If you’re travelling down a rural road one day, and you chance upon a small pack of cyclists, wearing such gear as a watermelon for a helmet, and maybe another driving a small yellow cigar shaped ‘speedmobile’, then you may have lucked out and discovered a group of people passionate about being outside and touring Manitoba’s splendour.
The cyclist in the yellow recumbent bicycle is Kevin Champagne. Champagne rode his first brevet in August 2008. That’s what these people ride – brevets.
A brevet is a long distance bicycle tour, where participants travel 200 kilometers (or more) self-sufficiently. Within the tour, there are a series of ‘controls’ or checkpoints. Participants are given a certain time in which to complete the journey and anyone who is successful is given the same recognition, regardless of how fast it is done.
By completing his 200 km brevet, Champagne is officially now a ‘randonneur’. His yellow bicycle is called a ‘velomobile’, and it is unique here in Manitoba. However, there are groups in Europe that tour with such vehicles in large numbers.
Champagne found out about the local chapter of the organization after he rode his bicycle in the 2008 Muddy Waters 100. They had a brevet challenge, and even though he was not successful that year, he persevered, and finished his very first 200 km event the following year.
Champagne is the only member of this club with such a recumbent bicycle, or ‘velomobile’. Everyone else rides standard bicycles.
“At least 20 countries have clubs,” says Champagne. “Manitoba is small and not well known. There are clubs in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. Our club has just recently started to use Facebook to share news and photos.”
The headquarters for the worldwide club sets the standard for all of the clubs everywhere.
Kevin Champagne has some suggestions for anyone interested in attempting a brevet.
“Ride lots, and build up mileage over time,” he says. “Do like 50 kilometres one weekend, 80 kilometres next weekend, then 120 kilometres the next weekend and then 150 the weekend before your first 200 kilometres.”
“Ride at your own pace,” he adds. “Just focus on finishing. This is not a race, just a personal challenge. It’s best to start in our August 200.”
Sam Ehlers and the rest of the cyclists in this group welcome anyone who wants to come along for a short ride with them. The randonneurs are willing to share their experiences and joys of why they choose to ride around Manitoba in the most simplistic and enjoyable way – on a bicycle.
If you see the group, wave, honk, or chat with them at the local gas station. For each event listed below, there is a map of where they are going. Chances are, if you live in rural Manitoba, they are coming around your area at some time over the summer. Each event is labelled with the area of the province they will be touring in.
The next brevet is this Saturday, May 24th starting at 6:00 am at the Shell Station at Dalhousie Drive and Pembina Highway.
Members will gladly answer any questions or posts from the public. Click here for the link to the Facebook page for the Manitoba Randonneurs.
Here is a listing of the 2014 Summer Events: