History of Super Randonnées
The origin of the Super Randonnées is tied to the personal story of Sophie Matter. In 2008, she lives in Provence as an independent rider with a bicycle touring license from the local club of Carcès (Var). Since her third Paris-Brest-Paris Randonneur in 2007, she is ready to take up new and ever harder challenges. Having sympathized with a group of Americans from Seattle on the same PBP, she understands how widely randonneuring has spread abroad and now dreams of riding 1200s around the world. She is so passionate about long distance cycling that she is working on a world repertoire of long distance cycling while also posting her reviews on her blog Rando Spirit.
The year 2008 is marked by a succession of personal challenges and all kinds of event participations, always in the mountains. In May 2008, she completes without any assistance the Bicinglette (six times Mont Ventoux in 24 hours), a permanent offered by Christian Pic, President of Club des Cinglés du Ventoux, and she takes part in the Luchon – Bayonne randonnée (one of the so-called Brevets Cyclo-montagnards, alpine brevets organized by the French Federation of Cyclotourism) of 327 kilometers and 5,257 meters of climbing.
At the end of June 2008, she participates in the Fausto Coppi Super Randonnèe, organized by Ivano Vinai and the association Fausto Coppi on the road. The randonnée starts from Cuneo in the Italian Piedmont. It is 510 km long, with more than 11,300 meters of elevation gain. The time limit is 44 hours. Sophie feels comforted by the required minimum average of around 12 km/h, like on the French alpine brevets. There are five intermediate controls (riders have their card stamped), one refueling stop, and two dormitories with catering. Some riders are self-supported, others rely on a support vehicle which is permitted at 13 points along the route, including the top of the passes. Sophie is enthusiastic about this experience. The Italian Super Randonnée reminds her of the French alpine brevets, but with a longer distance. At that time, no such long alpine brevets were offered on a fixed date in France.
On the other hand, ultra-cycling is developing in France with the Raid Provence Extrême (RPE) and the Raid Extrême Vosgien (REV). Organized by Jean-Claude Arens, the REV 2008 covers 530 km with 12,500 m of elevation gain. It’s a race with a podium finish. Drafting is forbidden and with a required minimum average of 17.5 km/h, the athletic level is very high. The logic of ultra-cycling is to optimize performance (the rider is constantly followed by a car). However, on the REV, unassisted cyclists are allowed to participate in their own category and the organization provides food and drink along the route. Sophie entered out of curiosity, out of dare and out of love for the Vosges, but she would have preferred an event better suited to her way of practicing long distance: no competition, more generous deadlines and with an emphasis on self-reliance. Not to mention the financial aspect: participation in ultra-cycling events, in France or abroad, is very expensive (with the REV being the most affordable) and incomparable with the fees common among bicycle tourists.
In July 2008, Sophie makes one of her dreams come true. Welcomed by her new American friends, she takes part in the Rocky Mountain 1200 in Canada. At the finish in Kamloops, Sophie meets Bob and Suzanne Lepertel. They are visiting their friends from the British Columbia Randonneurs. She only knows them by reputation. Bob and Suzanne were the organizers of seven Paris-Brest-Paris (1971, 1975, 1979, 1983, 1987, 1995 and 1999). Robert “Bob” Lepertel chaired the Audax Club Parisien from 1972 to 1983. He is at the origin of the association Les Randonneurs Mondiaux, created in 1983. Bob and Suzanne travel a lot and keep friendships with their international correspondents. Delighted to see a French woman taking part in a RM 1200 event, they invite her to the next Audax Club Parisien General Meeting which is held at the end of the year.
Back in Provence, enriched by those varied experiences, and with strong legs, Sophie tackles a new challenge: the Super Randonnée Jean Giono. It’s a personal challenge which she imagined on her own. The sources of inspiration are diverse. Distance and time limit are those of a regular brevet: 600 km in 40 hours. The route is inspired by the route of the ultracycling event Raid Provence Extrême (complete tour of the Gorges du Verdon, Montagne de Lure and Mont Ventoux), to which she adds a few passes to obtain the symbolic figure of 10,000 meters of elevation gain (measured on OpenRunner, the online route planner that she used at the time). Sophie named her challenge Super Randonnée, in homage to the Super Randonnèe Fausto Coppi, the longest alpine brevet she ever took part in, and Jean Giono, the poet of Haute Provence.
After several unsuccessful attempts, Sophie completes her Super Randonnée in 38h30, on October 1, 2008. Enthusiastic, she writes about it on her blog, providing her readers with the road map, the cue sheet, the profile and other information. But problems arise.
First, the writer’s heiress, Sylvie Durbet-Giono, through the Association des Amis de Jean Giono, accepts the use of the name of Jean Giono, but not in connection with the name Randonnée on the grounds that literary events are already organized under this name. For Sophie, there is no question of abandoning the name of randonnée which unites in her eyes bicycle tourism, long distance, pushing the limits, self-reliance, freedom and camaraderie; a name which is linked to the tradition of Paris-Brest-Paris Randonneur and which is used throughout the world by the federations which organize qualifying brevets. The Super Randonnée Jean Giono becomes Super Randonnée de Haute Provence.
Then, having encouraged other riders to give her Super Randonnée a try, Sophie plans to use her blog to post a list of entries, rules, and future results. But she isn’t well versed in organizing and doesn’t dare to take this step on her own. Christian Pic gives her technical explanations and advises to approach a sports association or to create one. The club of Carcès where Sophie is licensed is not interested in long distance.
However, in December 2008, at the invitation of Bob and Suzanne Lepertel Sophie attends the General Meeting of the Audax Club Parisien. Since she discovered the Randonneurs Mondiaux, her admiration for this hundred-year-old club just kept growing. She presents her Super Randonnée project. The idea is favorably received, and Jean-Gualbert Faburel, Vice-President and responsible for Brevets de Randonneurs Mondiaux in the world, ensures her of his support. Sophie becomes a member of the Audax Club Parisien. The Audax Club Parisien decides to take charge of the organisation of the Super Randonnée and entrusts responsibility to Sophie.
The birth of the Super Randonnée de Haute Provence is announced during the traditional Audax Club Parisien awards ceremony in early January 2009.
Bob and Suzanne Lepertel welcoming Sophie at the finish of the Rocky Mountain 1200 in Kamloops (July 26, 2008)
In January 2009, the rules for the Super Randonnées of the Audax Club Parisien have been established. The Super Randonnée is a permanent, with a new format (600 km / 10,000 meters of elevation gain) and new rules: complete self-reliance (support vehicles are prohibited, even at the controls); control by photo; two options: Randonneur or Tourist. The time limit in the Randonneur option is increased from 40 to 50 hours, to set the minimum average at 12 km/h – the usual required minimum average for randonneurs on alpine brevets. In the Tourist option, riders must complete a minimum average of 80 km per day. Decision is taken to develop other routes, but only in France. Special Super Randonnée cards and frame badges are created.
The control by photo, already tolerated in some long-distance events such as the Diagonales or the Cinglés du Ventoux, is becoming the main way of control on the Super Randonnée. Indeed, it allows to prove night and day that the participant climbed the various summits, where it is in general impossible to have a card stamped.
As opposed to a regular brevet on a fixed date where the participant typically has company and is being pampered and controlled by the organizer, the Super Randonnée offers a space of solitude and freedom for the experienced rider to enjoy. He / she can choose start day and time and build a personal ride schedule. The rule of self-reliance is part of that same spirit. According to the organizer, “since the days of Vélocio, self-reliance has always been a hallmark of randonneuring (…). A randonneur should be able to read a map, get his or her brevet card verified even at unmanned checkpoints, find food and water, do routine repairs and maintain his or her lights in working order. He or she should know oneself enough to face temporary fatigue and discouragement alone”.
As it will be specified a few years later in the introduction to the rules, “the spirit of the Super Randonnée is based on freedom and maturity of the rider”.
On May 28, 2009, Sophie Matter gets the first homologation in the history of the ACP Super Randonnée: FR-HP-R-1. The following two were achieved on August 18, 2009 by riders from Italy: Barbara Fanchini (FR-HP-R-2), and Fulvio Gambaro (FR-HP-R-3). The same year, Fulvio Gambaro sends Sophie a project for a Super Randonnée in Italy (the future Prealpina); but she does not feel ready yet to export the Super Randonnées.
2010 : Opening of the Super Randonnée du Dauphiné Gratiné (route proposed by Hugues Rico).
2011 : The Audax Club Parisien creates the Randonneur 10000 award. The required rides include an ACP-approved Super Randonnée ridden in the Randonneur option. The creation of the Randonneur 10000 award increases the interest of international riders in these new Super Randonnées.
The following year, four riders come to France and finish the Super Randonnée de Haute Provence: Simon Krasna and Simon Gregorcic (Slovenia), Bengt Sandborgh and Niklas Wennberg (Sweden). The latter three of them are among the first 14 to obtain the Randonneur 10000, at the end of 2012.
On May 30, 2012, the Audax Club Parisien authorizes foreign countries to organize Super Randonnées according to the ACP regulations. Sophie is contacted by organizers outside of France wishing to create one, or even several Super Randonnées in their country. Projects are under consideration in the United States, Japan and Norway. The first ACP-approved Super Randonnée abroad is the Croatian Super Randonnée, created and ridden by Ares Bursic, president of the Croatian Randonneurs, who, braving the rain, the cold and the slippery roads, obtains the first international homologation (HR-R -1) in November 2012.
The same year, the ACP stopped publishing the finishing times in the Randonneur option. Finishing is everything !
Also in 2012, each Super Randonnée receives a code composed of four characters: the country code followed by the code of the Super Randonnée (for example, the Super Randonnée de Haute Provence has the code FR-HP). To obtain the homologation number, an R or a T (depending on whether the participant is homologated as a Randonneur or a Tourist) is added to this code, followed by a number assigned in chronological order.
2013 : 11 International Super Randonnées are born: they are located in Germany (Belchen Satt), Spain (Prepireneu and Camino del Cid), the United States (6 Passes 600 in Oregon, Southern Appalachian and Volcano High Pass), Japan (SR Fuji, Kanto Nord and Nihon Alps), Slovenia (Slovenian Super Randonnée) and Taiwan (Central Mountain Taroko Gorge), increasing the number of ACP-approved Super Randonnées to 12.
The SR card and frame badge are exported without modification. The same frame badge, used by participants around the world, reminds us that it all belongs to the same organization and refers to the same regulations. In some countries like Japan or Spain, a great passion for Super Randonnées develops which far exceeds the quest of the Randonneur 10000 award. At the end of 2013, 149 participants have been homologated outside of France, including 106 in Japan (alone, the SR Fuji has obtained 86 homologations in one year, four more than all French SRs since their origin).
The same year (2013) : Opening of the SR Pyrénées-Pirineos (route created by Sophie Matter), and of the SR de l’Ours Cathare (route proposed by François Goas).
2014 : Opening of the SR Garbure et Piperade (route proposed by Pierre Gadiou).
8 Super Randonnées are created outside France and there are 4 new organizing countries: Australia, Bulgaria, Italy and Norway.
December 2014 : To put an end to complaints related to the fact that some routes definitely exceed 10,000 meters of climb, the regulations are amended. The time limit for Randonneurs is calculated on a basis of 50 hours for 10,000 meters of climbing, with each additional 500 m extending the time limit by an hour. For example: from 10,500 m to 10,999 m: 51 h; from 11,000 m to 11,499 m: 52 h ; (…) ; from 15 000 m to 15 499 m: 60 h. The organizer does not want the 10,000 meters to be seen as an upper limit – there is none.
Given the development of the International Super Randonnées, Sophie Matter wants to express the spirit of her organization in the rules – as far as this is possible. She fears that, in some countries, the Super Randonnée will be assimilated to the usual 600 km brevet and organized as such, on a fixed date, with support at the controls and without consideration for the Tourist option. Therefore, the rules of the Super Randonnées are supplemented by a new introduction:
“The spirit of the Super Randonnée is based on freedom and maturity of the riders. It is a permanent route, ridden at the initiative of the participant. Riders choose their start date and time, how they get organized, what they put in their bags, how they manage their time, if they sleep at the hotel or in a sleeping bag or not at all. Regarding organization, they have no other obligation than to make the overall time limit according to their category (Randonneur or Tourist) and to do the ride without the support of a vehicle. Each of them is responsible for validating his/her passage at the controls. In short, they have to handle things all by themselves”.
The rules also receive an appendix which stipulates : “A Super Randonnée cannot be held both at the same time and on the same course as a BRM of 600 km. Super Randonnées being permanents, the organizer has the obligation to offer them throughout the year (provided the roads are open to traffic). If the organizer wants to set a date for a Super Randonnée, he may do so, provided that the rules are respected. In particular, he is not allowed to offer motorized assistance, even occasionally, nor to perform control operations instead of the riders. He must offer the two options, Tourist and Randonneur, and he must not impose any time schedule to the riders”.
2015 : Opening of the SR des Côtes de Bourgogne (route created by Sophie Matter).
The same year, 12 Super Randonnées are created outside France, and 5 new countries appear on the list of organizers : Austria, Brazil, Canada, Greece, and Israel.
In 2016, 14 Super Randonnées are created outside France, increasing the number of International Super Randonnées approved by the ACP to 43. The new host countries are Belgium, Portugal, Russia and Ukraine.
2017 : The time limit in the Randonneur option is increased to 60 hours for all routes, in order to make Super Randonnées less elitist, to allow riders to sleep more and to simplify the calculation of the time limit. Since 2015, the latter involved the accumulated elevation of the route, which turned out not to be a good solution. Obviously, not all Super Randonnées are equal in difficulty. It is up to everyone to choose their favorite.
In the same year (2017) : opening of the SR du Léman Dément (route proposed by Laurent Dene), and of the SR Baridür (route created by Sophie Matter, in the mountains where she started cycling, when she was a teenager).
The route of the SR de Haute Provence (the first SR ever) is modified, so as to make riders start from, and finish in Manosque, emblematic town of Haute Provence (Jean Giono lived there). Unlike the old start place, Manosque has a train station and several hotels. The new route first goes up the Verdon to the famous canyon (Gréoux, Esparron-de-Verdon, Baudinard, Sainte-Croix lake). From Gorges du Verdon to Sisteron, the route remains the same. Then it climbs Montagne de Lure on the northern slope, and uses Col de l'Homme Mort to reach Montbrun-les-Bains and the Toulourenc valley (Col de Veaux). The Ventoux is still climbed by Malaucène, then Gorges de la Nesque replace Col ND des Abeilles. Finally the route visits the Luberon (using several passes: Lagarde-d'Apt, Viens, Aire deï Masco, Montfuron, Mort d´Imbert).
In 2017, 11 new Super Randonnées are created outside France. The new host countries are Romania and the United Kingdom.
2018 : Opening of the SR de Port-la-Montagne (route created by Sophie Matter).
In 2018, only 2 Super Randonnées are created abroad.
2019 : 22 Super Randonnées are created outside France. The new host countries are South Korea and Malaysia.
December 2019 : To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Super Randonnées, the Audax Club Parisien creates the 10 Super Randonnée challenge, awarded to those who have completed ten Super Randonnées approved by ACP, in the Randonneur or Tourist option.
2020 : 32 Super Randonnées are created around the world with two new organizing countries, the Netherlands and Serbia. Between 2019 and 2020, 7 new Italian SRs have been added to the list, thanks to the efforts of the new representative for SRs in Italy, Mino Repossini.
After one year, in December 2020, the 10 Super Randonnées challenge has 17 recipients : 9 Spaniards, 5 Japanese, 1 Greek, 1 American and 1 French (Sophie).
The number 1 of the 10 Super Randonnées challenge is awarded, posthumously, to Micky Inagaki, the former President of Audax Japan. Micky Inagaki strove to develop randonneuring in Japan and participated in many randonnées around the world, as a true ambassador for Japanese randonneurs. In addition to seven Super Randonnées in Japan, he completed the Dauphiné Gratiné in July 2013, the Central Mountain Taroko Gorge SR (Taiwan) in April 2015, Garbure and Piperade in August 2015, the SR Snowies (Australia) in January 2016, and the SR Prealpina (Italy) in August 2016. Micky died in March 2017, after being hit by a car while riding the Tiki 1200 in New Zealand.
March 2021: Sophie creates the website superrandonnees.fr (and its English version, superrandonnees.org). The new site allows to give more information, in particular about the French SR routes, to improve the presentation of the results, and to highlight the SRs recently created. However, the site is not recognized by the ACP steering committee.
2021: Opening of the SR du Désert (route created by Sophie Matter), the first French SR with unpaved roads. It is located in a sparsely populated area, that stretches between Drôme, Hautes-Alpes and Alpes de Haute-Provence. It includes 210 km of dirt roads, and uses about twenty unpaved passes. Isabelle and François Chojnowski, who ride the new route in July, become the first homologated riders.
The “10 SR” challenge has 20 more recipients, including 11 Japanese, 4 Spaniards, 1 American, 1 Bulgarian, 1 Korean, 1 Italian and 1 Ukrainian.
Opened in 2021 "for those who always push the limits", the "20 SR" challenge has 2 recipients, the Japanese Kei Takita and Masahiko Mifune.
37 new Super Randonnées were created in 2021. The 5 new organizing countries are South Africa, Ireland, Kyrgyzstan, New Zealand and Slovakia.
In December 2021, there are 158 Super Randonnées approved by the Audax Club Parisien, organized in 32 countries, on 5 continents. Since the origin, 3798 homologation numbers have been issued.
Behind the good health of the Super Randonnées, however, lies a growing malaise affecting their organizer. Sophie has lost confidence in the ACP steering committee, whose methods and decisions she does not understand. She no longer feels recognized for her work (in addition to the SRs, she also manages, since 2017, the Flèches and the Traces Nationales). On November 1, 2021, she announced her resignation to the President of the ACP, Luc Coppin, in a letter in which she requested the transfer of the Super Randonnées to the association she chairs, Provence Randonneurs. In the same letter, Sophie affirms her desire to continue to work for the good development of Super Randonnées, in France and abroad.
On December 18, 2021, on the proposal of its steering committee, the ACP General Assembly votes simultaneously to transfer the Super Randonnées to Provence Randonneurs, and to remove the Super Randonnées from the list of the events required for obtaining the Randonneur 10000 award.
Sophie checking the route of the SR du Désert, in the Southern Alps
The Gravel SR frame badge, issued by Provence Randonneurs
The Era of Provence Randonneurs (2022- ...)
On January 14, 2022, Sophie announces to the organizers of SRs that she is now continuing to organize the Super Randonnées with her club, Provence Randonneurs, in accordance with the rules of the Audax Club Parisien, and in the spirit of the origins.
Provence Randonneurs is a French non-profit association, born in 2011, headquartered in Cotignac, in the south of France. With this local club, Sophie has been organizing the randonnée Le 1000 du Sud since 2012, in the tradition of bicycle tourism and free-paced brevets. Le 1000 du Sud bears witness to her love for mountains, peaceful roads, beautiful landscapes, and challenges. Like the SRs, it promotes complete self-reliance, camaraderie, and sport without competition.
Sophie believes in the possibility of a collaboration with the ACP (in which she stays as sympathising member), which would prevent the SRs from being withdrawn from the Randonneur 10000 award; and she tries to negotiate in this sense; but the management of the ACP refuses, on the grounds that the Randonneur 10000 award was created to promote organizations belonging to the ACP, and cannot include an organization belonging to another club. After this refusal, Sophie renounces her status as sympathising member and leaves the ACP, in March 2022.
2022: Opening of the SR de l’Oreille d’Âne (route created by Sophie Matter). It is the first SR born under the Provence Randonneurs era.
2022: Creation of the "Gravel SR" Challenge, to highlight the Super Randonnées with unpaved roads, encourage participation, and reward the finishers. There are already 13 SRs of this type in the world (South Africa, Australia, Brazil, Canada, United States, France, Norway and Russia), but these exceptional routes suffer from a lack of recognition, due in part to their increased difficulty, which makes the 60 hour deadline extremely elitist.
The formula is flexible and does not claim to classify the routes, which are very dissimilar in terms of difficulty level. The minimum distance to be covered on unpaved roads is not determined, and each organizer judges whether or not his/her route deserves the designation "Gravel SR". The participant receives a special frame badge. Each finisher (Randonneur or Tourist) of at least one "Gravel SR" will have their name published on the honor list.
For the collectors, the original SR frame badge (2009) was renewed three times (2017, 2020, 2022)
Started on August 2, 2013, Michael Wolfe (Oregon Randonneurs) completed his own Super Randonnée on a recumbent bike (US-OR-R-1). A few days later, José Heussler completed the SR Belchen Satt, also on a recumbent bike (DE-BS-R-21).
In August 2015, the 12-year-old Daniel Weisbecker, accompanied by his father, achieved the SR Belchen Satt (DE-BS-T-64). He is the youngest participant ever homologated.
In 2016, three other recumbent cyclists were homologated : Peter Heal (AU-SW-R-6), Laurent Dene (FR-DG-R-23), and Philippe Louzas from Audax Club Parisien (FR-CB-R-15).
In 2017, Kousei Iga completed the Fuji SR on a recumbent trike (JP-FJ-R-218).
In 2018, Manuela Verini and Ralph Schwörer finished the SR Belchen Satt (Germany) on a tandem (DE-BS-R-104 and 105), a first in the history of Super Randonnées!
In 2018, Laurent Dene completed the Super Randonnée de Haute Provence and the Super Randonnée du Léman Dément (which route he has imagined himself) on a recumbent bike - (FR-HP-R-110 and FR-LD-R-10).
The tandemists Manuela Verini and Ralph Schwörer rode the SR Israeli North in December 2019 (IL-R-8 and 9). In October 2020, they rode the SR SauBerLand-Achterbahn (DE-SB-R-28 and 29).
Diego Ruiz Vega (Spain) completed 10 SRs in the Randonneur option between January 9 and October 16, 2020, including 3 SRs in June.
Charlie Martin (United States) completed one SR per month, from April 2019 until March 2020 : 12 SRs in 12 consecutive months, in Randonneur option, including 10 times the Californian East Bay Super Randonnée.
In 2021, Kei Takita and Masahiko Mifune (Japan) become the first riders having completed more than 20 SRs. The 20 SR challenge owes its birth to them.
Published on January 23, 2021 - revised on April 11, 2022
Daniel Weisbecker, the youngest rider ever, at the top of the Chasseral (Aug. 5, 2015)
Published on January 23, 2021 - revised on April 11, 2022