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Brief PBP Report (no photos, yet)(28 posts)

Brief PBP Report (no photos, yet)Dale Brigham
Aug 29, 2003 7:36 AM

Just a quick report from your pals in Columbia, MO (Jennifer and Arjuna Flenner, Dan Clinkinbeard, and me, Dale Brigham), and how we did at Paris-Brest-Paris. In a nutshell, all went well, with all of us finishing a couple of hours within our 84 hour time limit (I came in at 81:52) for the approx. 1265 km (780 miles) route (as in '99, the course was "long").

We had a great time riding together and with our new friends from around the world. We were expertly supported at the checkpoint towns ("controles") by my wife, Jo Turner, and Jennifer's sister, Jessica, who has been studying in France for a year. They expertly and patiently looked to our needs at the controles and got us back on our bikes as quickly as feasible. Our helmets are tipped to them for their hard work.

Even with that support (meaning we did not have to carry all of our clothing and spares along the route, and we slept in real beds, albeit for less then 3 hours a night), it was still pretty darn hard. I had (conveniently) forgotten how many climbing sections there were on route, besides the normal rolling hills. In short, every approx. 80 km (50 mile) section from controle to controle has at least one (and frequently several) "killer" climb the requires deep digging into the reserves. I like climbing, but one certainly feels the tank going a bit emptier after each of those bouts.

Also, the roads were much bumpier and rougher than I recall from 4 years ago (the last PBP, held in 1999). It seems that chip-and-seal coverage has found it's way to Normandy and Brittany, much to the dismay of my rear end and hands. I think all of us suffered much discomfort and numbness from the extra bouncing and vibration the road surface provided.

Just to give you an idea of our days (and nights) in the saddle, our daily mileages were approx. 290, 200, 200, and 90. The first day is the crux of the ride, with the second day almost as tough (shorter, but more climbing). The last day and a half are easier, in that you know you are going to make it to the finish, but cumulative fatigue really takes it's toll by then.

We had relatively few mechanical mishaps: one flat (mine), and Arj broke a stem part, entailing a stem replacement at one of the controle's bike shop (open 24 hours, by the way). Otherwise, all was well with the bikes. On the medical front, I got a head cold on day 2 that stayed with me for the rest of the ride, and Jen got the same cold a day later. All of us suffered from time to time with numb hands, hurting feet, sore necks, bone-tired weariness, and various painful saddle-related problems. Regardless, we overcame all of those obstacles and kept riding. That's the PBP motto: Press on regardless; never abandon.

You may have heard about the encouragement and support that PBPers get from the local French people; it is all true. If you want to feel love, ride PBP. Applause, encouraging words ("Bonne Route, Bon Courage!"), free coffee, sweets, and crepes, and simple respect and courtesy were the rule. Motorists were unfailingly patient and expert in passing cyclists. It's like a completely different world. Even in Paris (their New York City), Americans are welcome and well-treated. Although our respective governments may disagree, the French people I met had no discernable animosity towards U.S. citizens in any way.

It wasn't all work and no play for us in France. Before and after the ride, we visited Paris several times (we were staying in Versailles, about 20 miles SW of central Paris, which was close to the PBP start/finish location) to do the normal tourist stuff -- climb up the stairs on the Eiffel Tower, walk along the Champs Elysee, take a boat ride along the Seine, and dodge the pickpockets at the Sacre Cour cathedral. In Versailles, we saw the start of the last stage of the women's TdF, the Grande Boucle Feminine, and we got to meet the two U.S. women in that Tour, Katrina Grove and Mere
PBP Report, continuedDale Brigham
Aug 29, 2003 7:38 AM
PBP report, continued

It wasn't all work and no play for us in France. Before and after the ride, we visited Paris several times (we were staying in Versailles, about 20 miles SW of central Paris, which was close to the PBP start/finish location) to do the normal tourist stuff -- climb up the stairs on the Eiffel Tower, walk along the Champs Elysee, take a boat ride along the Seine, and dodge the pickpockets at the Sacre Cour cathedral. In Versailles, we saw the start of the last stage of the women's TdF, the Grande Boucle Feminine, and we got to meet the two U.S. women in that Tour, Katrina Grove and Meredith Miller, both of whom were a joy to takl with. My wife and I were able to stay a day or so longer in France after the ordeal, so we spent a day travelling to and touring the D-Day battle beaches, museums, and military cemetaries on the Normandy (Calvados) coast. That was beautiful, inspiring, and very sad. So much courage, sacrifice, and loss.

Needless to say, during our stay, we ate and drank well, as is the French custom. The French have a kind of grilled cheese and ham sandwich, called a Monsieur Croque, that is great bistro food. That, a plate of frites (fries), and a Kronenburg 1664 pression (draft), and you got lunch. We ate more high-falutin stuff, but the croque (of which there are many variations) is one of my faves.

The next PBP is four years from now, in 2007. I'd encourage any of you who are considering riding this event to start planning now. Brevets (test rides) of 200 to 600 km length take place every year across the U.S., Canada, and the world, and having at least one or two of those under you belt every year would be a good way to get a taste of randonneuring. The actual qualifying year is 2007, during which one must complete the full brevet series (200-300-400-600 km) by early June in order to enter PBP.

I believe that most cyclists who can complete a century (100 mile) ride in under 7 hours are potentially capable of being successful in PBP. Obviously, one must be able to ride much more than that to complete the brevets and PBP, but most randos aren't supermen or superwomen. They (we) are just regular folks who have figured out how to keep ourselves plugging away on the bike for a long time and a long way.

Hope you join us in 2007. It's the greatest event in cycling open to "regular" cyclists.

I have photos to post, which I will do at a later date, if there is interest on this board for same.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to all of you for your encouragement to me and the rest of us randos in the RBR community.

Good on ya, young Dale!OldEdScott
Aug 29, 2003 8:00 AM
PBP is about an impressive a cycling accomplishment as mere mortals can hope to aspire to.

I stand in awe.
Taint nuthin', but thanks!Dale Brigham
Aug 29, 2003 8:30 AM

I appreciate your kind words, but I must set the record straight. I and my comrades definitely did PBP the easist way possible: we had support at the controles (we did not have to carry a big load on our bikes and we had help with getting things done at the controles), and we showered daily, changed clothes as often as we desired, and slept in beds at night (at charming "gites," or B&Bs). Further, we all have pretty extensive distance cycling backgrounds and/or racing credentials, in my case, more than 30 years of same. Really, we had everything going for us.

The most impressive and courageous PBPers are, IMHO, the riders who are self-sufficient and/or less experienced cyclists. There are plenty I met who fall into one or more of those categories, and I doff my hat to them. Our own RBR guy "Lon Norder" carried all his clothing and sundry supplies for the entire ride on his bike, and he had no support crew at the controles. He is much tougher than I. I met a woman who had started riding in her 50's just a few years earlier who successfully completed PBP. She is much tougher than I. I openly admit that I am by far the wussiest ancien (PBP veteran) on the block. I am in awe of those I mentioned.

My dear wife has (understandedly) stated that she is getting out of the PBP support business, having taken care of my sorry carcass for two PBPs. If I can't talk her out of that in the next four years, I fear my mettle will be tested in 2007 as an unsupported PBP rider. I better get a whole bunch tougher in the meantime.

BTW, when we were on the way back to the U.S. on our flight Tuesday, I had a Maker's Mark in your honor. It was dee-licious!

Oh, WAIT a minute, I was confused, I thoughtOldEdScott
Aug 29, 2003 8:51 AM
you did Paris-ROUBAIX, not that little piss-ant PBP jaunt. Hell, ANYBODY could do that! Never mind.

Glad to hear you treated yourself to the good stuff on the flight home!
You and all who rode with you are amazing. nmdzrider
Aug 29, 2003 11:54 AM
PBP Report, continuedwasabekid
Aug 29, 2003 8:19 AM
Looking forward to the rest of the report.

You sir/s are living my dream.

Congratulations and thank you for the initial report.

Congratulations! Sounds like something pretty special. (nm)PseuZQ
Aug 29, 2003 9:11 AM
Way to go Dale, truely inspiring (nm)Scot_Gore
Aug 29, 2003 10:48 AM
walking on Champs Elysee??cyclopathic
Aug 29, 2003 12:17 PM
what did you bring bike for?? 8-P

btw, did I see you on the ride? here's a picture of me, strolling alone
Are the ride pics online somewhere? nmLon Norder
Aug 29, 2003 12:44 PM
"Official" ride photosDale Brigham
Aug 29, 2003 1:13 PM

The "official" ride photos are online at Just select PBP as the event and put in your PBP number, and voila, your photos (in thumbnail size) appear. That is, if you put the front number plate on your bike. I forgot to order my photos at the "Right Guy's Gym" at the finish (too busy emptying Kronenburgs down my gullet), but those can be ordered in both print and electronic versions from the website.

Hope this helps!

You look familiar; What was your start group? (84 hr? 90 hr?) nmDale Brigham
Aug 29, 2003 12:59 PM
Are the ride pics online somewhere? nmLon Norder
Aug 29, 2003 1:14 PM
very cool; fantastic accomplishment nmDougSloan
Aug 29, 2003 4:40 PM
PBP Report, continueddave_w
Aug 30, 2003 2:49 PM
CONGRATS...and yes to photos.(nm)
Aug 29, 2003 7:50 AM
Wow, 1200 km in less than 84 hours. I am impressed with your accomplishment. It sounds like you had a great time. It would be great if you could post the pictures.
AWESOME, Dale! nmJS Haiku Shop
Aug 29, 2003 8:22 AM
Great ride and write up, Dale.Lon Norder
Aug 29, 2003 9:15 AM
780 miles, eh? I guess we got our money's worth. Sounds like we were riding pretty close to each other after the first day. Too bad we didn't meet up.

So my question to you is: is PBP the second time as magical as the first?
The second time around...Dale Brigham
Aug 29, 2003 12:43 PM
Lon "Tough Man" Norder:

My answer is...they are different to me. The first time will always be magic, in a way that the second was not. Everything was new the first time: I was confused, excited, surprised, overjoyed, embarrassed.... Oh, are we talking about PBP the first time? I got off track. Sorry!

Seriously, this second PBP was more workmanlike for me. I knew what I was in for, and I knew what I had to do to get it done. That was comforting (despite that, I slept maybe only an hour or two on Monday night before my 3 a.m. wake-up Tuesday morning prior to the 5 a.m. start), but it took much of the magical mystery away.

What was satisfying this time was doing the ride with a group of novices (now, all anciens), and being able to relate some of my experience to them. Also, the roads came back to mind as I went over them the second time, and that deja vu sensation felt great.

If I make it over for a third time in 2007 (hope it happens), I may mix it up to try something different. Maybe a 90-hour start, which is supposed to be beautiful with the taillights snaking off into the distance. Or perhaps, doing it completely (or at least partially) self-supported. Actually, I'm 2-0 with the 84-hour start, so I might not want to muck it up. And, I'm terribly lazy about carrying my own stuff, so external support will be hard to deny.

My guess is that you could do PBP several times and each one would be different. I certainly learn many lessons with each brevet and randonee, and I'm always trying to do the next one "better" (easier, faster, less painful, etc). If I can do a half-dozen PBPs before I hang it up/go to the big ride in the sky, I'd be a very happy camper. Two down, four to go.

More like Lon "Cheap and Lazy Man" Norder...Lon Norder
Aug 29, 2003 1:05 PM
I was too lazy to make lodging arrangements for Loudeac before they got booked up, and too cheap to pay $45 (ripoff!) for a bag drop.

Yeah, your first vs. second time impressions sound right. There are rides I've done a number of times (the Cascade Creampuff in Oregon and Leadville 100 in Colorado come to mind) and they're still lots of fun and I really look forward to doing them. The rides aren't "new" anymore, but I don't worry about them as much either. Also, as you mentioned, coaching the newbies and watching them succeed is very satisfying.
Congrats on the finish! Looking forward to the pics. nmMike P
Aug 29, 2003 9:52 AM
Well done, Bravo, Bravo, Bravissimo!. nmLen J
Aug 29, 2003 10:00 AM
Great story, great accomplishment!jtolleson
Aug 29, 2003 10:06 AM
You are a complete rock star, and reading this makes me think about setting a new kind of goal ... hmmmmm .... It is a pretty big jump from my current level of distance experience (only 130 mi).
Aug 29, 2003 10:27 AM
Very nice writeup, tremendous accomplishment, and yes PLEASE post pictures when you get the chance.
Very inspiring.You have my admiration sir. (nm)PEDDLEFOOT
Aug 29, 2003 10:54 AM
780 miles in four days? Holy cow!CritLover
Aug 29, 2003 4:24 PM
WOW! That almost my mileage for a month! That's completely amazing, and insane! So how come it sounds like fun? Boy, cyclists are the craziest type!

Can't wait to see the pics- please post some!

Oh, also, are there many women on the ride? It would be nice to plan it with some female friends. Thanks for the report!
69 U.S. women registered for PBPDale Brigham
Aug 30, 2003 12:35 PM
Out of 468 U.S. riders who registered for PBP this year, 69 were female. The total number of women registered from all countries and the number who finished is not yet available.

The Audax Club Parisien website ( does have the overall numbers: out of 4,069 PBP starters, 3,465 finished (14.8% abandon rate). Foreign riders had a slightly better finishing rate than French riders, who constituted almost half of total riders. The breakdown by age, gender, and country will come out later.

See you there in 2007!