frame is different for Australia and Oceania, so riders can qualify in summer. A series consists of 200km, 300km, 400km and 600km. Each can be replaced by a longer ride. Prior to 2007, the qualifying rides had to be completed from shortest to longest.
Where once PBP was contested by a few professionals as a demonstration of the bicycle’s potential, today the focus is on the ordinary rider. PBP continues to attract competitive riders. Despite insistence that it isn’t a race, PBP offers trophies and prestige to the first finishers.