Thursday, August 25, 2011


Finishers of Paris-Brest-Paris earn the title, ancien. I am proud to be an ancien. According to the PBP website, I will have a finishing time of 79 hours and 02 minutes. This is well below my goal of 85 hours. I think I had a near perfect ride at PBP. For the most part the weather was good, the winds were favorable, my bike ran perfectly, and I was able to strike a balance between quickly covering ground and stopping to enjoy the special moments of PBP.  I thought the scenery along the course was beautiful. Terrain was challenging. I thought that PBP was a lot hillier than I had heard described. Although there were no mountains, the terrain was rarely flat and some of the climbs went on for 3-5 kilometers.
I handed out 25 Wisconsin shaped lapel pins to kids I saw along the route who were cheering for riders. It was really fun seeing how excited the kids and their parents got from this. Frequently, I would then have to shake hands with everyone in the group or pose for a photo. One dad lifted up his two children for me to kiss their cheeks and then laughed when I messed up the practice.
Almost all reports that I have read or heard from past PBP participants have included a description of the events spectators. Everyone raves about the people along the side of the road and the support riders receive from these spectators. In my opinion, all of these reports are actually understated. It is not possible to convey just how many French people were along the roads of PBP or just how enthusiastic and supportive they were.  It started in the outskirts of Paris. As my wave was escorted through closed off streets and blocked intersections, I  saw spectators lining the sides of the roads and on the highway overpasses.  Several examples stand out in my mind in the hours following PBP. There was the elderly man sitting in a remote intersection at 11:30pm playing French music on his accordion as riders passed. The family of 3 generations handing off sugar cubes, fresh picked plums and peaches on some of the final hard climbs of the ride. The children lined up by the sides of the road all along the route holding out their hands for high fives.  There were times on the ride where I wasn’t sure which way to go at an intersection. If there were people in the area doing anything, you could just yell “Paris?” or “Brest?” and they would invariably point to the route. Other times where I couldn’t see an arrow and wasn’t sure which way to turn or was concerned I was on the wrong road, the sights of groups sitting along the side of the road would put me at ease. The encouragement of the thousands of cheers  of “Bon Courage”, “Bonne Route”, and “Allez” will not soon be forgotten.

I got caught in a torrential downpour and thunderstorm between St. Nicholas du Pelem and Carhaix late on the Monday night of the ride. There were very few other riders on this part of the course because most had planned to sleep in St. Nicholas du Pelem.  I was thinking to myself that I wasn’t sure it was really a great idea to be out here, that it was raining so hard and was so dark that I couldn’t see anything. Just as I was thinking it might not be that safe, I was startled by the yells of two people standing in the storm on the side of the road, yelling “allez, allez.”
In another town near Brest, I was following another rider and we got caught in long line of cars at a stop light. He weaved through them and made his way to the front of the line so I decided to follow him. After the light turned green and we crossed the intersection, one of the cars we had cut in front of pulled next to me and the driver rolled down her window. I was expecting a French tongue lashing. Instead, I was met with the usual cheers of “Bonne route” and “allez”. Nothing like that would ever happen in the US.
All in all PBP was an amazing experience. I don’t know of another ride anywhere in the world that can match PBP.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Done in 79 hours. Details after sleep.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Castle in Fougeres.

290 km to go. Definitely tired. Only had 3 1/2 hours of sleep each of last two nights.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Roadside Fun

I got invited to party with Brits along the side of the road. Had a great day. Now going to sleep in Loudeac.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry


I have been waiting 4 years to see Brest. Made it but could not see much because of fog. Had traditional beer. Now time to head back.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Monday, August 22, 2011

Loudeac control

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry


Eating lunch at 318km. Ride going well. Startng to rain. Lots of people out on the road cheering and yelling : Bonne route . Means something like have a good trip trying for 210 more km today. Looks doable.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Start of the race- Heather's perspective

The race began this evening after a day of laying low for most of the riders.  At 6pm the riders started in groups of 100.  Dan, Bob and Greg (all representing Wisconsin) as well as their good friend Michele were in the 5th wave of riders.  Dan's group of riders was started at 7:15 pm or so local Paris time (they lined up at 5pm). 

Dan looked like he was excited to get this epic adventure started.  The other riders and non-riders (mostly wives) we have met have all been exceptionally friendly.   


Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Lined up

In line to start . Having a talk with the first ever randos from India
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Ride day

Just sent a spot signal to test things out. Taking it easy and trying to stay off my feet.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Check in Day

Saturday at PBP is the day for bike inspection and check-in/registration. The bike inspection was pretty minimal. Basically, all they wanted to see was that I had 2 separate headlights that turned on and at least one working tailight. The whole inspection took less than 15 seconds, and I am pretty sure my inspector was getting razzed by another inspector for taking so long. (at least thats what it sounded like to a non-French speaker).

We also got to spend the day with some other Wisconsin folks. Mostly with Bob and Michele from Madison. Greg Silver, who is the third member of the Wisconsin group showed up this afternoon. Myself, Bob, and Greg posed near the hotel for the group photo of all Wisconsin PBPer's.

I spent the rest of the day getting my bike ready and packing my drop bags. Those are the bags that our travel agent/tour guide will take out to designated spots on the route for us to access. I will have access to a bag at Loudeac going each way and at Villaines on the way back to Paris.

The town has changed completely in the few days we have been here. Early in the week, there were a few Americans interspersed with the French locals. Now the place is crawling from cyclists from all over the world. We've seen riders from Italy, Denmark, England, Australia, England, Canada, and Japan to name a few. There is a lot of nervous energy around the hotel. The topic of conversation has now changed to the weather. It looks like Monday and Tuesday have a pretty good chance of rain, although it does look like there is a chance of favorable winds.

Tomorrow should be a long, restless day around the hotel. I should start somewhere between 6 and 8 Sunday night Paris time. I would guess closer to 8. (Paris is 7 hours ahead of Wisconsin).

The businesses in town are definitely catering to the PBP crowd. Here's a sample menu from a restaurant next to the hotel.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Day at Versailles

Melissa and I spent the day at Versailles while Dan and Bob (Melissa's husband) took in the French countryside with fellow PBP riders.  Melissa and Bob are from Wisconsin and Bob and Dan are great cycling buddies.  It was a beautiful day to cycle around the grounds at Versailles! 

PBP Pre-Ride

This morning members of the Davis Bike Club from California led a group ride previewing the first 25 miles of the PBP course. They have been leading the ride for the last couple PBPs. The ride has become very popular with the American delegation. Approximately 200-250 riders met at the hotel and rode together through suburban Paris and into the countryside; sort of the American randonneuring answer to a flash mob. Two hundred American cyclists entering a roundabout really brings traffic to a halt.

Overall the ride was a blast. A very conversational pace through gorgeous scenery. Lots of rolling hills and small villages spread out every 4-5 miles along the route. I ended up with just over 41 miles. My legs felt great throughout the ride.

Last night the Japanese delagation moved into the hotel. There are also quite a few riders from Australia hanging around. Haven't run into any of the Europeans yet, but they are around here somewhere. Bike inspection and registration is tomorrow morning so hopefully everything is good to go. The excitement and anticipation is certainly growing.

Heather went to Versailles with Melissa, the wife of another Wisconsin randonneur. She should be back soon with lots of stories and photos.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


The hotels internet is overloaded so these posts are a bit odd. We had a great day today. Put in about 25km looking for the missing parts to fix the light but got it going. Heathe and I went to the Louvre and saw the Mona Lisa and other pieces. Then we did a dinner cruise on the Seine. I am planning on getting serious and going for a real ride tomorrow.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Another Paris tourist scene from Thursday

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Found this box of goodies and put my light back together.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

There are signs and banners up all over the area about PBP

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Now that eveyone has arrived the bike room is a LITTLE crowded!

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wednesday in Paris

Today was an interesting day in France. Last night while putting the bike together, I discovered two pretty big problems. First, my rear derailleur hanger got cross-threaded which prevented the bike from shifting properly. Second, one of the electrical connectors for my generator light turned up missing. So I sent some frantic e-mails last night and got offers from 5-6 other Americans to bring over the missing parts on their later flights to Paris. So that one isn't fixed, but help is on the way. The derailleur got fixed late this afternoon when I went riding across suburban Paris in the vague direction of a possible bike shop that Heather heard about with a bike that wouldn't shift. They were able to fix the problem in about 5 minutes. Things are moving in the right direction.

In tourist related news, Heather and I spent the day WALKING around Paris visiting some of the popular sights. We went to the top of the Eiffel tower this morning, walked towards the Champs Elysees, past the Louvre, the Invalides, went through the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and strolled along the Siene. Paris is really pretty, but the main tourist spots are crazy crowded. We did manage to get onto the wrong train coming back to the hotel. So we got to go to Versailles (at least the Versailles train station).

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

In Paris!

After a long night we have arrived in Paris. Air France fed us very well and we could order in English. We got an impromptu tour of central Paris on the way to the hotel. Looks like fun!

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Packed for Paris

As of 6:15 am this morning, the bike is officially packed. If only everything else was packed, it would be a nice relaxing Sunday. Hopefully, I'll remember how to put the puzzle back together.

Monday, August 8, 2011


As PBP approaches a number of my family and friends are checking out this site. Many of you only know that I'm going on some long bike ride in France. That's true, but there is more to the story.

The first PBP took place in 1891 and its been regularly held ever since. In modern times, the ride is held ever four years.  The event is held over a 1200 kilometer (750 mile course) travelling from the suburbs of Paris to the Atlantic port city of Brest and returning to Paris.  Riders have 90 hours to finish the entire route. Some quick math will tell you that a rider needs only to average around 8.5 miles per hour to beat the deadline. That works really well . . . unless the rider wants to eat or sleep or get off the bike to use the bathroom.  Once the clock starts at PBP, it doesn't stop.  In addition to the 90 hour deadline, riders must pass through various checkpoints, called controls, within certain time periods. Failure to make a time limit at a control results in an immediate DQ.  Also adding to the challenge is a general requirement that riders be self sufficient throughout the event. That means most riders will carry basic tools to fix bike problems, spare tires and tubes, energy food, changes of clothes, raingear and spare batteries.

This year 5224 people from around the world will line up to start PBP. Approximately 450 of them are from the US, only 3 are from Wisconsin.

During PBP, I will be carrying and using a SPOT individual GPS locator. A link from this page will allow interested readers to check my progress as I update my location. I intend on sending a signal every one to two hours. Additionally, the PBP organization maintains a tracking site that posts the times as riders move through the various controls. There is a link to their site on the upper right of this blog page.  (to use this site, you will need to know my frame number which is 4625)  Finally, depending on how things go, I intend to post BRIEF updates to this page from the route. The frequency of these postings will depend on how tired I am, how well I am  banking time, and whether the technology works as advertised. In other words, check in, but don't count on it.