Paris Brest Paris 2015, the classic randonée. Three days and nights on the road, Paris to the Atlantic and back!
I’ve ridden 100 mile and 12 hours time trials, the qualifying rides (200k, 300k, 400k, 600k), but was I really prepared for the PBP?
So why would any sane person want to ride the 1200 kilometres on a bicycle? Well there were 6000 plus riders waiting for the privilege.
Many things were confirmed to me during his epic few days in August.
I know very well that long distance cycling is a combination of pacing yourself, eating a balanced diet, and more importantly keeping your sanity. Maintaining the equilibrium between energy input and energy export seems simple, but when faced with unusual circumstances the body won’t always cooperate.
Needless to say I didn’t follow the rules. Red mist during the first 50k saw Ron and myself participating in a virtual road race, far too fast to sustain for the distance ahead. Once a racer, always a racer I suppose, you see a bike wheel disappearing up the road and you have to be on it, don’t you! Successful audax riders are a different breed. I climbed off after 500k, my low power output was frustrating me, and the thought of another 730k of suffering somehow didn’t appeal. Any seasoned cyclist knows when faced with the sight of the finishing line we can dig deep and hang on, but I was not even half way through the ride. I hoped I’d ride through the bad spell which started at around 250k but I didn’t, I eased up and tried to recover but the damage was done. I rode slower and slower, this was not fun anymore. Ron kept waiting for me on each hill and I didn’t want that, I wanted him to do his own ride and I needed to do my own pace.
Ron continued solo, even though both of us used up too much fuel too early he seemingly had more in reserve than me. By the 900k mark he had good spirits but was fighting with himself, he proved that he has a strong mind to push himself that much. Each 60k stop fueled him up to squeeze another 60k out of his legs. It was an heroic and dogged effort, mind over matter.
Other riders were suffering and later on this was more and more evident.
I was seeing another level of pain and suffering, beyond where I was when I retired. The drawn faces of tired riders, a result of the compromise made by each, between time on the road and need for sleep.
Fatigue was evident on one corner on the course with a mere 200k to go. We had stopped to wait for Ron. A French rider approached us choosing a ‘zigzag’ course along the straight road. The route went left but after many verbal and justiculated pointers from us he rolled to a halt in front of us. Coffee and food were both turned down, the next word to come out of his mouth was “sleep”. I took his bike while JT led him to the van’s front seat. He fell asleep instantly while CT tried to turn off his bike light that he held which was pointing towards his face. We gave him half an hour after which we woke him and he rolled away using a straighter course and in the right direction.
Another rider stopped in front of us and just said ‘chocolate’. To be fair he was Greek so English wasn’t his first language. We later saw him at a feed stop sitting at a table with his eyes closed. He slowly put on his helmet then sat there for another twenty minutes with his eyes closed before mustering the energy to cycle off.
I realised having watched riders at the later stages of the event that I wasn’t at that level of fatigue when I got off of my bike, which made me feel dissatisfied with my effort, maybe I could have carried on. I certainly didn’t push myself to these extreme limits.
Ron battled on, meeting us every 60-80k. Some stops he was fine, at others his red mist had obviously reappeared and had got the better of him. A steady recovery period was needed at around 900k, alas two Russian riders came past him doing a fair pace and we can guess what happened next. Hanging on to their wheels as if it was the last thing he ever did, he rolled into the next feed depleted. His ride continued, peak and trough.
Somehow he finished the event, 66 hours, 33 minutes. A fine ride, fantastic effort. I only wish I could have finished with him, if ony to share that bottle of champagne I know he had in his bag at the hotel.
Ron went to the doctor.
Doctor Doctor, my leg’s hurting.
Doctor; What have you being doing that could have brought this on?
Ron; Well Doctor I went out for a cycle ride in France.
Doctor; Ah ok Mr Crawley, cycling is actually good for the muscles and joints. At what point during your ride did the pain start?
Ron; I’d have to guess it started after around 40 hours, but I was on my way home at the time.
Doctor; eer ok so how far was home?
Ron; well it was around 26 hours away so I thought I’d carry on.