Recently, I told you a short story about my encounter with a little French boy during my participation in Paris-Brest-Paris 1995. I consider it to be my favorite of all of my experiences of the three PBP events I’ve participated in. Now, I want to tell you about what I think to be the most important. It happened during my first participation of Paris-Brest-Paris in 1991.
I arrived, with my friends, at the start of PBP in St. Quentin En Yvelines about 7:00p.m. Monday night. Our ride did not begin until 10:00 p.m. but we wanted to get there early to see the fastest riders in the 80 hour start. Already, there were hundreds of people along the route wanting to do the same. We had heard it was like the beginning of the Tour De France where the group takes off racing at speeds of 24m.p.h., or more, through the outskirts of Paris. Their goal is to be the fastest finisher. We were not disappointed.
The ride started immediately at 8:00 p.m. consisting of about seven hundred of the best endurance riders in the world. The gun sounded and the peloton seemed slow to pick up speed. Then, all of a sudden, they took off. They circled around a rondpont, made a right turn, and were off like a rocket. I had never seen riders ride so fast! This was all happening among cheers of “Bonne Route!”, “Bon Chance!”, “Bon Courage!” and “Allez à Brest!”
In no time they were out of sight.
My friend, Charlie Martin from Berea, Ohio (a PBP ancien) looked at me and wisely said, “You know, our start will be exactly the same.”
We have talked about the gracious French people and their kindness. This is especially true for Paris-Brest-Paris. Hundreds of family, friends, and fans line the street at the start of PBP to cheer the riders on to Brest. There are many words of encouragement. You hear a lot of “Bon chance!”, “Bonne route!”, and “Bon courage!” at the start and all along the way. You’ll also hear “Allez Allez!” (Go! Go!).
This is about an incident at Paris-Brest-Paris 1995 concerning my encounter with a little French boy. I had ridden Paris-Brest-Paris in 1991 but I consider this happening my most memorable of the three PBPs I’ve experienced.
Paris-Brest-Paris is a long distance race/tour covering 1200 kilometers (750 miles) in less than 90 hours. It goes from the outskirts of Paris, across the hilly French countryside, to the coastal town of Brest on the Atlantic and back. There are contrôles every 80 to 100 kilometers that you have to check into and have your brevet card stamped. They stamp your time of arrival and initial it to verify you are on the route and following the rules. There are secret contrôles on the route to make sure you aren’t cheating. There are time windows for each contrôle and you must arrive within that window. If you are too early you wait until the contrôle opens. If you are too late, you are disqualified and must find your own way back to Paris.
Okay, our 200K is in the books, and now we look forward to the upcoming 300K. We had 24 riders registered for the 200K, and the weather was nearly perfect for the ride. It was cloudy with spots of sunshine and nearly 70 degrees. Veteran randonneurs and a few “newbies” all hit the road at 8:00 am. Larry Graham set a brisk pace on the great course put together by local randonneurs and tweaked by Dave Miller. Some riders used nearly all of the thirteen and a half hours allotted. Two finished after dark, which brings up the need for proper reflective gear and lighting. I was glad I did not have to DQ anybody for the lack of gear. RUSA requires front and back lighting, reflective vests and reflective ankle bands. If you put yours away after last season, you may need to dig them out for the 300K. There will be a bike inspection (that goes for Elipitigos too) and reflective gear and lighting inspections. Rider safety is paramount. Please refer to the RUSA website to make sure you are compliant.
There were some new faces at the 200K and, a first for any brevet that I can remember, an Elliptigo ridden by Scott Blower. Some veterans were skeptical about Scott’s machine but he finished, with rubber bands and duct tape holding everything together, in a very respectable time. I think he was glad to actually sit down afterwards. Way to go Scott. Laurie Skul, who joined RUSA on the day of the ride, also finished very strong. Charan Babu Puthumbaka, forgot his water bottles, but one of our veterans made sure he had one going out to the first control, and I had a full water bottle waiting for him when he got there. Charan noticeably had a great time on his first brevet and, although randonneurs are supposed to be self- sufficient, our riders welcomed him, and encouraged him. I’m pretty sure he’ll be back.