Thursday, August 20, 2015

Paris Brest Computer

This year's Paris-Brest-Paris provided me with a very different perspective on randonneuring.  Since finishing PBP in 2011, I had my sights set on a return trip to Paris this year for another pedal through the French countryside.  Unfortunately, life had other ideas and my plans for PBP had to be put on the back burner.

In late 2011 a long-time family friend asked me about PBP and expressed interest in giving it a shot. So over the last four years, Dave and I have worked together to get him prepared to take his shot. Dave was a heck of a student, rarely saying no to a ride regardless of the weather. In this part of Wisconsin, early season weather can be daunting to say the least. A February 100km ride where temperatures never got above the low 20s stands out as one example. Over the four years, Dave built his randonneuring resume, completed two Super Randonneur series and qualified for PBP.

While Dave left for PBP, I settled in to enjoy PBP vicariously. I dialed into Dave's SPOT tracker, Twitter, and the official PBP tracking site. During my 1200K rides and other long brevets, I have always used a SPOT tracker myself. But I really never gave much thought to the experience of the people checking in on the other end. Dave's PBP gave me a whole new perspective.

During most of PBP, the SPOT and Twitter pages were open on my desktop and I checked in often. On Day 3, when Dave and his riding partner were fighting the cut-off times at controls, I was calculating and recalculating those times and checking distances to see if they'd make it. A couple of times, I thought they were done for. Upon reaching Mortagne very close to the cut-off, Dave's SPOT quit working. After a couple of hours without any movement, I assumed he had called it quits.  However, upon waking up, I checked the results page and discovered that somehow they managed to fight through and finish PBP with just over an hour to spare.

My PBP was a ride that I will never forget and can't wait to do again. But sitting at home, staring at a computer screen and stressing over whether a friend would be able to pull it off was actually an interesting way to enjoy the spectacle that is PBP.  Living PBP by computer screen was interesting, but I definitely missed the sights and sounds of the real thing.

PBP is one of the greatest spectacles in amateur cycling and I can't wait to try again in 2019.