Cyclos Montagnards - History


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Cycling used to be a challenging endeavor. Early bike races often left for the unknown, and riders confronted vast distances on mere paths. Similarly, randonneuring started as a self-sufficient sport without organized events, time limits or medals.

Led by Vélocio, the editor of the magazine Le Cycliste, French cyclotourists of the late 19th century visited distant places by bicycle. On familiar roads, they rode at high speeds during so-called "transport stages." Once they reached their destination, they visited the sights at a leisurely pace, before returning home with another "transport stage."

From these transport stages originated the idea to see how far a randonneur could ride in 40 hours. Le Cycliste published the rider's tales, which inspired others to try and seek the limits of human performance. Some riders challenged themselves to ride from their hometown to a distant place, often the top of a mountain, and back, in less than 24 hours.

When the first randonneur events were organized, there was a strong emphasis on performance. The first riders in the "Diagonals" of France, connecting the corners of France by bike, all attempted to do an "honorable time." (To this day, randonneur events feature time limits that define what an "honorable time" is. You get a medal only if you complete the ride within the time limit.)

In brevets, riders challenged themselves to improve their times from one year to the next. The fastest riders attempted to set records, which were published in the randonneuring newsletters.

This competitive spirit provided an outlet for riders who wanted to challenge themselves in a more cordial and relaxed setting than the cut-throat world of bicycle racing. Many of the randonneur events included elements of teamwork and even whimsy absent from “real” racing. For example, “gentleman” races teamed up an old and a young randonneur and were scored with an age-based handicap.

These semi-competitive events came to an end in 1977: Facing the loss of its government subsidies, the French Cyclotouring Federation (FFCT) renounced all competition. At least on paper, randonneuring became non-competitive. That did not prevent Paris-Brest-Paris from awarding trophies to the fastest riders in various categories (male, female, tandem, mixed tandem) in addition to the oldest and youngest riders, etc.

The Cyclos Montagnards promote the original spirit of randonneuring, with an emphasis on performance. The Cyclos Montagnards Challenges and Honors provide experienced riders with goals that keep randonneuring interesting. They represent absolute goals that can be achieved by any number of riders, thus encouraging teamwork among riders, rather than competition between them.