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21-11-2022 | Wouter Fioole

Where the gran fondo stops

Is just beginning for randonneurs! We already wrote a series on long-distance cycling, ultra's and randonneurs. Something that has been itching for me for a while. Not necessarily for the extreme distances, but mainly because I can really enjoy long trips on the bike. A report of my initial findings during the BRM 200 Luctor et Emergo. Could it really be 200 km of struggling to get to the top?

The start is in the province of Zeeland, in the beautiful fishing village of Wemeldinge. The first thing I notice as I turn into the parking lot is that there are people who have fitted their bikes with full packs. Okay, it's a long distance ride, but for 200 km you don't need a whole kit, do you? The BRM 200 is the shortest possible distance for a Brevets Randonneurs Mondiaux (BRM) brevet. A long distance for a gran fondo or a sportive of course, but also not that extremely long. Les 3 Ballons also went over 200 km a number of years and the longest route of the Amstel Gold Race tour is 245 km. Just on the course bike with a few extra inner tubes and plenty of food should be doable, it seems to me.

Easy atmosphere

The second striking thing is the relaxed and convivial atmosphere at the start. First all to the coffee in the cafe and then at 9.00 together ready for the start. Starting earlier is not allowed, but to make the 13.5 hours needed to make it official (called homologation) starting later wouldn't be not wise either. The atmosphere at the start is relaxed and less hectic than I am used to, with no last-minute participants trying to push ahead. We set off at 9 a.m. sharp with about forty men (out of 51 registrations) for a beautiful ride with a strong Zeeland wind.

Self-sufficient

The biggest difference between this type of sportive and gran fondo is that there are no feed stations along the way. This is something to consider, though. Now the route passed through plenty of smaller and larger towns with plenty of opportunities for snacks and drinks, but some BRM events require you to bring plenty of your own food and drink. During these types of tours, you have to report to checkpoints. In the past you had to get a stamp, now a selfie with your bike and a pre-marked characteristic building or spot on the route suffices. The market in Middelburg (second checkpoint) and the church in Renesse (third checkpoint) will have been an exquisite place for many participants to have something to eat.

All in all a wonderful, somewhat gray and very windy day on the bike! After just over 6.5 hours, I was back at the café. Fried eggs and a hot chocolate to recover and slowly but surely watched the other participants trickle in. This tastes like more...next time a BRM 300!

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