Paris-Brest-Paris is the granddaddy of all ultra-cycling rides as it is the oldest amateur cycling race in the world. A 765-mile continuous bicycle race that was first held in 1891, it is older than the Tour de France and modern Olympics. Sometime after college, riding in it became a major dream of mine, one that was fulfilled in August 2003.
I completed it in under 85 hours, or three days and four nights with a total of 12 hours of sleep (5 hours with 35 miles to go), often in random fields underneath a tree. It was a marvelous way to tour the countryside of France, such as Brittany.
Here is a collection of multimedia to recreate the experience.
Self-Narrated PowerPoint Presentations
These were first presented at a 2004 Annual Dinner at the request of the MG Owners Club.
Part 1: Paris-Brest-Paris (16:39)
Part 2: Cars in France (5:00)
One could have followed the race by visiting the links below. The race began on Monday, August 18, at 10:00pm (French time). It ended 90 hours later, on Friday, August 22, at 4:00pm. I was rider #4462.
[Note: links below no longer work. I keep them here as something of a time capsule. Anyone remember when Alta Vista was one of the foremost search engines?]
- http://www.audax-club-parisien.com (in French)
- Use babelfish.altavista.com to transform/translate the above site into English(copy and paste the above link into Babelfish’sform field for “Translate Web Page”, and select “French to English”)
- History of the race (courtesy of Randonneurs USA)
- Official Route Sheet (PDF)
- Map of the start, finish, and festivities in Guyancourt (St. Quentin en Yvelines) (PDF)
How I Qualified for PBP
To qualify for PBP, one must complete a series of brevets of 200, 300, 400, and 600 km, in order, within the specified time limits, in the same year that PBP is being held.
- 1225 km (762 miles)
- 10:00pm start, 10:45am finish (3.5 days later)-> 84:45 hours total
- Average speed: ~13 mph rolling, 9.0 mph overall
- Maximum speed: ~40 mph
- Climbing: maybe ~35,000 feet
- Scenery: 5
- Organization: 5
- Food: 0 (purchase your own at checkpoints)
- Weather: 5- (perfect temps except the last night which was very cold; no rain)
- Relative Difficulty: 5
- Overall Rating: 5+. The best ride ever!!!
Below are some miscellaneous notes about the race not included in the PowerPoint presentation.
- The whole trip, including a Priceline SFO-CDG round trip airline ticket for <$600 bought three weeks in advance, cost only $1100, including several days in Paris and Versailles.
- To aid comfort, I wore two padded cycling shorts. Not sure if that helped as my crotch area still had some discomfort after 375 miles.
- At the first checkpoint—a cafeteria where a bunch of us, including myself—bought sit-down food to eat, I spent about 50 minutes off the bike. After that I would just dash in and out of little markets and convenience stores along the way and saved a lot of time that way.
- The weather was great most of the time. France just had a killer heat wave so it never got too cold except for the last night.
- During the last night, I rode for a couple hours all alone, not knowing whether I was even on course or not. Plus I was freezing. So when I got to the last checkpoint with 35 miles to go, I opted to sleep on the gym floor for 5 hours. When I got there, there was still 16 hours to finish the race, and I preferred to finish in daylight with other riders. Plus I wouldn’t have been able to check into my hotel in Versailles until later anyhow.
- Five of the twelve hours I slept during the race were during the last night with 35 miles to go. I mostly took 20-minute catnaps in fields under trees or with my helmet over my face.