Sunday, October 17, 2010

5 Questions with.. Raleigh RBA Alan Johnson

Everybody knows Alan. Locally, regionally, nationally- rarely will you meet someone that hasn't ridden with Al. In addition to being the Raleigh NC Regional Brevet Administrator for several years, he's been riding brevets and local centuries long before that. But how well do we know him, especially newer riders? Hopefully, this next installment of "5 Questions with.." will reveal something about this beer-brewing, Super Randonneur you didn't know before.

1- Let's begin with an easy one.. how did you get started riding brevets?

I started riding bicycles in 1980 to commute the five miles to work and then started riding 20 miles by myself on weekends. I joined NCBC in the fall and started doing the club rides. The first club ride turned out to be 75 miles. The next weekend I rode the fall century and met another rider with a patch from a triple century. I thought the century was a challenge and could not imagine doing 300 miles. Four years later I would do twice that distance and have fun doing it.

I rode my first 200K in 1983 and helped out with the other brevets that first year. Jim and Kathie Mulligan where the first RBAs for North Carolina and after PBP, they held a party for the riders and volunteers. I was intrigued by the rider's stories that first year and decided that randonneuring was for me. In 1984 I rode my first SR Series including a 1000K from Murphy to Manteo. Back then the brevets mostly followed North Carolina Bike Routes 1 and 2 with minor changes as needed. Jim and Kathie would make up route books with hand-drawn maps and typed cue sheets. There were no computers or internet to help out then.

We were still learning how to ride brevets and what to eat and carry to make it through. The available lighting systems were minimal so we often cobbled them together with Radio Shack parts, heavy six volt lantern batteries and bike lights. It wasn't uncommon for the lights to fail and we tried to stay together to share the light we did have.

There were six of us on the first 1000K leaving Murphy. Three riders had full support crews with them including one woman using it as a training ride for RAMM. We separated going through the mountains and one rider dropped out after the first 100 miles. I caught up with Gilbert Anderson, Steve Knight and another rider near Marion. Steve and I stopped in Hickory but found out that a convention had all the hotel rooms filled. We finally stopped at a Howard Johnson's where the night clerk offered us a roll away bed in the store room for a few hours sleep. We spent the second night at my house and left early for Manteo finally rolling in to the finish 65 hours after leaving Murphy. Four of us completed the 1000K and Steve and I were the only ones to finish unsupported.

After finishing the 1000K, I knew I could do PBP and it was only a matter of time until circumstances would allow me to do it.

2- Since you brought up PBP, when did you ride it, and what about it is drawing you back for 2011?
I rode PBP with about nine other local riders in 1991, which was also
the centennial year. That was the first year in which the financing,
training and time came together to allow me to go. I had two goals when I went.
The first was to finish and the other was to have fun doing it. I completed
both goals. The best thing for me was the people cheering us along the way.
Some people would have places set up to give us food and only want to know
where we came from in return. There were times when I would get depressed
during the ride but would then think about the next control coming up and the
people who would be there and I would perk back up. Coming into the
control at Villaines la Juhel, the street was packed with spectators cheering
the riders. As I approached the crowd parted and allowed me to ride through
like you see in the mountain stages of the Tour de France.

My goal is to go back next year if everything works out for me.

3- Long-time randonneurs from neighboring states have told me they remember coming to Raleigh to ride brevets in the 1980s, with riders numbering in the dozens. Do you think randonneuring in North Carolina is growing, or is it on a plateau?
I think randonneuring is growing in North Carolina. In the 80's we were one of the few places on the east coast to organize brevets and we drew randonneurs from New England to Florida. Often the majority of riders were from out of state. As the popularity of brevets increased, the number of RBA's in other states increased and there were fewer riders from out of state. In the 90's and early 2000's there would often be ten or less riders on our brevets but now we see 30 to 40 riders on all distances and have many more brevets listed. There are currently over 100 randonneurs in North Carolina belonging to RUSA. High Point RBA Tony Goodnight has been a big help with bringing in more riders with all of his rides in the western part of the state and has helped to complement the rides I put on here, as well as providing more variety to the rides available. There is a lot of enthusiasm shown by the randonneurs, involvement from RBA Tony and RUSA VP and newsletter editor Mike Dayton, all the North Carolina permanent owners and of course, the volunteers who help out on the brevets.

4- What did it feel like to complete another Super Randonneur series this year, your first since a car/bike accident several years ago.

It was great to finally do it after all this time. I have done the 200K and 300K brevets several times but had to quit on the 400K brevets the two or three times I've tried since the accident. This year I was finally able to finish the 400K but was ready to quit several times on the 600K pre-ride. Fortunately Mike, Jerry, Joel and Carol (from DC Randonneurs) kept encouraging me on and helped me finish. I was planning to buy the medals this year but Mike and Jerry surprised me with them at the 600K start the next weekend. This is what makes randonneuring great.

5- Last question: randonneur or not, famous or not, alive or not.. if there's just one cyclist you could ride a brevet with- who would it be and why?
Of course, Lance (Armstrong) is an obvious choice since his comeback from cancer is an inspiration to everyone. Reading his book helped encourage me in my recovery from the accident eight years ago. It would also be fun to ride with Charles Terront and compare the changes in cycling from the first PBP to now. It is hard though to beat the group I rode the 600K with this year and the encouragement they gave me to continue on and finish.

1 comment:

dean furbish said...

The first time I ever had the chance to ride with Alan was last year on Mike's Kerr Lake Loop Permanent.

What fun to be led by the leader! Not only does he continue to impress, he inspires by example. Go, Alan!