Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's all about that I'm down with the ACP

This kind of distance cycling that I'm undertaking is a governed sliver under the big tent of cycling.  The sport began in Paris in the 1890's and is still governed by a single cycling organization in France: the ACP, or Audax Club Parisien.  Translating ACP to English, I've got no problem with Club or Parisien, but what's Audax?  Does it mean bicycle?  In fact it translates to the English word "bold" and shares the same root as "audacious".  So the worldwide governing body of this strictly cycling endeavors is called "The Bold Club of Paris".  Something about that strikes me as either really cool or really French.

So, there's the club of Audacious cyclists.  They are all about long distance bike rides, rides that are done essentially in one go.  It's not a race, you aren't on a team, you are on your own.  But in this structureless, get it done kind of event, there is structure everywhere.  The rides are almost exclusively in 5 different distances:  200k, 300k, 400k, 600k and 1200k.  Each distance has a specific maximum time limit.  Finish in time or you didn't do it.  Each ride goes through time check points that you must pass, in order, and on time. Finish your card and the ride organizer will send it in to the ACP in France for you.  Weeks later, the card will be returned to you authenticated and recorded in a big book in France for all-time.  It's kind of like scavenger hunt, but generally with more butt-pain. 

There's a non-competitive machismo about the whole thing.  These rides are something you are supposed to prove you can do, but the results are completely binary.  You either did it or you didn't.  There is no ranking for who did it best (the finishing list is recorded in Alphabetical Order).  It's about pushing yourself to the limits of what you and what a human being is capable of.  It's kind of audacious, to tell the truth.  Staying awake for 45 hours straight is a daunting challenge.  Riding 375 miles (600k) in 45 hours is flat out intimidating.  Audacious.

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