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Showing posts from March, 2009

PBP 2007, Part 5: Daylight, hills and yet more rain

The town of Villaines-la-Juhel has been a control on Paris, Brest et retour since 1979. The enthusiasm the town exhibits for this event may have been dampened somewhat by the rain, but it was clear to me that PBP was a special event there and special enough that I expect it will be part of PBP for years to come. Climbing out of town on my departure some time around 8am, I had put behind me more than 220 kilometers. The hills on the early part of the course were gradual, but from this point that would be much less the case. Beginning my cycling life in Southeastern Michigan, hills and long climbs became defined a certain way. Moving to Maryland, hills became something a bit more serious as steepness and length both increased, forcing my notion of climbing on a ride to expand. Changing coasts and landing in the Bay Area, the notion of elevation gain for the length of a ride was much more of a factor, and no two 100 mile rides could now be considered equal. Given the many opportunities…

PBP 2007, Part 4: A meager dawn

More than once, I've found myself cycling at 4:00am, though it is an unaccustomed time for me to be part way through a ride. My first ride through the night was in April of 2004 on the San Francisco Randonneurs Fleche. From that time until PBP 2007, I had ridden through the night only five other times. Though cold temperatures were often a prominent feature of the weather, none of those occasions included rain, and in each of those other experiences I had the luxury of having at least one and often several good friends with me. This situation on PBP, alone in a crowd, riding into and out of several new days put me far enough out of context that I really wasn't thinking so much what time of day it was, or when daybreak might come. Instead, I focused on the moment at hand. With the passing of many kilometers the tightness of the various packs and the sheer number of other riders had lessened. To be sure, there were always other riders to see ahead and behind, but no longer were…

PBP 2007, Part 3: Hours til dawn

By the time I arrived in France for this trip, I had listened to numerous PBP stories, hearing most of them while riding the qualifying brevets that spring. Spending yet more time with other riders in the days leading up to the start, I heard many new stories and it was becoming difficult to arrange the data points I acquired in a geographically correct order. This was especially hard when my grasp of French geography was tenuous at best. I had just ridden through a town larger than most so far, with a well lit and inviting cafe surrounded by cyclists. I saw no one I knew and felt compelled to keep moving, at the same time regretting passing up the stop. The route led through town, and then climbed up away from the center. Was this Mortagne-au-Perche? Wasn't there supposed to be a large church at the top of the hill outside of town? Maybe there was a church atop a hill outside some town somewhere ahead but it wasn't here, not unless the village church was to be found in the …

2007 PBP, Part 2: Into the night

Over the years I've heard so many stories of Paris, Brest et Retour and I was slightly disappointed that the rain had seemingly suppressed the crowd size and enthusiasm. This was a mistaken impression though. After the gun signaled our start as our bundle of 500 riders spread out with each meter we now covered I could see that hundreds of spectators were stationed all along the route for the first dozen kilometers through the contiguous communes that help make up Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines. I could tell by the faces I passed on the roadside that while spectators were scanning the riders for familiar faces, they also were intent on cheering for everyone riding by. Even if this particular experience were isolated to this one point on the ride, I knew I would remember it for a long, long time. This respect and appreciation for the cyclists however, would play out over and over again and at all times through the day and night. Having done a ride in the daylight that covered the seve…