Eurostar to France with bikes booked on the same train, except our train broke down and they transferred us but not the bikes. Us being, Adrian (yacf), Alistair (PieEater on yacf) and Mark. So the four of us had lunch near Gare du Nord, waiting a couple of hours for the bikes to turn up. We then cycled to the National Velodrome in Saint Quentin via the Eiffel Tower which took a couple of hours. Straight in for the bike check and then picked up our packs of numbers and high-viz gillet. Then I headed over to my hotel in Plaisir, repacked the bike and went to dinner with some Willesden CC riders.
After some Belgian beers Mark had kindly provided in the hotel courtyard it was off to bed.
The swarm of cyclists in the F1 hotel meant the meagre breakfast provisions were destroyed before I could get any so it was into my bonk rations I dived for some Torq energy and my anticoag drugs. What a start to the day!
I had to get to the velodrome before 1pm in order to make use of their bag drop, since I’d not booked the hotel room through the whole event (next time I will book a closer hotel and probably book it through so I don’t have to worry about left luggage). Once I was changed and I’d repacked for the 8th time, I left the velodrome and wandered down to Saint Quentin to have lunch. There, while chowing down on a pizza, I briefly met ultra-racing legend Chris Ragsdale who was crewing for another American rider.
Finally into my start pen and I run into Adrian (TransAm racer who I’d ridden with during the 600k qualifier) along with Ciaran, his mate who’d sorted him out the entry for that ride through me on LFGSS.
Tweet: “Riders are lining up for the off. Feeling quite nervous, more so than normal. Good luck to gold coast rider
Start was fast and nervous, certainly not helped by a Frenchie grounding his pedal at speed on a RAB right in front of me not even 5k into the event. I rode up to him and made a ‘heart pumping’ gesture and he said pardon and we carried on, busting our guts to stick with the frantic pace out of town. I couldn’t really believe people were riding this hard at the start of 1230k, had they not heard of pacing? Problem was, I didn’t want to lose the bunch so we continued to ride hard to maintain position in the big bunch. We caught the group in front very fast and someone said later we also caught Group B but I’m not sure about that.
Tweet: “Loudeac now with Ciaran and Aidan. Just let Martin Lucas head off. Feeling tired but OK. Lots still to do. Start was mental, we’re slow now.”
I wrote Aidan but I meant Adrian. I don’t seem to have any memory of Mortagne (services), Villaines, Fougeres, Tinteniac or Quedillac (services) controls. I do remember seeing Jenny at Villaines (the first proper control) and she said Hoppo was just behind us. He later joined our bunch. I think we then lost this bunch whilst in one of the controls. I remember sitting out the back struggling a bit to get my compulsory high-viz gilet on and then riding off the front of the bunch so I could have a wee without losing them. The pace must have been stable enough at this stage that I could move freely around.
I once again have no memories of St Nicolas (services) or Carhaix but I do remember the long climb before Brest and seeing the fast boys, including Rimas (A020) ZigZag from YACF coming out of Brest. We skipped the offer of free crepes on the bridge whilst enjoying the view of the bay and the big suspension bridge. Wish I’d stopped and taken photos.
Tweet: “In Brest. Can’t believe only half way. Have towed half of Europe across France. Fucking sore. Train back would be lovely. Never doing again.”
I chatted with an older Irish rider who knew what he was doing and convinced Ciaran to turn around and make it at least to Carhaix while we had some daylight. The climb went on forever but the decent was quite fun. I drafted a big hay truck and then a tractor along some of the roads. Silly waste of energy but fun so what the hell?
Tweet: “Might bail on my no sleep plan given how slow I’m moving. Don’t want to be stuck in the freezing early hours again need ing sleep outdoors.”
Tweet: “Like an earthquake refuge here in Carhaix. We slept on the floor. I’m getting more food. Not leaving until sunrise. Too cold. Lost others.”
This was where it went a bit pear-shaped. We’d decided to sleep in Carhaix (32hrs solid riding and 40-odd awake) so had a proper meal and a beer. I thought Ciaran was going to the dorms and lost him. I slept for maybe an hour on the floor then used the loo and had some more food. I was cold and miserable here (should’ve got rain jacket and earplugs). Lots more started filling the place up and I slept a bit in the cafe/fast-food area. Woke again and ate/drank more and used the loo again where I joked with another Irish rider about some funny noises coming from one of the cubicles. He said that Ciaran had already left and I was a bit pissed off to say the least. I went out into the fog eventually and his bike was still there so I was back to wanting to just get moving. I went looking in the sleeping quarters with the help of one of the volunteers but I couldn’t find him anywhere though and I didn’t want to leave him there. I finally had one last look around and found him in a corner behind some tables and we eventually rolled out after losing about 1000 places around 9am.
Tweet: “Finally found Ciaran. We’ll leave Cairhaix soon. Once more into the fog… This has turned into a full value ride.”
Spent the whole day just tapping out an even pace trying not to hurt Ciaran’s ankles too much. I was quite enjoying myself, feeding my ego sitting on the front doing big turns, making it look easy, in my mind. Ciaran was still stronger than a lot of other riders we encountered and was doing turns along with a Portuguese rider? But we mostly towed people through the day, just knocking off one control at a time trying not to take too long in them after the Carhaix debacle.
Tweet: “Only 500 to go. Hahahahahahahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaa”
Tweet: “In Fougres. Feeling fine, sitting on the front tapping it out. Ciaran bit damaged but he’s still gettin turns in. Probably mood swing now..”
Into another night and memories start to disappear again. “Just tap it out” becomes my new motto.
Tweet: “Slow going in the night but I actually feel fine. Lots of sleeping bodies in Villaines control. Cracked 1000k. Moo.”
Tweet: “Partner in crime too broken to continue for now. Sucks but it’s a tough ride. I pushed on alone to Montagne.
For some reason I was buzzing at Villaines and with only 200k to go wanted to crack on. Ciaran was fooked though so I ended up chatting with David DCLane (yacf) and Brendan, an Aussie who was riding with the Danish guys. After an hour’s sleep I woke Ciaran up but he was still not prepared to continue. I gave him a coffee but he seemed pretty broken and needed more sleep. After a couple more offers we decided to split – he would sleep and nurse his ankles and I would carry on.
Tweet: “Roadside support from locals is fantastic.”
Now ‘off the leash’ I smashed it to the next control – Mortagne au Peche. I remember spending a lot of time getting aero and taking very wide lines around groups or individual riders who would often wobble or be riding right on the middle lane lines, I guess so that if they did nod off they wouldn’t be in the dirt! Arrived and felt a bit knackered – guess the adrenalin had worn off. After some food decided to sleep but was then woken up by a woman after I’d slept through unknown alarms! Shit! I panicked and grabbed everything and ran out with a dead arm from lack of circulation laying on the floor in my full kit. I saw Adrian, which shocked me because Ciaran said he was 10 hours behind (how long had I slept?!). Hugged him and then with a “which way is Paris?!?” sped off. It took me about 30min before I shook off the dead arm and grogginess and then got going again. Back into an aero tuck and racing up and down hills. I was flying past everyone. Stopped to take off the rain jacket and high-viz and sped past more bunches and more ‘road potatos’ – riders wrapped up in foil blankets on the roadside.
At Dreux I was running through the control (difficult in midfoot Speedplay cleats). I ran the wrong way but eventually got in and found water, food (coffee eclair and Paris Brest Paris bun!) and some cans of drink. Carried the coke in my jersey. Disappointed they didn’t have any energy drink to mix into my bottles. Past the Audax Australia guy with the recumbent again and was back on a mission. Flew past bunch after bunch, mad as hell, attack, attack!!! Some duo yelled at me – I looked. They whistled and I realised they wanted me to join them. I was like “if two of you can’t catch me then what’s the point? I’m not dragging your arses to the finish!”.
With 10k to go I was in agony – I’d rubbed my sit bone skin raw with the new ISM PN1.1 saddle. I didn’t want to stop to add more chamois cream though. I remember drinking the can of coke riding away from a bunch on one of the final climbs. Fat man in vertical ascent shocker! They must’ve hated that. 🙂 The crowds were cheering me on – it was fantastic. Then I was at the velodrome, down some silly dirt track chute and parking my bike, right next to Mark from the Eurostar who’d had a stunning ride on such a non race bike.
Into the ‘drome to hand in the brevet card and a feed and then got chatting to Chris who’s rider had knocked 30 hours off his PB! Found DCLane again and also Brendan with another Aussie who was heading off to Alpe d’Huez later that week. Probably other people but I was a bit vague after that final effort. I had a shower and then struggled around St Quentin looking for the Gare and decided it was just easier (if a lot more painful) to ride back to the hotel.
Had a disappointing steak from the same place we went the other night (chatted to a Canadian rider who’d packed after 600k) and back at the hotel helped a German rider R109 with charging his phone so he could find his mates. I fell asleep before he could give me the charger back but it was on my door when I woke. Finally had some F1 breakfast and then, since it was raining and I was so sore I grabbed a cab to the station and took a train into Paris Montparnasse. Then after some fool told me to get a Metro ticket and I was then told “no bikes” after buying the ticket I decided to ride the 5-6k to Gare du Nord (it wasn’t raining here and I stood up most of the way). Dropped my bike off and went in search of beer. Found beer, travelled home, having a nice conversation with a Kiwi couple who’d been working in England and were touring Europe before heading home to New Zealand.
Tweet: “My mouth feels like it has the plague, also known as The Baguette Death.
69 hours total, 46 hours ride time, 24 hours lost in Controls. Powertap stopped after 13 hours so no idea about true effort of this ride.
Summary posted on YACF: I enjoyed the first fast 12 hours riding with Ciaran in the D bunch. I think we were at Brest in 26hrs. He wanted to stop but I wanted to push on while it was still light. So we did to Carhaix, where we spent 9 hours! I think I got a couple of hours sleep and multiple feeds here then lost Ciaran and finally found him after searching the entire complex and thinking he’d left without me. The late start meant we missed the fog. Then it was a nice day with me mostly riding easy pace on the front of a small group of Ciaran + randoms. At Villaines that night though his ankles were too much for him so he had an hour’s kip while I talked to DCLane and Aussie Brendan in DK kit. Woke C up but he decided he couldn’t go on, not now at least so I had to carry on without him. Smashed it to the next control – Montange? Then slept through my alarm so I don’t yet know how much time I lost. Was woken by a woman and panicked about how much time I’d been asleep so rushed out, with a dead arm as I’d slept in all my kit, past Adrian (TransAm racer) and after a “where’s Paris?” was on the road. Hammered it from here to the finish, passing tonnes of broken looking riders. I was feeling fine right up until 10k to go when I was really struggling to stay seated with such pain from the Adamo (probably not the best choice given the long stints of slow sat-up riding). Still came in pretty quick though and was pretty happy with most of the ride.
69hrs total, but 24hr of that was wasted in controls! Sub-50hr next time, not messing about.
Summary posted on LFGSS: I had to leave @scultura at Villaines as he was broken and a kip didn’t help. Tried to egg him on but the poor bloke had left everything on the road. I left and went a bit mental but then fell asleep at the next control and slept through my alarms! Some woman woke me and with a dead arm I ran out to my bike asking which way Paris was! Saw Adrian TransCon and then bashed the final two sections, soloing past tonnes of broken looking people. Road bike + adamo did bad thing to me. Couldn’t sit properly for last 10k. Enjoyed first 12hrs in mental bunch, but we lost it at control then it all went shit. Second day was good fun just tapping out easy pace in nice weather. Next night I was enjoying until losing @scultura and no idea how long I was out for. Skip controls and there’s massive time saving to be had. Is there a PBP perm? 🙂
Oh, just wanted to say thanks to to Marcus for his great packing lists, they helped me a lot when it came to thinking about what to carry:
Other bits and pieces…
PBP 2015 Results database: http://axel-koenig.com/results/pbp2015