When I interviewed Roger Baumann for the René Herse book, he told me: “In Paris, there was this club of older riders, the Audax-Club Parisien. [...] They did great rides in the mountains [...] They were a leading light in the sport. They created many events: Paris-Brest-Paris, Flèche Vélocio…”
When I moved to Seattle in 1992, I learned of a such a club here, the Redmond Cycling Club. They did great rides in the mountains. Their motto was: “Where ‘hill’ isn’t a four-letter word.” I was racing on the university cycling team, and my teammates told me about this amazing event, the Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day (RAMROD). I entered it and tasted the great joy of riding long distances in the mountains. I also met the people behind the ride, and was taken in by their passion for the sport.
I learned that the Redmond Cycling Club organized other, even more amazing rides: Cannonball and S2S. These races went from Seattle to Spokane, non-stop, for 275 miles, which seemed like a huge distance, and a challenge too enticing to ignore. Both became annual events for me.
I enjoyed the events themselves, but even more the friendships with the riders from the Redmond Cycling Club. Arriving in Spokane after 16 mostly solitary hours on the road to the cheer of my friends, who were having a picnic at the finish line, was very special indeed. Driving back from Spokane, there were animated conversations on many topics, and we always stopped for lunch at a great restaurant they had discovered years ago. Time and again, they pointed out wonderful backroads and said: “You should explore those some day.” They had ridden on most of them.
When I wanted to ride a tandem in the cross-state races, club members lent me their personal, prized machines for several attempts. They even provided car-based support, so we could be competitive. (They were going to the finish anyhow, so as long as we were in the lead, we would have support.)
I still have a vivid memory of Pat Marek scanning the horizon of eastern Washington’s wide-open plains with his binoculars, to see how far ahead we were of other riders. As we approached, he handed us water bottles and food, then waited until he could see the next rider on the horizon. He noted how far behind they were – he had taken our time at the same spot – then drove ahead and stopped by the roadside, giving us an update on our position together with more food and water. Alas, we never managed to realize his dream of a tandem winning the cross-state races outright. Once the tandem actually did arrive first, albeit minus its stoker…
The Redmond Cycling Club also sent riders to Paris-Brest-Paris and organized the qualifying brevets every four years, long before RUSA and SIR existed. I joined the Redmond Cycling Club just as the riders from the 1995 PBP came back and received a hero’s welcome. That was the first time I heard about PBP, which was virtually unknown in the U.S. back then. Four years later, I was one of the riders who went to Paris, buoyed by the advice from the fellow club members who had gone before me.
These older riders of the Redmond Cycling Club were great mentors in my “formative” years. Their friendship and encouragement allowed me to spread my wings and start exploring cycling off the beaten path. I owe them very much, and I recall our rides together with great fondness.