1200 kilometers, 90 hours, 6000 riders, alot of flapjack and not much sleep!

Friday, 9 September 2011

PBP - The ride Report

The Faccombes on the wheel

 Being part of this ride was never really about seeing if I could ride 1200kms or how fast I could ride it in. What really attracted me and kept me motivated over the last few years was the history of the event, the truely international flavour and the tales of roadside support from the locals; and all this in a country I love spending time in.  A country where the bike is seen an elevated form of transport not a hinderance to other road users.

The journey to the start line has been just as much as an adventure as the ride itself. Myself, Lee, Kieran and Dave have ridden thousands of kilometers together in all weathers and all seasons as we found our audaxing legs and prepped for the ride itself. It's been a truely shared journey ....new friends, who now seem like old friends,  have been made along the way, Els, Mark (and the rest of the Portsmouth randonneuring folks) to name but a few; all of us with a common goal for 2011 and a common love of being out on a bike in good company, in great countryside with beer or a cuppa at the end!

I won't go into a turn by turn account of the ride (phew I hear you say!). I have lots of very clear memories of the ride but have given up trying to piece them together into any geographical or chronological order rather just happy to have them as snapshots of moments that piece together into an collage of the ride. I loved PBP. It lived upto all my expectations. It was a physical and mental challenge, but never felt impossible and really the sleep deprivation was the hardest thing to cope with as we rode through 4 nights and 3 days. We were lucky with the weather,  unlike others, we never encountered any rain worth putting a coat on for and managed to miss the big thunderstorm, just encountering the wet roads, muddy control and soaking wet riders in the aftermarth!  The sun even came out on the wednesday and with time in hand for me and Kieran we were able to indulge ourselves with roadside cake stops, home brewed cider, beers with the locals and a siesta in the shade by the side of the road.  PBP 90hour Touriste style!

The level of support for this ride from the side of the road is unique in long distance events and brings people back for successived PBPs.  I can completely understand that, for 3-4 days you are made to feel special: applauded, cheered and willed on by all ages; from the young girl at the end of her garden on a sunny evening to a farmer by the side of road in the middle of the night. From the lone young lad on his bmx quietly applauding riders who passed his road to white van drivers leaning out of their windows shouting 'Bon Couarge' with a clenched fist!   Bottles of water and snacks were left out after supporters had gone to bed while the hardy stayed up all night to be there for you.  Its these people who are the over-riding memory.of my PBP.

Then there are the other riders on the road with you ....one moment you are with a bunch from Seattle, swapping stories and pulling legs, next with some aussies pulling your leg, next nodding to some Chinese riders and then passing some Costa Ricans wrapped up if it was the middle of winter.  Then you might bump into fellow riders from the UK and catch up on who's seen who and how they are doing.  Informal grupettos would come and go, occasionally a large group would charge by complete with captain and whistle; and sometimes in the middle of the night you would look over you shoulder and realise you are towing the whole field silently back from Brest!

It was a parallel world we had entered as we left Paris.  Normal days and their division  become irrelevent. All that concerned us was the distance to the next control. the time we would ge there, did we need food and how much, did we need skeep and how much.  How much time did we have in hand.  These calculations are run endlessly especially through the long nights.  The night riding becomes another world within this strange world, the snake of red lights stretches to the horizon, nothing much is said, often the only sound is the whir of the chain and quiet buzz of the tyre on the road. It makes for an eerie endless procession especially during the first night.  However this is all broken with the arrival at the controls as you are snapped out of you dream with bright lights, hundreds of riders, bikes everywhere and the need to try and get controlled, fed water and rested asap and back on the road.   Daylight always seems to come later than expected.

Multiple the above by 4 nights and 3 days and mix in increasing amounts of tiredness and you will get an idea of the slightly disorientated and disassociated state the average randonneur on PBP finds themselves in! Just keep pedalling!

The penultimate control, Dreux, is only 65k from Paris. The welcome and the atmosphere was as if it was the arrivee. The end was in sight. Time for one last refuel and refill those jersey pockets with bananas. Dawn was breaking we had plenty of time. For those last few hours back to Paris I was filled with mixed emotions.  We had the fun of one last grupetto, with Nina and Patrick, cruising past other riders, the excitement of the imminent completion of the ride but I also felt slighty meloncolly that the who PBP adventure was coming to a close.   Arriving back in Paris in the rush hour traffic was a bit of a wake up call and not ideal for tired riders but we safely got off the road and safely into the arrivee. A blur of officials and friends, one last check in, a voucher for a cold beer, no more calculations just stories swapped in the shade ...we had done it!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

PBP - Update

most of you probably know this already ...but for those that don't .....I did it:

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES21-08 20:000h000 km/h0h000.1 km/h
VILLAINES-LA-JUHEL22-08 07:0111h0120.1 km/h11h0120.1 km/h
FOUGERES22-08 11:5015h5019.6 km/h4h4918.5 km/h
TINTENIAC22-08 15:1219h1219 km/h3h2216 km/h
LOUDEAC22-08 20:3124h3118.3 km/h5h1916 km/h
CARHAIX-PLOUGUER23-08 04:4632h4616 km/h8h159.2 km/h
BREST23-08 11:5039h5015.5 km/h7h0413.2 km/h
CARHAIX-PLOUGUER23-08 17:3745h3715.4 km/h5h4714.7 km/h
LOUDEAC23-08 22:2550h2515.5 km/h4h4816.5 km/h
TINTENIAC24-08 07:0059h0014.7 km/h8h359.9 km/h
FOUGERES24-08 10:0762h0714.8 km/h3h0717.3 km/h
VILLAINES-LA-JUHEL24-08 15:3667h3614.9 km/h5h2916 km/h
MORTAGNE-AU-PERCHE24-08 21:3773h3714.8 km/h6h0113.5 km/h
DREUX25-08 05:1581h1514.3 km/h7h389.8 km/h
SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES25-08 08:5684h5614.5 km/h3h4117.6 km/h
Kilom├Ętres parcourus: 1230

It was an amazing adventure and certainly lived upto all my expectations.  A proper write up will follow soon.

The Faccombe3 reunited at the Arrivee

Friday, 19 August 2011

cometh the hour cometh the randonneur!

no more talking, no more training, no more preparing .....the time has come!

tonight I catch the ferry Portsmouth to Le Havre with Lee and Kieran, followed by a morning drive to the suburbs of Paris.  Saturday afternoon is admin. Our Bike check slot is at 2pm to make sure our machines are road worthy, have two sets of lights and we have our reflective gilets for night riding.Once we have the certifcate to verify we have satisifed the scrutineers we can pick up our rider pack with Brevet card, timing chip, Frame number, PBP shirt etc. Then it's a case of soaking up the pre-ride atmosphere, sampling the hospitality layed on for the riders, meeting up with friends, not drinking too much beer and not staying up too late!  On Sunday we'll try and stay in bed as long as possible and genrally mooch about until our pre-paid PBP lunch.  The afternoon will be spent trying not to get too nervous as out start slot approaches between 6-8pm. 

Here's the route and control names (courtesy of my friends Els). you can track me via here using frame number 5734: