Monday, April 6, 2020

PBP'19 - Some Stats

Some Stats and Comments

PBP'19 had the largest field of riders ever. Yet that was hard to tell as you biked down the road or went through the checkpoints. The event was just as manageably orchestrated as usual.

Some stats courtesy of Mark Thomas: 
  • US finishing rate was 65.5%, slightly lower than the rainy, soggy PBP'07 (!).
  • RMCC finishing rate was 76.5%, third highest of US clubs with 10 or more riders.
  • Overall PBP finishing rates in recent years:
1991  79.9%
1995  83.1%
1999  83.3%
2003  85.0%
2007  69.9%
2011  81.2%
2015  78.6%
2019  68.2%

As I've said before, one thing remains constant: the amazing feat pulled off every four years by the ACP, their volunteers, and the towns along the route.

Other links ... !

My PBP'19 photo ride report

ACP PBP'19 results and commentary


♦ ♦ ♦

Saturday, April 4, 2020

PBP'19 - A Splendid Experience!

This year's Paris Brest Paris offered mild, dry, sunny days, chilly nights, and the wonderful features that define this event - pastoral country, small villages, waving villagers, wonderful volunteers, and ham sandwiches.

If you've ridden PBP before, you'd like to experience something new when you ride it again. That's my feeling, at least. With the Rambouillet start and finish location, that was something new already!

Why the new spot?  In 2018, the ACP said they wouldn't be able to use the Vélodrome National for start/ finish as they had in 2015. Here is one news article, including quotes from the ACP's Jean-Gualbert Faburel

So the ACP looked elsewhere and moved the event from the new town of St. Quentin-en-Yvelines (SQY) to the mediaeval city of Rambouillet.  Suddenly riders had a new start and finish, and many found new places to stay. (Some stayed with their prior plans, though, as tour agencies had already booked spots in SQY, which has lots more lodging. In the end, everything worked out.)

There were cobblestones aplenty to ride over in Rambouillet, and through the "National Sheepfold" (Bergerie Nationale) for the sign-in, start, and finish. This only heightened the feeling of authenticity.

In years past, the Hotel de Golf National in the St. Quentin area had provided restful lodging, as well as a magnet for fellow Colorado riders and other US randonneurs. But it was some distance from the new ride start.  So I was fortunate to share a gîte outside Rambouillet with my friend Dave Thompson and companions. The gîte was capacious and sunny, on a farm estate in a pastoral setting with horses and other farm animals, and a welcoming host.

Gîte Rural outside of Rambouillet

The day leading up to our start time was rainy. This did not dampen the spirit of the riders or volunteers, though.

Colorado/RMCC contingent: Mark Lowe, Billy Edwards, 
Corinne Warren, Jim Howell, Mike Turek

JLE with rain jacket and rain cap at sign-in
- Narayan Krishnamoorthy photo (thanks!)

The weather forecast was for rain clearing from the northwest (with a NW wind in its wake, meaning a headwind for us) midday before the 80- and 90-hour ride start. That was encouraging. And that's exactly how things turned out!

On the (now sunny) way to queue up for Wave H (17:45), I spotted my friend Tim Sullivan, RUSA #28. We decided to ride some together, as we'd done at PBP'15, and most recently on the Colorado Last Chance 1200k pre-ride in 2017.  It was an absolute pleasure, fun times despite the headwinds.

Tim Sullivan (RUSA #28)

Also ran into I-wave members Chris Newman in her K-Hound jersey, and Nigel Greene. I'd met Chris when she'd come out to ride the Colorado Last Chance 1200. She writes an enjoyable and very well done column in American Randonneur magazine.

I had not met Nigel in person, but we've chatted lots at RUSA Board meetings and just phoning.  Nigel, aside from being on the RUSA Board [through 2019], is the RUSA membership chairman, so you may have gotten a greeting from him.

Chris Newman and Nigel Greene

The Colorado/RMCC contingent was bursting with cheer and energy out in the meadow of the bergerie.

John Mangin (lightning bolt RMCC jersey), 
Vernon Smith, Mike Turek, Paul Foley*

*Paul's jersey concept this time was to wear successive past-years' PBP jerseys, starting off with 2003.

The ebullient Mark Thomas and Cap'n John Ende
(in his Adrian Hands Society jersey)

I had been pleased to receive a jaunty SIR rando cap from Mark and a colorful Adrian Hands cap from Cap'n Ende the day before.

Soon Wave H moved into position and we were off, into a sunny, warm evening! This start route was much more straightforward than from St. Quentin-en-Yvelines, as we were not going through the suburbs, around roundabouts, over railroad bridges, etc., but straight out into the country, flanked by avenues of tall trees.

Volunteer extraordinaire Shab Memarbashi managed to be everywhere, 
greeting everyone, here at the "start chute" for riders.
Shab won RUSA's American Randonneur Award in 2018 for her service.

The first part of the ride flowed very well, despite stiff winds in the more open landscapes. It quickly felt chillier as the sun set, partially I think because the air was moist because of the rain-soaked soil. Who could mind?  It was dry, after all!

Because of the Rambouillet start, the refreshment stop at Mortagne au Perche was at about mile 72 rather than 89 or so in previous PBPs. We're now nearing midnight.  Still a good chance to get a bite, but I settled for a sandwich rather than a plateful of food as in previous years.  The differences from previous PBP's were already starting to add up!

Another break at Villaines-la-Juhel with some compatriots!  It's still dead of night, not pre-dawn as in previous PBPs, because it's a shorter distance to Villaines.  The cycling duo of Pascal and Mike are reprising their "sleep early and often" strategy which served them so well at PBP'15. This year, it's a couple hours' sleep across the road at the control's sleep spot. We will see them again.

Pascal Ledru and Mike Turek at Villaines-la-Juhel.

Reaching the next control at Fougères, it was already the start of a nice, sunny day. And who better to greet us than RUSA #7, Bill Bryant!

Bill Bryant with a cheerful welcome

I also got to chat - while eating my ham and butter sandwich - with Bryce Walsh. Bryce has done well at PBP and on the Race Across AMerica (RAAM), but while indomitably cheery by nature, is challenged with a derailleur problem that has only left him one gear (or maybe two). It was good to see him, but sorry that this was going to be a problem.

Bryce Walsh at Fougères
Cheery despite equipment challenges!

While finishing my sandwich, I also chatted with the rider across the table, something that just happens at PBP.  This is Kat from England, who'd only recently gotten into randonneuring (so PBP is an impressive start), and who was looking forward to some long distance touring event in California.

Kat at Fougères

When it's time to leave, the welcoming contingent has been augmented by fellow Bill's spouse and PBP volunteer Lois Springsteen (RUSA #8), and by Dave Buzzee (RUSA #14).  It's already an historic occasion!

Bill, Dave Buzzee, and Lois Springsteen

At the Tinténiac control, it's the upbeat Paul Foley and cheery Vernon Smith.

Paul and Vernon at Tinténiac

Despite the onslaught of 6,000 riders, lots of the PBP route is strikingly tranquil and pastoral. You may not see any riders at all.

Pastoral segment between Tinténiac and Loudéac

I have a dropbag at Loudéac. This is not where I'm going to sleep, but still useful to have a bag. In the olden days, it would have had extra rolls of film and batteries. It still has batteries (since I'm still using batteries for lighting) and inner tubes (which I haven't needed yet). Since I'm not sleeping there, I have been carrying essentials such as my toothbrush and sunscreen along with me.

Carla Delanoix (below) was the agent at TravelHaus travel service, whom some US riders used. She took care of flights, lodging, and in this case, drop bag support. (This is the successor to Claus Claussen's service at Des Peres Travel, which many US riders used over the years.)  It was great to meet her while grabbing jersey, nutrition powder, and the like, from my drop bag.

Carla Delanoix at Loudéac

One of the nicest stretches on PBP is gliding into Carhaix towards the evening of the first full day. It's around 500 km into our ride. I love the lanes with overarching trees.

Approaching Carhaix through the tunnel of trees


After chatting with Billy Edwards in the food line - Billy was now on his way back from Brest ...

Billy clowning around before PBP,
drop bag items all collected.

...  I settled into a nice dinner, spaghetti bolognese, potage, and yoghurt.

Carhaix evening repast

Soon to be joined by Paul Foley, now in his PBP'15 jersey!  Nice to have a smiling personality to enjoy a meal with.

Paul Foley at Carhaix

I'm always amazed at the logistical feat the control towns pull off. Here in Carhaix, there is an array of cots waiting for many soon-to-be-snoring riders. Getting in at this point, you're ahead of the rush. Notice the evening daylight pouring through the gym windows.

One small sadness with Carhaix is that once again they opted for paper-towel-like materials for drying off after showering, and diaphanous blankets (in the thin packet below). With the chilly night, I was feeling the chill in bed, too.

Up for breakfast after a restorative 4-hour nap. In the dining hall, they've annotated the cardboard protective layers on the floors with advice and arrows. They guide you to "fast food" -"restauration rapide" in the next room. I thread my way through many sleeping riders in the main dining hall, following the arrows to the sparsely-attended "rapide" chamber where a quick, nice breakfast is waiting.  (This blurry photo probably aligns with my mental state.)


Heading out to the parking area, my Kestrel is waiting in this sea of bikes.

Carhaix bike parking zone
in the tranquil early morning hours

A momentary delay getting going, to pry mud off my cleats from traversing muddy playing fields to the sleep venue. But then nice groups to ride with and only patchy fog heading over Roc Trevezel, better than in recent PBPs, which had been very foggy.

Just before dawn, I took a break for the de riguer espresso and pastry at the Cafe du Sport in Sizun. Then more descending as day broke. I actually had to turn around mid-descent and do some climbing to warm up.  Ok, well maybe it was a little chilly at night. 

Crossing the pedestrian/cyclo bridge into Brest is always a welcome moment. A moment that many document. The difference in my photos from recent PBPs is the Kestrel, last seen here at PBP'99, rather than the faithful Green De Rosa.

The trusty Kestrel pauses for a break at the bridge to Brest.

It's a favorite photo stop for many PBP riders!

Greg Smith photo, I think. 

The following km's are an urban contrast after the countryside, as they wind their way around and through the city of Brest. 


Brest is an important and historic French city, most recently because of the pummeling it endured during the war.

Cheerful, fresh morning at the Brest control. 
You tentatively remove a layer or two, but not too many!

After our delightful visit back through Sizun, it's time to climb to Roc Trevezel in daylight.

Roc Trevezel Climb

View from intersection near Roc Trevezel

This is this highest point on the route. There is a wide vista of heathland, and at the northeast corner of the intersection, the big transmission tower. But where is Roc Trevezel itself??

Roc Trevezel - as spied from the road

From road signs, I believe that Roc Trevezel is off to the southwest from the highway intersection at the summit of our route.

If it were raining, as in 2007, this would be a good place to hide out,
here on the descent to Carhaix.

After returning through Carhaix, next stop was the secret control at St. Nicolas du Pélem, where a young local girl asked if I could speak Russian to talk with a Russian cyclist (this because of my "RUSA" jersey, it turns out).  Well, I can but not enough to help!  до свидания!

After restocking from my drop bag at Loudéac and enjoying a generous snack at the service rapide there, it was on into a stiff wind. (Yes, as forecast, the wind had remained "constant" for us, namely turning as we turned east, to remain a headwind.)  I was not quite enviously eyeing those riders who'd fitted their bikes with miniature aero-esque bars permitted by the ACP, and who were no doubt slicing through that wind. But drop bars have drops, after all, and you can use them, I told myself.

It was on towards Tintenéac!

Plenty of puddles in the fields,
as I take a wind break behind hedgerows.

At the support point south of Tintenéac as dusk approached, time for a traditional Breton saucisse wrapped in a crêpe. Wonderful local volunteers, and a festive atmosphere. It epitomizes the entire event in so many ways!

The next segment was slightly bizarre. A couple of us were making the climb up to the ridge before entering Tintenéac. We came upon a car going about 10 mph and semi-erratically at that, on this quiet road. I decided to zip past the car and get away from it, and did so, while the other cyclist decided to hold back, "trapped" behind the vehicle. Eventually he must have passed, too, because he caught up with me later. On the descent into Tintenéac, the car passed us aided, it seems, by gravity. It all turned out ok, but just reminds you to "expect the unexpected" or at least the bizarre on these events.


As per plan, I got a nice bed with a mattress in a dorm room in Tintenéac. When they came around with my wake-up call, it was strange to find it light outside while I was brushing my teeth.  Turns out it was later than my 4:00 am wake-up plans.

Here are Mike and Pascal refreshing themselves in a civilized fashion. We rode together into Fougères.

Mike and Pascal

Treated to an espresso by the galant Pascal.


Sunny, airy dining hall at Fougères

Upbeat John Mangin

East of Fougères, I always enjoy this potato farm sign, with Mr. Potato Head holding a fork. This is actually a new sign since last PBP, but the same Mr. Potato Head with a fork, and the same expression on his face.

Mr. Potato Head at potato farm

Villaines la Juhel

This sign made me swell with satisfaction, knowing I was passing the 1000 km mark. The cue sheet says 1012.5 km, which should make you feel even better!  (The sign may be based on the old course.)

The service rapide here is only offering pain chocolat and drinks, still containing several food groups, and delicious ones, too!

pains chocolats et Coca

This is one of my favorite stretches, atop a ridge line east of Villaines, with nice views of the countryside.

Mortagne au Perche

This great drawing credits the big hills coming into Mortagne for popularizing the derailleur in the early 20th century. The fact that this old-time rider is using downtube shifters like mine says something.

"The first derailleur was invented in 1932. Why?
To conquer the Hills of Perche!"

A tasty ham-and-cheese sandwich and beverage in the late afternoon sun.

The snack that satisfies!

... when who should drop by but Paul Foley, joining me in dueling photos.

Jim Howell, on his first PBP, is riding with Paul and the group.
Jim is holding up pretty well!

Jim Howell 


Although we've been riding separately all this time, Paul and I again meet up in Dreux.

... together with cheery Vernon Smith.

Here is Lorin Fowler - we rode along for a few miles after Tintenéac. I'd met Lorin a few months ago on the Sunshine 1200. He was one of the local riders, but has since moved back to Maui, and is now the RBA of the new region there!

Lorin Fowler

The route from Dreux to Rambouillet was new, because we're not heading to St. Quentin. It seemed pretty nice and "flowing" in the dark. The final stretch is a screaming, triumphant descent to the edge of Rambouillet ... followed by some town roads, followed by cobbles into the Bergerie and more cobbles and gravel to a bumpy stop the finish line.

Good thing I took a photo. I have yet to see my card again.

A bit red-cheeked from the chilly temps,
but well-pleased.

The bike corral as the finishers get validated then have a bite.

The finish-line meal was tempting, but outdoors in the chilly temps, I thought it better just to head on back to the gîte.

Traversing the city of Rambouillet.

I made it most of the way through town before deciding I wasn't sure which roundabout, turn, and roadway to take. Fortunately, an early-morning bike commuter - detecting my puzzlement - stopped. He saw from my frame placard that I was a PBP rider.  I gave him the name of the village where the gîte was. He pointed to a roundabout at the crest of a hill and said, take that one, and I was off!

The first hint of blue but still starry sky as I pulled into the gîte

Rewarding and well-earned miles!

Après PBP

Randonneurs Mondiaux Quadrennial Meeting

It was fun attending the RM quadrennial meeting the next day. All the country organization reps are invited. Important things were discussed, and then there was lunch.

Dave Thompson, Lois Springsteen, JLE

Dave was attending for Canada, and Lois was official RUSA representative.

Out for a refreshing recovery ride
in the countryside

Gîte riders - all finishers!

A tranquil postscript to a fine event.

As always, I feel lucky to have had good conditions, many pleasant moments, no calamities, and the opportunity to enjoy another Paris-Brest-Paris!


♦ ♦ ♦