Allez Randonneurs!

Posted: 2007-05-16

I stumbled upon a sport today that I had no idea even existed: randonneuring. What it is, briefly:

  • kind of like bike racing
  • but over longer distances
  • without the mass start and finish
  • and not actually competitive

Apparently it has a storied history in Europe. I can’t begin to describe how appealing this is to me. I have no hand/eye coordination (or indeed any coordination of any kind whatsoever), so grownup-sports like softball and billiards are pretty much beyond my ability. Three years ago, I tried my hand (foot?) at bicycle racing, only to discover that I also have no sprint in me. I discovered this, by the way, by losing the Mt. Tabor series dead last three weeks in a row.

So all my athletic endeavours have emphasized the one thing my body is apparently good for: suffering. I loves me a good long bike ride, and like them better when I’m riding a little too fast. About five years ago I figured out the secret to sustained effort and that is: never cross the redline. In other words, every minute you spend in anaerobic effort (e.g. sprinting), will add ten minutes to your finish time. If you finish at all.

So while I have many many things about which to be excited regarding our imminent return to Oregon, randonneuring gives me something new to be excited about. I was reading through the ride descriptions on the Oregon randonneurs website and it literally brought a tear to my eye. Seeing so many familiar rides was a little like getting an unexpected email from an old friend.

In collecting links for this post I learned several of these cycling-related websites are inexplicably blocked by the Great Firewall, including those of the Mt. Tabor Series and the official club that sponsors the Paris-Brest-Paris randonnee. The gummint has been monkeying with the firewall a lot lately; blogging sites, in particular, have been up-and-down. MySpace, Typepad, Blogspot, and so forth. Some that have been black for a long time, like the New York Times, are (at the moment) white. I have said more than once that government action in China is like the weather but I am still occasionally dumbstruck by the pointlessness of much that happens here. Seriously: a website for a bicycle race in Portland, Oregon is a political hazard? Oh man.

I, like most people living here (including locals) know how to get around the firewall, by the way. It’s not hard. You can do it through a web anonymizer (like Anonymouse), or using a network proxy like Tor. The fact that these loopholes are a) widely known, b) potentially easy to close, and yet c) still in use says volumes about the government’s actual intentions. (The Cliff’s Notes version of those volumes reads like this: appearances are far more important than effects. If you make a big show of, for example, pumping your arms very hard while jogging, I will make of big show of how hard you’re exercising, despite the fact that your wife is ambling alongside pushing a stroller bearing your granddaughter at exactly the same speed.)