Mijn verslagje; ik schrijf op Strava altijd in het Engels en ben even te lui om te vertalen
Ah, Paris-Brest-Paris... Or PBP for intimi. If you're a randonneur it's likely you have done it, or dream of doing it. It's the second oldest cycling event in the world and is now organised every four years. That history makes it special. Not for being famous, but because it is ingrained in the history of the villages you pass through. Villages get decorated with banners, flowers, bicycle artwork, coloured lights and stands offering drinks and foods. The best amazing is the people sitting or standing in front of their houses, cheering you on. And on. And on. There were even some die-hards cheering at 4am in the first night!
This is what made PBP special for me. The other special thing is that over 6000 cyclists from all over the world participated. It's quite special riding in the middle of the night and knowing / seeing that the roads are now owned by cyclists. You never ride alone indeed! Which is not to say that you always ride together (to be honest, I'm glad you don't) but there's still a feeling of connectedness.
Best ride on earth then? Hm, not necessarily. Although the controls were far from the horrors that were described beforehand (I never had to wait to get my card stamped, never had problems parking or finding my bike, the amount of walking was acceptable), they were just not places I would look forward to. They left me (sometimes literally) cold. Quality of the food at the controls also varied quite a bit and on the whole the controls of London-Edinburgh-London were a much nicer experience for me.
As to the ride itself: fairly uneventful to be honest
I had put a wrong spacer between the 25t and 29t cogs when cleaning the cassette at home, so couldn't use the 25t cog, but otherwise no mechanical issues. I started to get a really sore bum after some 800km and could barely sit down anymore. But after lying down (there's a reason I brought that air mat) and a 90 minute sleep in the (warm!) control of Fougères I was "just" sore but able to sit again.
It probably helped that Christiaan caught up with me shortly after Fougères (he had started 75 minutes after me) and we rode together to the finish. Christiaan reduced his pace and I picked up mine, which meant more power and less pressure on the saddle. It was really nice finishing together as it made the circle round so to speak: For both of us our first brevet was the 400km "rondje startpunten" in September 2016. I caught up with Christiaan in the middle of the night in Germany, and we rode into the dawn by the directions of his GPS and the light of my bicycle light. We both have learned to pack enough spare power since that ride
Anything else worth mentioning? Well, the weather was very nice indeed: no rain, and warm but not hot during the day. It did feel surprisingly cold during the night and I used my rain jacket to stay warm. The wind was mild (force 3 at the most I'd say) but definitely "againsterly": headwinds to Brest, crosswinds back to Tinteniac then headwinds again...
Another "very nice indeed" was the support site of randonneurs.nl at the camping near Loudéac. Six tents with airbeds to sleep on (I managed two hours in both directions), good food, and "gezellig", which gave a much needed mental rest. Thanks again to the people who organised and staffed this oasis!
Finished then at 01:50am with my parents and Christaan's wife waving us in. A round through the cobbled courtyard of La Bergerie to get the electronic recording of the finish and final stamp in the brevet card completed my PBP 2019.
The next morning I headed back to the start, to cheer at the finishing riders and to work on my secondary objective (first objective, of course, being finishing within 90 minutes
): exchanging my Dutch PBP jersey with an Australian, I just loved the Indigenous design and the story it expresses. Very pleased that this mission was also accomplished, I even got the right size
I do hope Brendan fits in my shirt, as the Dutch jersey appears to be much more "race cut" than the Australian one!
So, finally, will I ride PBP again in 2023?
Well, possibly. I think it mostly depends on the numbness in my fingers; if it takes 4 months to subside (like after LEL) then I'll probably stick to 600km rides. Other than that, it's not a ohh, I'd love to ride that again
like LEL is, but I'll come back anyway (good intentions: learn more French, do proper training beforehand, stop more in the villages).