Easy Rider

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He’s traveled the circumference of the earth — 24,854.85 miles — on a bicycle. On Sunday, April 3, Pat Horchoff of River Ridge earned the Mondial Award given by Randonneurs U.S.A. (RUSA) to members who have successfully completed at least 40,000 kilometers (24,854.85 miles) in RUSA events. Those events are sanctioned rides of between 100 kilometers and 1,200 kilometers on established courses with documented checkpoints and must be finished in a specified amount of time.

Horchoff is an avid biker, last year alone pedaling 12,000 miles on his bike. (See Alex Woodward’s article “Going the Distance with Randonneurs," Cover Story, April 12, 2010, here.) He started collecting RUSA miles that count toward the Mondial in 2001. (The Mondial is for cumulative lifetime miles and can only be won once).

“I rode my first brevet in January 2001,” Horchoff says. “In 2009 and ’10, I rode 23,000 miles. So far this year, I’ve got 3,500 or something like that. My riding has really accelerated in the last two-and-a-half years.”

He started thinking about the Mondial Award when the Regional Brevet Administrator (RBA) in Texas, Dan Driscoll, challenged him in September 2008 to step up his distance riding.

“He said, ‘Go ahead and keep on riding like you are and there is a 1,000 K Houston is putting on. So I rode a couple of rides in Houston, and when we did a 400 K or 600 K in Houston, he told me, ‘Pat, you could easily do 10,000 K (6,200 miles) this year, and we have a special K-Hound plaque.”

RUSA has distance awards for riding in RUSA events, with the maximum award going only up to 5,000 K annually. People in Driscoll’s group started exceeding 5,000 kilometers in a year, so he established the K-Hound Award for his riders who went over the RUSA limit.

Then Horchoff realized the Mondial was something he could reach in 2011.

“One of the things I like about getting it, personally, is that I’m not a long-distance randonneur,” he says. “I’ve only gotten three 600 K (rides) under my belt. Historically I’ve been a very short-distance randonneur. I thought it would really be neat to be able to do a Mondial without ever doing a 1,200 K. Most of the people who have Mondials have ridden several 1,200 Ks. I wanted to prove that it was possible to get a Mondial just doing short distances.”

He prefers 200 kilometer rides, which he does every weekend, but he made himself do some 300 kilometer rides, which were a push, and some 400 kilometer rides. In May Horchoff will ride in the 1,200-kilometer Texas Rando Stampede 1,200 (750 miles over 90 hours), just to prove to himself he can do it.

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Randonneurs aren’t speed racers, Horchoff says. They don’t typically try to ride faster than other people in their group. The point, he says, is to develop your own abilities while doing what you love.

“To me, one of the big pluses to randonneuring is that they are not races,” Horchoff says. “To me the brevets we ride are social events, where we get to chit-chat and bad-mouth each other (in a joking way) and eat a lot of food. It’s a very fun, relaxing way to spend a Saturday or Sunday.

“There are a lot of personalities in randonneuring. There are multiple personalities. … Most of us are from very different backgrounds, but most randonneurs are fairly successful. The bicycling is not the only thing they’re doing; most have a job and this is what they do for fun.”

Horchoff is the RBA for Louisiana, which means he establishes courses with checkpoints, organizes rides and helps new randonneurs make it through rides. He has 100-, 200-, 300-, 400-, and 600-kilometer courses randonneurs from all over the country can sign up for to increase their RUSA miles.

Some people might think getting the Mondial Award is enough for one year. Not Horchoff; he’s got his eye on another mark.

“One of the other challenges I want to do this year is get 15,000 K,” he says. “If you get 15,000 K you earn one of each (of the RUSA medals available). That means I have the potential to get a full ACP series (200-, 300-, 400- and 600-kilometer rides) and get a Super Randonneur medal.”

It’s a great personal achievement but one that doesn’t get much attention outside the small group of randonneurs Horchoff rides with regularly.

“With all those medals together, it still costs me $5 to get a cup of coffee at Starbucks,” he laughs.

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