After 1,258 kilometers, 78 hours, 19 meals, 7 espressos,
6 hours of sleep and a couple of naps in ditches, I completed
the oldest cycling event in the world - Paris-Brest-Paris!
This was truly the hardest thing I have ever done. But even
now, just a few days after finishing, my memories are not
of pain and sleep deprivation, but of the gorgeous, classic
French countryside and the amazing, generous French people.
Here is a very brief rundown of the adventure:
1 - Paris to Loudeac
445 Kilometers, 22 Hours, 10:45 PM to 9:00 PM
I had done some night riding in the past, but never
in the middle of a couple thousand cyclists! It was amazing
seeing an endless stream of red taillights up the road.
As we got out of the city things got pretty quiet, no more
cheering Frenchmen along the roads, but at 4:30 we came
upon a local bike shop where the owners were filling our
bottles with Vitel water! I don't know how many cases they
went through, but it sure was appreciated!
I must say, I enjoyed riding during the day better than
at night, and made it to my first planned rest stop at 9:00.
I had a shower, a change of clothes, and a nice meal before
getting some sleep. Unfortunately the snoring hordes kept
me awake, and I took off after an hour of rest.
Day 2 - Loudeac to Brest to Loudeac
310 km, 19 Hours, 1:00 AM - 8:00 PM
This was by far the hardest section of the ride. Not
only did it include the most significant climbing, but the
sleep depravation was taking a big toll on me. I was so
tired, that I wound up taking 6 naps along the side of the
road before sunrise! I also had the unique opportunity to
experience the hallucinations that I'd heard so much about.
I kept seeing alligators along the side of the road! What
The decent into Brest would have made the trip worthwhile
on its own! What a gorgeous coastal town! Brest is the turn-around
point on the route, and I headed back toward Paris after
lunch. I arrived again at Loudeac on my return in 19 hours.
After showering and eating, I allowed myself to have a glass
of wine (of course they served wine, it is France). I just
sat there and thought "God, I'm tired
is good wine
God, I'm tired". I slept for 5
hours this time!
Day 3- Loudeac to Paris
445 km, 24 Hours, 5:30 AM to 5:30 AM
This was my best day; perhaps because I was "heading
home" or perhaps because I got some sleep. I had developed
some serious saddle sores by now, and had a bit of tendonitis
and some knee pain, but it wasn't serious enough to keep
me off the bike. I decided it was time for caffeine, so
I stopped for espresso as often as I could. What a great
"drug", no wonder it is banned from racing!
A number of the delightful small towns were having big
celebrations for the riders as we passed. This was so heartwarming!
There were still people along the road cheering for us and
handing up water, but these were entire towns of country
folk making meals and making merry for us! I had on an old
jersey from a French champagne manufacturer, which made
for no end of good-humored comments from the townsfolk!
There really isn't much fanfare at the finish, at least
not at 5:30 in the morning, but they did have a tent with
nice food available. I walked over to the food tent before
heading back to the hotel for some real sleep. There is
a classic French desert that was created at the turn of
the century to celebrate this ride, the desert is called
"Paris Brest". I was pleased to see that they
had this at the food tent. Never has a desert tasted so
Riding Paris-Brest-Paris is definitely worth the effort!
For information on PBP and similar rides throughout the US
and world, see the Randonneur's USA website: www.rusa.org.