Many randonneurs consider the fleche to be one of the most fun (and often challenging) events on the schedule.
What makes it fun? You’re riding with friends and team mates, all working together toward a common goal. Plus there is the fleche breakfast, which all who have registered for the fleche are welcome to attend, regardless of whether they rode or finished.
What makes it challenging? It’s a 24-hour, 224+ mile ride. You may be on a team whose route is more or less challenging. And … the timing of the fleche is determined by the week after Easter, which of course is variable. So some fleches are characterized by bitterly cold weather; for others, heat may be a challenge. Sometimes the weather is lovely, others the weather is appalling.
Most teams will want to start riding the fleche at around 7am on April 22nd so that they can finish 24 hours later at the fleche “target,” the Key Marriott, and join other exhausted and elated riders for the celebration breakfast and to share stories about their adventures.
Critical deadlines for forming a team, getting a route approved, or becoming a team member are shown further below. But first …
What is a fleche and what are (some of) its rules?
A fleche (French for “arrow”), is a team event in which each team rides different routes toward a common finish location, like arrows toward a target. Minimum distance is 360 km, which must be covered in 24 hours. Most people who have done a fleche consider it to be one of their favorite randonneuring events since riding together as a team for 24 straight hours builds strong bonds between team members, and is great fun.
Fleche target: the Key Bridge Marriott in Arlington, VA, where on Sunday April 23rd, teams will meet for a hearty post-ride breakfast. (Note that the target does not have to be the team’s final control.) Breakfast is included in the fleche fee. If you would like to bring a guest, their breakfast will cost $20.00 which includes tax and tip. There is some street parking on Nash St and possibly elsewhere; otherwise, the hotel parking is very convenient.
Allowed start times: Most teams will want to start at about 7AM on Saturday morning so that they can finish at 7AM on Sunday morning and join other exhausted and elated riders for the celebration breakfast. Teams are allowed to start between noon on Thursday the 20th and 10AM on Saturday the 22nd. Team members are welcome at the fleche breakfast whether or not they successfully completed the fleche.
Fleche rules: The fleche has its own set of rules that are somewhat different and more arcane, than those for a standard brevet. Some of them are summarized here:
- Each team must consist of three to five bicycles. (Note that a tandem counts as a single bicycle, so teams will sometimes contain more than five riders.)
- Teams can start at any time between noon on Thursday and 10AM on Saturday, and must finish 24 hours later. (However, as noted above, we encourage teams to finish around 7am (between 6AM-8AM) on Sunday morning so that they can join together for the brunch.)
- The traditional fleche route starts at some distant location and then heads for the target, but a loop route is also allowed, as long as the start location is far enough from the finish to be considered as a different postal jurisdiction. You may not use the same road twice in the same direction. And only small out-and-back sections are allowed, for control purposes.
- As in a standard brevet, the routes must contain control locations chosen so that the shortest bicycle-safe, bicycle-legal route through the controls is equal to at least the minimum distance of 360 km. However, the fleche has an additional requirement that one of the controls must occur exactly 22 hours after the start and be at least 25 km from wherever that team finishes. Note that this requirement, as well as the one that states that no rest stops can be longer than 2 hours, ensures that teams take nearly the full 24 hours to complete the ride.
- The 22-hour and 24-hour control rules (Articles 10 and 11) have recently been changed to allow an exception in case you are unable to obtain on-the-spot control verification. But … we suggest that you use this exception as a last resort, since its use requires ex-post route validation, which inherently increases the possibility of disqualification.
- For the complete fleche rules, click: here
A full understanding of the rules, especially for the 22-hour control is essential for achieving a successful finish. Team captains are welcome to contact me with questions. And many experienced captains even recommend bringing a printed copy of the rules on the ride since they can be hard to recall at 4 in the morning.
Fleche Team Deadlines
To participate in this special event, riders should start forming teams now. Each team must have a captain who is responsible for designing the route and submitting it for approval. The schedule will be:
- Sunday, March 19: Applications from captains due to RBA. See “Fleche Captain Application” below for details on what must be provided.
- Saturday, April 8th : Final rosters, rider registration forms, and waivers due from team captains to RBA.
- April 20th to 23rd: Fleche
Captains, see “Fleche Captain Application” below.
Team members, fill out the registration form and send it to your team captain! fleche_team_member_regform.doc
Captains and team members must register online at http://dcrand.org/dcr/member/order/, entering all of the information requested–especially phone numbers and emergency contact–and following the payment instructions there. Note: RUSA membership is not required to ride a fleche, but because DCR will be charged $5 by RUSA for any fleche riders who are not RUSA members, DCR will pass those charges through.
Team captains are responsible for collecting applications and waivers from their team members and submitting them on time, the second deadline noted above. In other words, team members should send the forms to their captains, and then the captains should submit them as a group.Please contact Nick Bull ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) with any questions. We also have many experienced fleche captains in the club who would be excellent sources of advice. If you are thinking of forming a team or looking for a team to join, the dcrand listserve is one good way to connect with other riders. Planning and training are essential for finishing and enjoying a fleche. So I encourage all new teams to schedule at least one or two shakedown rides together, perhaps on a 200km (or even 300km) permanent route.
In case of Inclement Weather: We have a 300km scheduled for the weekend after the fleche, so it will not be possible to reschedule in the event of inclement weather (but we can all still go to the fleche breakfast, regardless!). Because each team rides its own route, weather conditions might be acceptable for some routes while unacceptable for others. If the weather forecast looks questionable for the region, team captains will be contacted, and they will be required in turn to contact their team members. For this event as for all events, it is up to each individual randonneur to decide based on the best information that they have available whether they think it is safe to proceed. Whether or not you ride (or complete) your fleche, you are welcome at the fleche breakfast, which will proceed as long as the hotel is open.
Fleche Team Captain Applications
Fleche captains will submit four items.
1) Registration form by, March 19th: fleche_team_captain_regform.doc,
2) Route application form, by March 19th: dcr_fleche_route_application.doc, and
3) Fleche Team Tracking Sheet, by April 8th: fleche_team_captains_tracking_sheet.xls.
4) Also by April 8th, captains will submit the registration forms with properly-filled-out waivers for their team members. Confirm that all of your team members have registered online and note that in the tracking sheet.
Routes that do not include a completely-filled out DCR Fleche Route Application will not be considered. Note that if your proposed route has been approved within the last three years, you will not need to fill out the detailed Route Justification section. All other routes will require detailed route justification. This is no more and no less than what is required when you submit a route to RUSA for approval. So … if you’ve submitted a route to RUSA, you know what to do; and if you get a fleche route approved, then you’ve had good practice for submitting a route to RUSA!
It is up to prospective fleche captains to take the time to justify the route. The RBA’s job is to review the justification — typically that can take an hour per route — not to work out the justification for you.
The route information can be submitted electronically to email@example.com in PDF, MS Word, or MS Excel format. Ideally you will include a route file created in Garmin Mapsource; RideWithGPS is also acceptable; either of these will be much appreciated, but not technically required.