I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that until last weekend, I wasn’t totally sure what the word brevet meant. Yes, I knew it was connected to long rides, often called randonneuring, but I wasn’t exactly clear on the whole concept. I also didn’t know how it was pronounced. Unlike many words that end in a silent “t”, brevet isn’t such a word, and the “t” is hard. As for its origins, the word brevet is a military term that refers to “a warrant giving a commissioned officer a higher rank title as a reward for gallantry or meritorious conduct, but without receiving the authority, precedence, or pay of real rank.” Basically a certificate of performance without the pay upgrade. So how does this pertain to cycling? Well, brevet rides have been around since the first was recorded in 1897, when twelve Italian cyclists attempted to ride 230 km between Rome and Naples. And the basic rules were that “riders follow a course through a series of predetermined checkpoints called “controls”; these are typically tens of kilometres apart. Each rider carries a ‘brevet card’ which must be stamped at each control to prove completion.”
I had the pleasure of experiencing my first brevet, or audax ride, this past weekend in Beaver Creek CO, organized by Uncommon Communication’s own Mike McCormack, the man also responsible for the 6 day Breck Epic MTB stage race. Hosted at The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain, with bike demo and sag support provided by SRAM, riders had their pick of multiple #mixedterrain routes, of various lengths, all of which included long stretches of scenic CO pavement and endless ribbons of buff, red dirt roads that traversed the high passes surrounding Avon, CO. Upon completion of said route, riders received a custom shirt as a reward, their certificate of sorts, for being an audax, or audacious, rider.
I was lucky to be a part of a small crew, the likes of which included Neal Rogers and James Huang of Cyclingtips, racing crushers Meredith Miller and Jake Wells, and the VeloNews dynamic duo of Spencer Powlison and Fred Dreier, that was invited to come “test” the Brevet Beaver Creek ride format. Twenty or so folks showed up for Saturday’s Muddy Pass ride, a 56 mile “audax” route, that included just north of 5K vertical and about 20 miles of relatively well maintained dirt/gravel roads. We had the benefit of SRAM support until a closed gate at about 9,000 ft on Muddy Pass Road meant we were on our own to navigate the snow banks and ruts until we popped out the other side about six miles later. We were treated to a bone rattling, stutter board descent into Vail Village and the Yeti’s Grind, one of the day’s aid stations, before we took the bike path most of the way back to Avon to the waiting arms of the SRAM Lounge.
On day two, an intrepid group showed up for the Brevet Beaver Creek ready to tackle slightly less mileage, but higher mountain passes. With a crossing of Shrine Pass, which sits at 11,094 ft. and known for its majestic views of Mount of the Holy Cross, a behemoth of a rock that juts 14,009 ft out of the Rocky Mountain landscape, the day was destined to be a holy experience. Our morning pedal strokes traced the contours of the Eagle River. We rolled into Minturn, a previously booming crossroads for transportation and industry that now has maybe a thousand permanent residents, and then Hwy 24 turned upwards towards the abandoned town of Gilman, which at one time was the richest and most successful mining district in Eagle County. We were treated to a ripping descent into Red Cliff, more a village than a town, before we found Shrine Pass Rd., a fifteen mile stretch of pristine red dirt that took us through some extended patches of snow at the highest elevations that required a bit more walking than the day before. We refueled at the I-70 Vail Pass aid station before we blazed the bike path 18 miles into Vail and then a few more miles back to Avon.
So, now that you know what it means, and how to properly say brevet , you need to make the pilgrimage to Avon, CO, in 2018. If you like exploring #mixedterrain, pedaling scenic Rocky Mountain roads, eating good food and experiencing a ride format that puts the emphasis on fun and adventure, I highly recommend you do the 2018 Brevet Beaver Creek.