Every four years, the Audax Club Parisien (ACP) will hold their Paris-Brest-Paris (or PBP) Randonneur event. There has been an amateur version of PBP since 1931. However, PBP has existed in some form since 1891, though back then it was a race, held about every 10 years until 1931 with a gap for the war, and then for the last time as a race in 1951. The take-away though is that PBP is no longer a race, there is no first and last place and the only metric to assess riders really is one of pass/fail. You either finish in the time limit, or you don't. Currently, PBP offers three start groups: 80 hours, 90 hours and 84 hours, in order of start. Each group will broken up into start waves with somewhere north of 200 (250?) riders in each wave.
Under the direction of the ACP, Randonneurs USA (RUSA) sanctions qualifying events for PBP of 200, 300, 400 and 600km, each with a time limit. RUSA administers regions through out the US and there are five of those in Northern California, one in Central California and two more in Southern California. Each of those regions held their qualifiers this year and the state of California will be sending well over 100 riders to France to participate in PBP, and the US sending roughly 450 riders. All those riders will have completed the quartet of qualifiers earlier this year.
|Rob at the start in 2011|
I'll be one of those qualifiers and this will be my 5th trip to participate in PBP. This very blog was begun in the aftermath of my first attempt, which ended in a DNF. The blog name comes from the distance I was able to manage before pulling the plug, barely more than one third of the overall distance. Rather than walk away from PBP after that, I came back in 2011 determined to finish, which I did. I've now finished PBP 3 times (2011, 2015 and 2019).
If you wish to follow my progress on this attempt, you can do that at this link. I will be starting in the 84 hour group on August 21st, at 05:15 in the X wave.
I've started PBP on three different bikes: the first a semi-custom 2001 Dave Yates Randonneur frame, purchased 2nd hand; the second a full custom Ed Litton built in 2007; and the current a newer, slightly revised full custom Ed Litton that hit the road for the first time in 2017.
In 2007, the average age of starters was 49, and that year I was 50. Since then, the average age crept up a year but has remained at 50 for the last three iterations. I have not remained 50 years old however, and I can tell you that I can certainly feel the difference now at 66 [Editor's note: Rob has felt the difference for quite some time, so this is no new sensation for him.]. Having finished 3 times in the past, I'm still not 100% certain that will happen this time. Each time I've ridden, I've never been hands down 100% certain to finish, though in 2011, I recall while on the ride imagining myself crossing the finish line. In any case, having finished before is no guarantee of finishing the next time, and I am fully aware of the challenges ahead of me for PBP 2023.
As in 2019, I'll be spending another 10 days in France going to Ventoux in Provence and up into the Alps for more cycling.