Event Description

The Gold Rush Randonnée is an out-and-back ride in the normal format of other grand randonnées of this type, such as Paris-Brest-Paris. The GRR is organized under the auspices of the Randonneurs Mondiaux, the worldwide governing body for randonneuring, and will use standard randonneuring pace and regulations. Riding 1200 kilometers in 90 hours or less means that not much time is spent off the bike unless one is a particularly fast cyclist. One should always be aware of the closing time for the next checkpoint-arriving after the official closing time means disqualification. In addition to the GRR web site, these times are printed in the official route book. Each entrant must carry his or her route book at all times during GRR. There will be checkpoints approximately every 50 to 70 miles where riders are required to stop and sign in and then to also sign out to verify their progress. Like a passport, each rider must get his or her route book signed and stamped at each "control" point. Missing any stamp, or losing one's book, means disqualification. There will also be unannounced secret controls, so riders must not deviate from the official route at any time. Most of the regular controls will also have food and drink, showers, and beds for the entrants around the clock, or there will be restaurants and motels nearby for the stops that do not. The longest stretch between reliable water supply points during the GRR will be about 50 miles, but it is often much less than that.

Route Marking

The GRR route will be marked with arrows affixed to the roads at turns only. The the route sheet will use primarily miles, but kilometers will be included. Road paving is good for most of the ride, but there is an twenty-mile section between Canby and Alturas that has some nasty periodic gaps in the surface. (Smoother alternatives in this region carry a lot of car and truck traffic so the more tranquil route was chosen for rider safety, as well as better ambiance and scenery.) There are also some sections of mountain roads where prolonged winter conditions roughen the paving or deposit fallen rocks and debris. Riding the GRR on narrow 20mm racing tires won't be a good choice; more reliable 23mm or 25mm tires are a better way to go. They also give increased comfort over such a long distance.

Summer Heat

Overall, summer heat in California's vast Central Valley flavors how and when the GRR is scheduled. The GRR will start at 1800 hours on a Wednesday evening closest to the full moon. The start time was chosen to help the riders by waiting for cooler evening temperatures during the first 100 miles north to Oroville. After miles of steady climbing into the Sierra Nevada Mountains via the gentle Feather River Canyon during the first night, riders will reach higher altitudes and cooler daytime temperatures on Thursday morning. The majority of the GRR is ridden at around 3500 to 5500 feet of elevation and the high point of the course is 6100 feet. Early morning temperatures in the mountains could get as low as the upper-30s, so bring appropriate clothing to stay warm. Long periods of rain are not too likely in June, but afternoon and evening thunderstorms in the mountains are a distinct possibility. In the 2001 event, several riders were surprised by the ferocity of these afternoon showers and cold descents that followed after being drenched. Some, in fact, actually dropped out of the ride expecting worse conditions. Those that persevered found warm sunshine arriving three hours later and were soon dry and happy to be warm again.
On the return journey, the final 100 miles will again be in California's Central Valley and at lower altitude. This region usually sees afternoon temperatures around 85-90°F in July, but 100°F+ are not uncommon, so staying hydrated will be essential. If daytime temperatures are hot during the GRR, smart riders will probably want to time their finish using another night ride back to Davis. Arriving in Davis near the 90-hour cut-off at noon Sunday will mean many miles of enjoyable cycling in pleasant night and early morning temperatures. Faster riders arriving on Saturday afternoon may have worse conditions to contend with during the final hours of their ride. Some of you may be asking why we didn't schedule the GRR for earlier in the year when it is cooler, but any sooner and many of the randonneurs living in the northern latitudes will not have finished the 600-kilometer brevet needed to qualify for GRR. Any later and the heat in the Central Valley is guaranteed to be a worse problem, plus there will be fewer minutes of daylight riding the farther one gets away from the summer solstice.

Qualifying to Ride

Entry into the GRR is based upon having successfully completed the normal "Super Randonneur" series of brevets (200k, 300k, 400k, and 600k) in the year of the start of the GRR. For the brevet series nearest you, check out the web site of the Randonneurs USA (, our national randonneuring organization. Their calendar will show all the brevets nationwide. Exactly when these important qualifying rides begin will depend on your region, but generally, warmer climate zones start their brevets earlier than those in the northern areas. If it turns out that your regional 600k isn't held in time to get into GRR, contact us. (Click on the "application" page for more info about qualifying regulations.) And don't forget to leave a little recovery time after your 600k too. In any case, you'll want to plan your training and qualifying carefully; the GRR is a long, hard ride, with much of it in mountainous areas. Be sure to use your brevets and other local training rides to solve any problems with lights and night-riding techniques, effective cycling nourishment, and personal pacing strategies. You don't want to learn some of these important randonneuring "lessons" during GRR itself. We sincerely hope you will finish and earn the prestigious 1200k medal of the Randonneurs Mondiaux, as well as your special GRR jersey-but you need to come to the event properly prepared, so get busy training! Foreign riders will, of course, want to be in contact with their respective national randonneuring organization to do their Randonneurs Mondiaux-approved brevets. If we can be of more assistance helping you get to the GRR starting line, don't hesitate to write, call, or e-mail us for more information.