Knowledge Base

A Little Audax History

Most of us have a pretty good idea how Audax started – the French raced from Paris to Brest and back in 1891, cycle tourists joined in a few years later and some Italians riding dawn till dusk were involved early on. That’s not too bad, as far as it goes, but Audax history goes back a long way, even before the first PBP.

Author: Dave Minter

The Beginnings

Let’s set the scene a little. Bicycles were the fastest things on the road 120 years ago and were at technology’s cutting edge. Firmly in the focus of entrepreneurs, high society and sportsmen, they captured society’s attention. Leisure cycling for the upper classes consisted of Sunday ‘spins’ or weeklong tours between railway stations. Fit young men (‘scorchers’) hurtled through quiet villages in pursuit of bragging rights. Races on the open road and point-to-point records had paid riders supported and paced by teams of cyclists to boost their speed. The public was enraptured by feats of athleticism and races got longer and tougher, pushing riders to the limit.

Maurice Martin, cycle-tourist and writer, had helped found a weekly cycling newspaper, “Veloce-Sport” in Bordeaux, but by the mid-1880s, excessive support and press coverage of races and racers had begun to annoy him. Of an estimated 25,000 French cyclists, perhaps 500 had racing licences. In response, Martin created a new type of event, not for racers or relaxed touring cyclists but ‘vrai tourisme rapide’ (rapid tourists). The Union Velocipedique Francaise started sanctioning the first ‘brevets’ in 1888, requiring 100+ km in a day – far enough given unsurfaced roads and cobblestones. Riders carried ‘brevet cards’, stamped at specific places along their route. Brevet translates as certificate but also applies to the associated event.

Martin helped organise the 572 km Bordeaux-Paris brevet in May 1891 with Pierre Giffard (editor of “Le Petite Journal”) and riders were expected to take five days. Unhappily for the French, some English riders treated it as a race, hired pacers and claimed the top four places – George Pilkington Mills taking 27 hours. An experienced racer, he’d won the first North Roads 24-hr race on a high-wheeler (‘penny farthing’) in 1886 with 227 miles. That wasn’t the first 24-hr race; Steve Snook won in 1882 with 214.5 miles between London and Bath on a lever-driven high-wheeler. France was agog at GP Mills’ performance and newspaper sales soared. Bordeaux-Paris, the ‘Derby of the Road’, lasted into the 1980s as a professional race. The racers drafted dernys (special mopeds) for the second half of the course, a relic of the paced racing of early years.

June 1891 saw the North Road Cycling Club’s first ‘York Run’ with 25 riders starting and 10 finishing the 200 miles (320 km) from London to York within 21 hrs 30 min. The annual non-competitive ride lasted until 1973, albeit with a 2-decade hiatus starting during World War One.

Giffard held the first Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) in September 1891. Expected to take 10 days, only entries from Frenchmen were accepted. The nearly 1200 km event had newspaper special editions giving race updates, gleaned from dispatches via telegraph and train. Each racer was allowed 10 pacers but needed their route book signed and stamped at specified towns. Riding without sleep and using newfangled pneumatic tyres, Charles Terront (a pacer for Mills at Bordeaux-Paris) won in under three days with 10,000 cheering him at the finish. Alexandre Duval, the only PBP finisher on a high-wheeler, was amongst 98 finishers (from 206 starters) taking up to 245 hours. Despite its popularity, racers complained that training for PBP meant lost speed and revenue in shorter races and the next PBP was not held for another decade. Giffard moved onto other endurance events – the first Paris marathon in 1892 and Bordeaux-Paris and Paris-Brest-Paris running races, through to early motor vehicle races such as Paris-Rouen.

The First Audaxers

In June 1897, Vito Pardo led 12 riders 230 km from Rome to Naples and the 9 finishers were lauded as ‘audace’ (Italian for audacious or bold). 20 Napoli cyclists, meeting the challenge of the rival Romans, rode the reverse route and became known as ‘Audax Italiano’, their ranks growing with subsequent rides. Aiming to finish 200+ km within 14 hours, roughly sunrise to sunset, participants rode as a group following ‘road captains’. It seems the group continued until World War One.

Henri Desgrange was a former bike racer and the editor of the cycling newspaper “L’Auto”. He had set the first-ever unpaced hour record on a velodrome but racers and the public were more interested in the extra speed of paced events. At the turn of the century, his paper was in trouble, with plenty of competition and not enough readers. Desgrange’s response was to hold the second PBP in 1901. He despised racers gaining any outside advantage (gear changers were later banned from some of his races), so riders were split into two categories, professional ‘couriers de vitesse’ assisted by other cyclists and amateur ‘tourist-routiers’ without pacers.

Maurice Garin won the pro race in just over 50 hours, again capturing the French imagination. He later won the first-ever stage race, the 1903 Tour de France. Also created by Desgrange, this even longer event gave more time to sell newspapers. American Charly Miller was the first non-European PBPer, finishing 5th in less than 57 hours. La Societe Charly Millar recognises all Americans that complete PBP faster than Miller. Other countries represented for the first time were Belgium (Clauwers, Kerff in 7th place, Kulhing and Samson), Germany (F Krause), Italy (Rodolfo Muller, 6th) and Switzerland (Michel Frederick, 4th). 73 tourist-routiers completed the race, Rosiere winning in under 63 hours.

Inspired by an Audax Italiano enquiry about possible routes for a Naples-Paris brevet, in 1904 Desgrange created the rules for Audax in France and gave the newly formed Audax Club Parisien (ACP) the authority to certify Audax brevets. Finishing a 200 km brevet qualified a rider as an Audaxer but soon even longer rides took place. The first 400 km brevet was in 1908. Other non-competitive but challenging endurance events are part of the Audax ethos – namely walking (first brevet in 1904), swimming (1913), kayaking (1956) and cross-country skiing (1985).

In 1911, the British magazine Cycling (now Cycling Weekly) created a competition for amateur riders, excluding professional riders and races of any sort. Riders totalled their daily century rides for the year, confirmed with ‘checking cards’ signed by witnesses and validated by magazine staff. Olive Elliott topped the ladies with 60 centuries and Marcel Planes won, riding 332 centuries on a coaster-braked roadster.

The 1911 PBP outlawed pacers – Emile Georget won in 50 hours ahead of eight other professionals (13 starters). The 120 amateurs (62 finishers) had their cycles ‘sealed’ to prevent bike changes. Garin (the 1901 winning pro) and Auguste Ringeval shared the amateur race after a competitor was disqualified for illegal assistance.

The Parting of the Ways

France rebuilt after World War One, before introducing limits to working hours. Cars were prohibitively expensive for most and leisure cycling boomed with touring and brevet riding benefiting hugely. Cycle manufacturers responded with technological advances (aluminium frames, multiple gearing, etc), trying to grab the public’s attention. The most popular methods involved backing successful racers or publicising wins in ‘concours’, technical competitions administered by various cycling organisations.

In 1921, 43 professionals and 63 tourist-routiers started PBP, Louis Mottiat winning in just over 55 hours (10 finishers). Ernest Paul, a 1911 PBP pro, took the amateur race in 62 hours, ahead of 46 others.

The ACP assisted at the 1921 Polymultipliee, a timed tourist event promoting the use of front and rear derailleurs; run by Victor Breyer, editor of “L’Echo des Sports” and Desgrange’s competitor. In response to this and following a movement within the ACP to increase brevet speeds, Desgrange (as the owner of the Audax rules) removed the ACP’s authority to homologate Audax brevets. Audax had meant groups averaging 18 km/h following a road captain, with scheduled stops to stamp brevet cards, eat and rest. With no applicable rules for their calendared rides, the ACP wrote the Brevet des Randonneurs Francais ‘allure libre’ (free pace) rules, allowing participants to ride between specified maximum and minimum time limits. The first 200 km randonnee was in September 1921, 300 in 1922, 400 in 1923, 600 in 1928 and 1000 in 1934. The name changed to Brevets des Randonneurs Europeen (1975) and Brevet des Randonneurs Mondiaux (1983) as more countries ran ACP-homologated brevets.

The introduction of allure libre events caused a split – the traditionalists forming L’Union des Audax Cyclists Parisiens on Bastille Day 1921, becoming L’Union des Audax Francaise (UAF) in January 1956. In the early days, there was some acrimony regarding the ‘proper way to ride brevets’ and finish rate comparisons between the rival methods were common. The UAF still homologate group brevets, usually at 22.5 km/h riding average, perhaps due to better roads. Known as “Euraudax” from the ‘70s till the ‘90s and nowadays often called “Audax 22.5”, this brevet style is fairly common in Belgium, France, Germany and more recently Sweden. Audax brevets have also been held in Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, the Netherlands (at 25 km/h) and the USA.

The 1931 PBP, held during the “Great Depression”, actually comprised three events. Hubert Opperman took well under 50 hours for the professional race (14 finishers from 28 starters), despite headwinds and rain. The only non-European winner, the Australian’s French employer was bankrupted during the race and Oppy never collected a promised winner’s bonus. Two-time Tour de France victor Nicholas Franz was the first Luxembourger to finish PBP. The amateur race was replaced by the first PBP brevets. The UACP held a brevet under Audax rules with a 20 km/h riding average and 29 of 81 Frenchmen finished in 85 hours. Entries from women and tandem teams had been returned. The ACP ran another brevet under Randonneur rules, requiring a 300 km qualifier (only 200 for tandem stokers). 44 of 62 starters finished within the 60 hr and 96 hr limits, including five ladies – Germaine Danis, Georgette Dubois, Claire Gorgeon and Juliette Pitard stoking tandems, Paulette Vassard on solo.

There were abortive attempts to organise PBP during World War Two despite the German occupation of France, Allied bombing and the resultant curfew. Surprisingly, although bicycle parts and especially tyres were in very short supply, some French cycling events (one-day brevets and races) still took place.

After the War

Cycling in Europe rebounded strongly after World War Two before rising affluence in the ‘50s and ‘60s eventually shifted society’s focus from bikes to cars. Brevet riding was concentrated in France with rival organisations validating either fixed-pace group rides (Audax) or allure libre events (Randonneur). The ultimate event for both organisations was PBP (held once each decade), although there were plenty of other prestigious brevets, such as the 1000 km Paris-Nice (every five years since 1952).

British racing and touring clubs organised ‘Reliability Rides’ or ‘Standard Rides’, particularly in the early season, with riders aiming to complete various distances within specified times. Finishers often received certificates from the Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC, formed in 1878). Existing in various forms almost since cycling began, ‘50 in 4’ (miles in hours), ‘100 in 8’ and occasionally ‘200 in 24’ are the most common Reliability Rides, although brevets are now much more popular in the UK.

The ACP’s Fleche Velocio was first held in 1947. The team brevet honours ‘Velocio’ – Paul de Vivie was a staunch advocate of both challenging rides and bicycle gearing. Teams comprising three to five machines must complete at least 360 km within 24 hrs on self-selected routes. US Metro Paris covered 778 km in 1995.

Albert Hendrix needed less than 42 hours to win the 1948 PBP race (46 starters and 11 finishers). There were 42 Audax finishers (including a tandem) from 62 starters and 152 Randonneur finishers from 189 starters. Jean Van Den Bulk became Belgium’s first ‘ancien du PBP Randonneur’ (male PBP finisher). Annual distance record character Rene Menzies (61,561 miles in 1937 and one-time chauffeur of Charles De Gaulle) rode this and the following Randonneur PBP to become the first British PBPer, courtesy of dual British-French citizenship.

The 1951 PBP, returning to the traditional date, saw Maurice Diot win in under 39 hours (11 finishers from 34 starters). 85 of 96 Audaxers finished (with a 22.5 km/h riding average), including two ladies. 351 of 488 Randonneurs rode 400 km qualifiers and completed their brevet.

Although all the brevet distances had existed for decades, it was 1952 before the ACP created the Super Randonneur annual award (SR – 200, 300, 400 and 600 in a year).

Increased popularity meant PBP switched to five-year intervals, usually with a day between one style’s finish and the other’s start. The 1956 PBP, the last time ‘seals’ were used to prevent bike changes, saw 77 (from 106) Audax and 157 (from 250) Randonneur finishers coping with nasty weather. The first Dutch PBP Randonneurs were Hetzler, Krijnen, Millenaar, Oudshoorn, Pafort, Van Batenburg, Van Der Weerd, Van Kreuningen, Van Mildert, Van Rheenen, Vervat and Vork. PBP races in 1956 and finally in 1961 were cancelled, due to a lack of interest amongst the professionals.

The 1961 PBP had 140 of 162 Audaxers and 125 of 191 Randonneurs finish, again despite poor weather. The ACP created the Randonneur 5000 award (originally known as the Cyclo-touriste 5000 and then as the Brevet de Randonneur 5000), requiring riders to finish PBP, a 1000 km, SR, Fleche Velocio and 200+ km brevets to 5000 km within four years. More than 1200 have been awarded to date.

Francais et Etrangers

In 1966, the PBP Randonneur time limit was cut to 90 hours and support was limited to checkpoints. The ‘hot PBP’ had 165 Audax (from 178) and 135 Randonneur (from 172) finishers. Luxembourg’s first ancien was Edmond Zahlen. The English-speaking world began to notice PBP following a Cycling Weekly article of Britain’s Barry Parslow’s Randonneur ride.

In 1971, the entire PBP route had direction signs for the first time. 309 of 328 Audaxers and 272 of 325 Randonneurs finished, with Oppy (driving the course this time) encouraging riders from Belgium, Britain, France, the Netherlands and for the first time, Spain (Leopoldo Gallego Cameros, Francesc Porta Torras and Carlos Ruano Casado). “Sporting Cyclist” editor Jock Wadley’s book “Old Roads and New” recorded his Randonneur ride, boosting foreign interest in PBP. In one week, eight Frenchmen (Belleville, Bonnin, Boubarre, Coussemene, Guillaume, Lucas, Plaine and Texier) finished both the Audax and Randonneur PBPs. Repeating the feat became harder when subsequent Randonneur PBPs moved to quadrennial intervals.

Organised century rides (100 miles = 161 km) became popular in the USA, riding on the back of the 1970s bike boom, with finishers often earning T-shirts or sew-on badges (‘patch rides’). Double, triple and even quad century options were added to some events over the following decades – California especially developed into a long-distance cycling hotspot.

A 600 qualifier was needed for the 1975 PBP Randonneur (400 for anciens). With no qualifiers in the UK, the ACP allowed a substitute; British entrants could qualify by riding 600+ km in 24-hour time trials. Some concession, it required averaging over 25 km/h nonstop without drafting. There were 559 finishers from 667 starters. Hansjurg Albrecht was the first Swiss PBP Randonneur finisher, together with the first American finishers since 1901 – Herman Falsetti, Harriet Fell (now Brown), Annette Hillan (later Shaffer) and Creig Hoyt. Jim Konski started International Randonneurs to organise brevets in the USA.

There were two 1976 PBP Audax starts (June and September) to reduce the peloton size, with 726 finishers from 911 starters. Amongst the 355 foreigners was the first Canadian, John Hathaway (born in Britain). Audax UK (AUK) began the same year, running the 600 km Windsor-Chester-Windsor to qualify British riders for future Randonneur PBPs. Their name derives from the ACP’s name, not the event style.

The original long-distance brevet Bordeaux-Paris was revived in 1977. The allure libre version is now held in even years with various categories: cyclo-touriste, randonneur and cyclo-sportive, plus an independent Audax brevet. AUK introduced 200, 300 and 400 brevets; future PBPs would need a qualifying SR. The Dorset Coast 200 and North-West Passage 200 are still annual events. New Zealand’s first Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge (100 miles round the lake) took place. Now almost 11,000 ride it, most doing one lap, others multiple laps, some carrying an ACP brevet card.

The first Cape Argus Cycle Tour (just over 100 km) had several hundred finishers in 1978 and nearly 30,000 riders last year. It spawned a host of similar South African mass-participation events – all riders are timed but only a few are racing for a win.

1978 also saw 104 riders finish a rather wet 800 km Paris-Harrogate brevet marking the CTC’s centenary, complete with a cross-Channel ferry trip. It was similar to other commemorative brevets, such as the Raids Olympic (the 1450 km Paris-Rome Audax marked the 1960 Olympics, 180 finishers) and the 2003 Tour Audax du Centenaire (about 160 riders). Other events occur more often; the 600+ km Paris-Grenoble-Le Galibier Audax takes place each decade since 1954 (most recently in 1999) to honour Henri Desgrange, the founder of both Audax and the Tour de France.

The 1979 PBP Randonneur introduced staggered starts for the 1880 riders (1573 finishers). Rider deaths, mostly in crashes with motor vehicles (one in 1961, one in 1966, two in 1975), prompted a change from the ‘Great West Road’ to a longer, hillier route. PBP Audax mostly uses the original route but follow vehicles and group riding minimise the risks. First-time countries at PBP included Canada (John Hathaway, Dan McGuire, Gerry Pareja and Wayne Phillips), Norway (Leif Grimstveit) and Sweden (K Andersson, V Backman, I Hansson, R Klingzell and A Sivertsson). The first female tandem (Maryvonne Bernardin and Francine Rameaux) and the first blind stoker (J Nouet, captained by J Chandru) finished, along with the first British lady, Jill Richards.

Antipodes and Elsewhere

Audax began in Australia over a quarter-century ago. Following near-simultaneous letters to the ACP by Alan Walker and Russell Moore, a few rides occurred without ACP homologation. Riders started simultaneous 600 km rides over the 1981 Easter weekend from Melbourne and Sydney (the first official Australian brevet), finishing in Albury to form Audax Australia – the committee comprising Moore, Walker and Tony McDonnell. The club’s name derives from Audax Club Parisien’s name, not the riding style. Strictly speaking, our events are randonneur brevets, not audax rides. Until a 1080 km brevet in 1984, only standard SR distances were offered.

Some long rides pre-date Audax Australia. Moore began the Green Valley Century (100 miles) in 1976 in New South Wales (NSW), modelled on US century rides. The Green Valley Twin Century (200 km) brevet eventually offered 300 and 400 options before ceasing in the early 1990s. He also ran a ‘200 in 24’ in 1979, based on British Reliability Rides. Long Victorian rides included the Bendigo Double Century (two 100 mile rides over a weekend), the Geelong Otway Century Ride (annually since 1980) and the Knox Hard Hundred.

The 1981 PBP Audax had 1522 finish from 1573 starters in seven groups between June and September. The AUK’s first 100 km brevet took place. The Greenhow Hill Super Grimpeur was a domestically homologated, multi-lap, climbing brevet with a challenging time limit, similar to the now-discontinued French TA Super Grimpeur events. AUK introduced Brevet Populaires a few years later; most are shorter than 200 km and many have minimum averages below 15 km/h. Ireland’s first Wicklow 200 was held, the non-competitive challenge nowadays attracting about 1000 riders.

AUK created their Brevet 5000 award in 1982, akin to the ACP’s R5000 although the qualifying requirements have varied over time. The first Race Across America (RAAM, originally the Great American Bike Race) took place and other American long-distance cycle races followed, often no-drafting massed-start affairs like the John Marino Open (now the Furnace Creek 508). Australia’s Gerry Tatrai won the 1993 and 1998 RAAMs, between finishing the 1987, 1991 and 1999 PBPs. Some events pre-date RAAM, such as the Bicycle Across Missouri (540 miles in under 72 hours).

There were 1903 finishers (from 2165) of the 1983 PBP Randonneur, including the first Australians since Oppy. The pioneers were Frank Brandon, Russell Moore and Stephen Poole. Countries at PBP for the first time included Finland (Hannu Hauhia, Paavo Nurminen and Matti Vimpari), Ireland (Liam Little), Italy (Elio Lana) and Japan (Kyoji Kobayashi). New ancienne countries were Belgium (C Van Laarhoven) and Germany (Birgit Lutzenberger). Frenchmen G Duchene, JC Gony and L Guerin were the first to ride a triplet. Paul Castle was killed while riding home to Britain.

Les Randonneurs Mondiaux (LRM) had its first meeting the day after PBP finished, formed from countries organising ACP-homologated brevets. Australia is a founding member, along with Belgium, Britain, Canada, France, Spain, Sweden and the USA. Many countries have since started organising ACP brevets including Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and Ukraine.  LRM validates virtually every 1200+ km brevet organised similarly to PBP, the main exception being PBP itself, homologated by the ACP.

There are many brevets ratified by local or national groups, rather than by the ACP or LRM, such as the 260 km Brevet de Randonneurs des Alpes (first run in 1936, now held in odd years) and Paris-Roubaix Cyclo (even years, up to 261 km). Raids and Diagonales de France are ‘permanent’ brevets, identified routes ridden by individuals or groups on dates convenient to the riders and organiser, as opposed to ‘calendar’ events run on a specific date. Permanents can be point-to-point routes or loops, taking a day or multiple days and ranging up to several thousand kilometres long. ACP does run some permanents, the Tour de Corse (around Corsica, since 1956) and Fleche de France (171 to 989 km, linking various French cities and Paris) and has an award for completing 20 Fleche de France but permanents do not count towards an R5000.

Cycling events aimed somewhere between brevet-style riding and racing had existed for many years but cyclo-sportives and gran fondos exploded in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Challenges like the 300 km Vatternrunden (first held in 1966), 175 km La Marmotte (1981), 175 km Maratona dles Dolomites (1987) and L’Etape du Tour (1993) attracted thousands, with scores of similar events entering the European cycling calendar over time. Finishers often earn gold, silver or bronze medals, depending on age, sex and finish time. The Kelloggs Sustain Cycling Challenge was a 120 km time trial north of Sydney in 1992 and 1993. It was one of the first Australian mass-participation cycling challenges of worthwhile distance, albeit with an unusual format.

Charity fundraising bike rides also proliferated during this time. North America has a sizeable list of MS150 rides (usually 150 miles over two days) and other single-day and multi-day charity cycling challenge events, along with their traditional century rides. Some events record finish times – most issue certificates, t-shirts, jerseys, badges or other awards. Britain developed a substantial charity rides calendar; the most popular being ‘London to Brighton’ (since 1976, 54 miles and limited to 27,000 entrants), along with several multi-day London-Paris and Lands End-John O’Groats rides for various organisations. ‘Around the Bay in a Day’ (up to 250 km and 16,000 riders, first held in 1993 but originally an Audax Australia brevet) and ‘Sydney to the Gong’ (up to 90 km and 13,000 riders, 1982) are Australia’s biggest one-day rides.

The first Opperman All Day Trial (OADT) took place in 1985, the first non-French Fleche. The 1993 ‘Endorphins’ (Guy Green, Mark Hastie, Derek McKean, Nick Skewes) engraved the greatest distance onto the Opperman Shield – 770 km (team member Ken Mayberry rode 762 km). Originally finishing in Albury and Perth on the same day and then on various dates in different states, nowadays every OADT team is on the road simultaneously.

The 1986 PBP Audax had 923 finishers from 926 starters in four groups. The first Audax Alpine Classic took place, originally called the ‘Bright Ride’. This Australian brevet now has over 2000 riders pedalling between 70 to 250 hilly kilometres. AUK created the Audax Altitude Award (AAA), with points earned on the basis of cumulative climbing, promoting shorter and more scenic and thus hillier events.

In 1987, 2117 randonneurs finished the ‘wet PBP’ (2597 starters), though half the Americans did not. For the next decade, this result meant rookie American PBPers needed extra qualifying rides, either an additional SR the previous year or a 1000 km brevet on top of the normal SR. 12 Australians finished including Aileen Martin, our first “ancienne du PBP” (female PBP finisher). The first Scandinavian anciennes were Dagny Aurlund (Norway) and Ewa Erikssun (Sweden) and the first Canadian ladies were Arscott, Elm, Howorth, Leier, Lepsoe, Turner and Watt. Danish (Arnung, Brandt, Christian, Damm, Doygaard, Hansen, Lyngsaa, Olsen, Rasmussen and Roboz) Chilean (Sergio Villagran), and South African (Karl Geugis) men also finished PBP for the first time. AUK’s Felicity Beard was the first tricycling ancienne while Barry Parslow and Mark Brooking rode the first tandem trike.

Renewal, Reunion and Remembrance

The 1988 Boston-Montreal-Boston was the first non-PBP 1200 km brevet. AUK began self-certifying 200+ km calendar and permanent brevets (valid for domestic awards) and nowadays only a few AUK events are homologated by the ACP. The “Summer Arrow to York” (domestic fleche created in 1988 to Salisbury) peaked at 610 km by the 1994 Derby Mercury team. Begun in 1995, AUK’s ACP-homologated “Easter Arrow” saw George Hanna, John-Paul Lambworth, Dave Lewis, Judith Swallow and Ritchie Tout recording 564 km in 2005.

The first 1300 km Edinburgh-London was held in 1989; the quadrennial London-Edinburgh-London (LEL) is now 1400 km. AUK instituted the LRM’s International Super Randonneur award (each SR brevet in a different country, no time limit). Australia’s Matt Rawnsley, Oliver Portway and Bob Bednarz have earned some of the 52 awarded to date. BC Randonneurs’s first Fleche Pacifique took place; Team Time Trial (Ken Bonner, Keith Fraser and Ted Milner) covering 654 km in 1998.

The Centennial 1991 PBP was celebrated with a prologue ride into Paris, with Oppy and the Parisien Mayor Jacques Chirac addressing the starters of simultaneous ACP Randonneur and UAF Audax brevets. Heavier traffic meant the start moved to St Quentin-en-Yvelines and resulted in the now-familiar evening and early morning start times. The ‘windy PBP’ saw 2611 randonneurs finish from 3276 starters, including 30 Australians. New ancien du PBP Randonneur countries included Austria (Franz Greifeneder), Costa Rica (Rafael Artavia), Ireland (Bayley, Byrne, Clarke, Connolly, Dalton, Doyle, E Dunne, S Dunne, Egan, Eustace, Fallon, Moroney, Murphy, O’Brian and O’Connell) and New Zealand (Ian Pollard). Claus Cyzcholl, Andy Gruner and Ulf Roeper were the first German men to finish PBP Randonneur. Denmark’s first anciennes were Elizabeth Glymov, Kim Olsen Asger and Kim Osterby. The first Youth PBP had 40 teenagers riding the route Audax-style over 12 days. There were 204 Audax finishers, though another 207 had completed their PBP in June, from a total of 456 starters.

AUK created the Brevet 25000 award in 1991, requiring 25000 km of 200+ brevets within six years including a 1300+ km brevet, a 1000, a Fleche, three SRs and either PBP or LEL.

In 1992, Audax Australia held its first 1200 km brevet (Victoria, Rex Cole was killed), its first 1500 km brevet (Western Australia) and created the Nouveau Randonneur award (originally 50, 100 and 200 in a year, now 50, 100 and 150).

The ACP dropped the ‘compulsory mudguards’ and ‘no advertising on clothing’ rules for the 1995 PBP Randonneur but banned tri-bars. There were 41 Australians amongst 2380 finishers (2860 starters) enjoying good conditions, Phil Bellette and Sue Taylor riding the first Aussie tandem. First-time PBP countries were Portugal (Jorge Martins Da Silva and Fernando Silvestre Dos Santos) and Russia (Kouznetsov, Misnik, Ocipov, Silaev and Troufanov). Countries with their first female PBP finishers were Italy (Piera Marzani) and Spain (Carmen Diaz de Lezara). AUK’s Pete Giffard and Noel Simpson rode a tandem recumbent trike.

Audax Australia awarded the first Woodrup 5000 (similar to the ACP’s R5000) in 1995, honouring Graham ‘Woody’ Woodrup. The long-distance record-holder and club stalwart had been killed during a training ride in 1992. Woody’s Murray-to-Moyne 520 km 24 hr relay team charity ride has been held annually since 1987. Sweden’s first Audax 22.5 brevet took place, covering 340 km around Lake Malaren

Sir Hubert Opperman – PBP winner, patron of Audax Australia and Audax UK and former Australian Government Minister – died in 1996. PBP Audax had 212 starters in three waves and 192 finishers, including American tandemists Bill Curran and Mary-Blair Matejczyk. Canada’s first Rocky Mountains 1200 took place. AUK created the Randonneur 500 (R500 – 50, 100, 150 and 200 rides) and R1000 (100, 200, 300 rides and 400 km of 100+) annual awards, along with the Randonneur Round the Year (RRTY, monthly 200+ brevets for a year).

Celebrating The Century

The 1997 Paris-Rome-Naples Audax marked the centenary of Audax with a 1200 km brevet to Rome via Mont Cenis, followed by the original Audax Italiano ride.

The first Super Brevet Scandinavia 1200 took place in 1998; ferries joined stages in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. AUK instituted Brevet 500 (B500 for 5 x 100 or 150), B1000 (5 x 200 or 10 x 100 or 150), B2000 (10 x 200 or 20 x 100 or 150), B3000 (3000 km of 100, 150 and/or 200) and B4000 (20 x 200) awards. AUK also created R5000 and R10000 annual awards (5000 and 10000 km of 200+) and the Ultra Randonneur award for 10 years of SRs. Randonneurs USA (RUSA) replaced the previous US organisation and abolished additional PBP qualifications.

Over-distance route diversions during the 1999 PBP Randonneur resulted in time limits for the 3573 starters being extended by two hours. One Australian, despite cracking his pelvis en-route, joined 59 other Aussies (Sue Taylor’s third PBP) amongst 2977 finishers. Oliver Portway became the only Australian ancien faster than Oppy. New PBP nationalities included Brazilian (Kayo De Oliveira), Bulgarian (Dimitar Balanski, Vasil Gyuzelev, Atanas Ivanov, Valery Kitantchev and Haroutun Tevekelian) and Ukrainian (Uriy Levkovskij). First-time anciennes came from the Netherlands (Wilma Vissers), Russia (Natalia Nedosenkina and Zinaida Tchouprova), South Africa (Joan Louwrens and Marlene Prentice) and Switzerland (Anna-Lisa Haavisto, Solveig Skoglund and Anna Maria Termine). Haynesworth Van Epps rode a handcycle to become the first paraplegic Super Randonneur but the American did not reach Brest.

Audax Australia’s first Raids were ridden in 1999, these touring-style permanents allowing much slower averages than normal. Britain’s first cyclo-sportive, the Fred Whitton Challenge, took place.

The 2000 LRM calendar listed the first 2000 km brevets (Canada and Scandinavia), alongside 1200 km brevets in Australia, Canada and the USA. Audax Australia created the Dirt Series award (35, 70 and 100 rides at reduced average speeds, mostly on dirt roads and tracks). RUSA introduced R1000, R2000 and R3000 annual awards (for cumulative RUSA event distance), adding R4000 and R5000 awards in 2004. BC Randonneurs created the CanAm Challenge award for completing 1200 km brevets in Canada and the USA in the same year. AUK organised 500 km brevets and the SR2000 annual award (200, 300, 400, 500 and 600). The CTC’s Mille Miglia Challenge started, awarding certificates and bronze, silver or gold medals for annual totals of 500 km, 1000 km or 1000 miles in the CTC Touring Competition (begun in 1952 as the DATC, it changed to CTCTC in 2008). Amusingly most CTCTC events are actually AUK brevets, although the CTC have organised Challenge Rides up to 100 miles since 2000. Mike Yesko formed Audax USA but the Audax 22.5 group folded after a few years.

Australia’s first 2000 km brevet (South Australia) was amongst seven events in the 2001 LRM calendar. PBP Audax had 191 starters in two departures and 185 finishers.

There were nine LRM randonnees listed in 2002, including Bulgaria’s first 1200 (Sofia-Varna-Sofia) and five Australian events. Denmark’s Stig Lundgaard became the first randonneur to ride five calendar 1200 brevets in a year. RUSA started self-certifying brevets (valid for domestic awards), including sub-200 populaires.

Also in 2002, 11 riders finished the 1270 km Koln-Berlin-Koln Super Brevet, organised by Audax Club Schleswig Holstein. In 2006, this brevet became the 1500 km Hamburg-Berlin-Koln-Hamburg Super Brevet.  In 2010, 48 of 63 finished the full distance, despite terrible weather.  Another 8 completed the 1145 km option.  None of these brevets were homologated by LRM.

For the first time at PBP, foreigners outnumbered French in 2003. There were 3457 finishers (64 Australians) from 4069 starters. The Finn Alpo Kuusisto was the first to finish on a kickbike (scooter) and Theo Homan from the Netherlands, the first on a rowbike. First-time PBP countries included Greece (Karampasis, Misailidis, Pantazopoulou, Plegas, Spanoudakis and Nikolaos Stavropoulos), Hungary (Istvan Fingerhut), India (Anurang Revri) and Turkey (Osman Isvan). Honduras (Susan Forsman), Ireland (Dervila O’Brien) and Japan (Kiyoshi Ogura) had their first women finish PBP.

The 2004 ‘Le Challenge du Centenaire’ 200 km brevet marked the ACP’s 100th year. RUSA started organising permanents and created the American Randonneur Challenge (at least 2 x 1200 RUSA brevets in a year), R-12 (similar to AUK’s RRTY) and Ultra-Randonneur (10 SRs) awards.

More Recently

In 2005, Audax Australia introduced a series of awards named for historic long-distance cyclists. Sarah Maddock (5 x 100 in a year) was the first woman to ride Sydney-to-Melbourne (1894) and Sydney-Brisbane and back (1895). Irene Plowman (5 x 200 in a year) held the Sydney-Melbourne record for many years and was renowned for regularly riding overnight to Melbourne to buy material for her dress shop. Percy Armstrong (50, 100, 150 and 200 in a year) took the Sydney-Melbourne record in 1893 and was a pioneer long-distance cycle courier in the Kalgoorlie goldfields. Joseph Pearson (2000 km of 100 and 200) was possibly the first NSW cyclist and the cycle-tourist published the colony’s first road maps. Arthur Richardson (3000 km of 300, 400 and 600) was the first-ever to ride around Australia (1899). Frank White (5000 km with SR in four years) was a famed overlander, riding 14,500 km from Perth to Rockhampton and back in 1898.

2005 also saw 88 riders finish the first Madrid-Gijon-Madrid 1200 in Spain.  RUSA created the Coast-to-Coast 1200 award for members finishing four different RUSA 1200 brevets. The first Australian cyclosportives were held in Western Australia, most having an unusual team time trial format.

The 2006 PBP Audax had 134 riders finishing from a 151 strong group.

Wet weather at the 2007 PBP Randonneur almost doubled the normal 15% DNF rate with 3603 finishers (87 Aussies) from 5312 starters, despite extra time allowances. Canada’s Brian Leier finished his sixth PBP and Jean-Claude Muzellec of Sweden completed his eighth PBP.

New countries finishing PBP included Argentina (Pascal Chastin), Estonia (Kristjan Kull), French Guiana (Roger Charruault), Israel (Yehoshua Bronshtein, Abraham Cohen and Tal Katzir), Mexico (Braulio Nunez), the Philippines (Cristino Concepcion and Lee Millon), Poland (Frackowiak, Ignasiak, Kadziolka, Kalinowski, Litarowski and Makuch), Samoa (Raymond McFall), San Marino (Marco Casali), Slovenia (Baloh, Blatnik, Gerlica, Kopac, Nedoh, Santin and Vidmar) and Taiwan (Wen-Chang Cheng). Countries with their first anciennes included Austria (Christa Hainzl-Fellhofer), Costa Rica (Silvia Ugalde) and New Zealand (Carol Bell, Marian Savage and Jennifer Watson). Italian Giorgio Pozzetti died following a heart attack, the first PBP death since 1975.

In 2007, LRM agreed to ratify 1200+ km brevets in the same years as future PBPs. AUK’s Steve Abraham completed 14 SR and 5 simultaneous RRTY during 40,500 km of brevets, mostly comprised of permanents ridden on a fixed wheel. Texas randonneurs created the K-Hound Klub, recognising anybody accumulating 10,000 km or more of RUSA brevets in a calendar year. The Klub now also lists “Hound and a Half” (15,000 km), “Double Hound” (20,000 km) and “Triple Hound” (30,000 km) categories.

Here and Now

Audax Randonneurs Italia held the first Mille Miglia brevet in 2008 with 156 of 201 starters finishing the 1600 km loop from Milan to near Rome and back. Two years previously, the first Mille Miglia had been run as a competitive event. 228 of 269 riders completed the 2010 Mille Miglia.

Audax Australia introduced their first permanents during the 2008/9 season, along with the Year Round Randonneur award for completing monthly 200+ km brevets from November till the following October. Australia’s first Audax 22.5 brevets also took place. These brevets qualify for both the various Audax Australia awards and the UAF’s “Aigle d’Argent” (Silver Eagle – 200, 300, 400, 600 and 1000) and “Aigle d’Or” (Gold Eagle – 200, 300, 400, 600, 1000 and PBP Audax plus another 1000+ km brevet) medals. The other UAF disciplines (kayaking, skiing, swimming and walking) have similar cumulative awards, along with “Audax Complet” and “Super Audax Complet” awards for multi-disciplinary achievements.

In 2009, the UK’s Judith Swallow became the first randonneuse to complete four 1200(+) brevets in a year. RUSA instituted the Mondial Award for completing 40,000 km of RUSA brevets. La Societe Adrian Hands was formed to recognise “…randonneurs and randonneuses who believe that every ride should be enjoyed to its fullest. Membership is not for the fleetest of foot but for those that savor every moment of the journey, often using the full allotment of allowed time.” Members must have finished PBP in 88:55 or greater.

Japan held its first 1200 brevet in 2010 and RUSA’s Mark Thomas used it to gain the first 4 continent ISR 1200. RUSA introduced a P-12 award for completing sub-200 km brevets for 12 consecutive months.

2011 saw the first 1200 km randonnees to be held in the same year as PBP Randonneur, in Australia, Belgium and five in the USA.

PBP Randonneur pre-registration in 2011 was preferentially available to riders that completed longer ACP-homologated brevets in 2010, followed by riders that have not completed any ACP-homologated brevets in 2010. Pre-registered riders still needed to complete an SR within the normal PBP entry period. In actuality, most countries did not fill their PBP entry quotas and 5002 started the 2011 PBP Randonneur. Amongst the 4068 finishers were 78 Australians, Peter Moore collecting his sixth PBP. RUSA’s Lois Springsteen also completed her sixth while her countrymen Paul Bacho, Thomas Gee, Doug Kirby and Gary Smith racked up seven PBPs. Canada’s Deidre Arscott and France’s Nicole Chabirand and Claudine Peran joined Frenchwomen Annie Chenet-Barbotin (2007) and Annick Lacroix (2003) and AUK’s Sheila Simpson (2007) with seven PBPs. Leif Grimstveit of Norway and England’s Jim Hopper collected their eighth PBPs and Spaniard Francesc Porta Torras became the first estranger with ten. Frenchmen Bernard Imbert and Daniel Ravet are the first to complete eleven PBPs. Thai Pham of the USA was killed by a vehicle.

New randonneur countries to finish PBP were Belarus (Alexey Lyashko), Finland (Karjalainen, Ilkka & Olli Korhonen, Linnanen, Makipaa, Pietila, Sainio, Jaakko and Jukka Salonen, Stedt and Vainikainen), Hong Kong (Chihung Kwok), Croatia (Ares Bursic, Ino Cvitesic, Darko Fojs and Alen Mose), Jersey (Charles Simmons), South Korea (Chulwoo Han, Soon Kwon Han and In Soo Park), Lithuania (Rimas Grigenas and Vidas Placiakis), Malaysia (Teck Meng Loh), Puerto Rico (Victor Camacho, Wilfred Matias, Luis Rafael Robles and Magdiel Rodriguez), Reunion (Alain Muller), Serbia (Jovan Erakovic, Pedja Popovic and Spasoje Spasojevic), Singapore (Ooi Khiang Heng) and Trindad and Tobago (Patrick Chin-Hong). New randonneuses came from Bulgaria (Bilyana Georgieva and Tanya Hristova), Brasil (Simone Barbisan Fortes), Hong Kong (Kwan Ni Wiwin Leung), Malaysia (Yee Ting Siaw), the Philippines (Carmela Serina), Puerto Rico (Maria Del Pilar Vazquez), Slovenia (Tanja Kavcic) and Taiwan (Shu-Hsiang Hsu, Chia-Hui Ku, Yiping Lin and Chih Ying Tsai).

Two sessions of PBP Audax were held, in July and August. Several riders took a rare opportunity (the first time in two decades) to ride PBP Audax and PBP Randonneur in the same month, including the first Australians, Nick Dale and Dave Minter. Judith Swallow was the first Brit to do the double and, with France’s Alexandrine Lamouller, were the first women to captain PBP Audax.

It would be prudent to treat this article as indicative rather than definitive. No doubt there are several mistakes, mostly from the author’s transcription errors. Feel free to provide more information and corrections, although there are discrepancies between sources, particularly regarding PBP.


Thanks to Phil Bellette, Keith Benton, Harold Bridge, Mark Brooking, Alain Collongues, Francis Cooke, Bruno Danielzik, Eric Fergusson, Ian Hennessey, Nev Holgate, Jim Hopper, Neil Irvine, Tim Laugher, Peter Matthews, Russell Moore, Barry Parslow, Malcolm Rogers, Jean de Rudnicki, Sheila Simpson, Mike Wigley and Jennifer Wise for putting up with my questions.

This article is drawn from conversations and emails with those noted above and a number of ACP plaquettes and other books, including Bernard Deon’s “Un Siecle de Brevet D’Audax Cycliste”, John Taylor’s “The 24 Hour Story” and Jock Wadley’s “Old Roads and New”. Notwithstanding this, the main sources were a number of websites including: Audax Australia, Audax Club Parisien, Audax 22.5 Stockholm, Audax UK, Audax USA, BC Randonneurs, L’Union des Audax Francaise, Les Randonneurs Mondiaux, Paris-Brest-Paris, Randonneurs Ontario and Randonneurs USA. Thanks to all involved for making this information freely available, particularly BC Randonneurs and Randonneurs Ontario.