FORT KENT, Maine — OK, everyone — it’s time to “randonnee.”
Caribou-based Fresh Trails Adventures is planning a bicycle ride from Fort Kent to Lac Temiscouata, Quebec, on Saturday, May 14, and hopes to introduce the randonnee to cyclists in northern Maine with its first FARM — French Acadian Randonnee of Maine — ride.
Popular in Europe, the randonnee tradition is not a race. Rather, it’s classic cycling within an organized group over dirt and paved roadways.
“The classic cyclist doesn’t care to beat other cyclists who happen to be out on the same roads at the same time,” said Mark Rossignol of Fresh Trails. “Instead, the classic cyclist will greet and engage in conversation with other cyclists.”
Unlike in a race or organized charity ride that relies on marked routes, the FARM participants will use maps to make their way from Fort Kent through New Brunswick to Lac Temiscouata.
Along the way they will ride past farms, in woodlands and along lakes for 40 miles to Notre-Dame-du-Lac, Quebec, where a lakeside feast awaits.
Participants then have the option of arranging their own vehicle transportation back to Fort Kent or continuing the cycling loop back for an 80-mile total ride.
Rossignol estimates it should take three to four hours for the first leg of the trip, and those planning to ride the entire 80 miles should anticipate up to eight hours on their bikes.
“Anyone who wants to participate really needs to be [bicycle] saddle-ready by the 14th,” said Matt Michaud of Fresh Trails. “To train you should be out riding three to four times a week.”
Michaud and Rossignol said the idea for the Acadian randonnee came from their own participation in the Massachusetts D2R2 — the Deerfield Dirt-Road Randonnee — benefiting a local land trust.
“They get about 800 cyclists a year,” Michaud said. “It’s 120 miles on dirt roads in a day.”
After completing the D2R2, Rossignol said he was struck by the fact that the ride’s route and terrain were quite similar to those in northern Maine.
“I thought, ‘that’s what we ride all the time,’” he said. “So why not develop a ride to showcase what we have here?”
Fellow Fresh Trails cyclist David Chamberlain said there is no better place for a randonnee.
“The roads between here and Quebec are perfect for that kind of ride,” Chamberlain said. “You have paved roads and you have gravel roads.”
The challenge of the ride, Rossignol said, is more mental than physical.
“It’s about challenging yourself and to enjoy the ride as opposed to suffering,” he said. “If you approach this as a race you are in trouble [because] it’s about enjoying the time with fellow cyclists and enjoying the scenery.”
The Fresh Trails Team hopes to make the FARM ride an annual event taking advantage of a variety of routes through northern Maine, New Brunswick and Quebec.
Rossignol also would like to tie the rides in with the 2014 World Acadian Congress, which will cover all three regions.
The FARM ride includes rest stops along the route and support vehicles throughout the ride. Participants should have bicycles equipped for paved and dirt surfaces.
Preregistration is $70, or $80 the day of the ride, and participants get a FARM shirt, pint glass, water bottle, a supply of Honey Stinger products, lunch and bragging rights to friends.
The ride will take place rain or shine with check-in at the Fort Kent Blockhouse at 7:30 a.m. and a scheduled departure at 8:30 a.m.
Registrations may be made by emailing FarmRide@MakeFreshTrails.com or by calling 207-551-8387. Checks may be sent to Fresh Trails Adventures LLC, 118 Bennett Drive, Suite 145, Caribou 04736.
Complete route information is on the Fresh Trails website at www.MakeFreshTrails.com.