Audax has become a truly international affair with BRM events taking place in more than 40 countries in 2011 (you can download the full international calendar from the ACP website) and heading abroad for an event can really add to the adventure of audax. For most randonneurs, the occasion for a trip abroad will be a multi-day grand randonnee (1200km+), of which the biggest and most famous is Paris-Brest-Paris, held every four years. Most of the major audax nations have their own equivalents, from Italy’s Mille Miglia to Russia’s Northern Lights, each with its own distinctive flavour.
Paris-Brest-Paris originated in 1891 as a 1200km race from Paris to Brest on the north-west coast of France and back. In subsequent editions, PBP separated into simultaneous events for professional racers and tourists (i.e. what we would now describe as randonneurs). The race eventually disappeared in the 1950s as the pros abandoned it, unable to reconcile it with the requirements of training for the modern racing scene, but the randonneuring event continued with participation steadily increasing to more than 5000 in 2007. Often described as the biggest cycling event in France outside of the Tour, and certainly the only audax event that the average cyclist is likely to have heard of, PBP should be one of the most memorable rides of your life. Entrants must complete a super randonneur series in the year of PBP to qualify and the time limit is 90 hours, although the quickest riders (the vedettes, subject to no upper speed limit) will finish it in less than 50.
Of course, you don’t have to go even as far as Paris to get a little international flavour – the UK has one of the most active (if not hyperactive) audax cultures in the world with the most popular events attracting entry numbers that dwarf even the most popular events in Ireland. Audax UK has a labyrinthine awards structure with some members fiercely contesting the points prize (at one point per 100km of brevets ridden, the winner will usually amass over 200 points). Others focus on AAA points for routes with significant climbing or their randonneur-round-the-year award for completing a brevet in each of twelve consecutive months (two riders have clocked up 10 of these awards). Events in Wales are particularly easily accessible from Ireland and include classics such as the Brevet Cymru 400 and the Bryan Chapman Memorial 600, which combine tough (or “scenic”) routes with top-notch support from the organisers.