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Fact file

Location:
Paris, France
Length:
1200km
Riders:
6000
Terrain:
Road

Long-distance dilemmas

One of the main stumbling blocks faced by long-distance riders is pace. When to rest? When to push on? When to eat? For Darren Franks, working out how to avoid the wind and tough riding conditions resulted in complex scenario that may have cost him his attempt at record pace. Here’s his update from the early hours of this morning:

“Second bonk. Frittered away 90 minutes waiting for the group I’d been riding with at Tinteniac. Had to abandon them in the end as it didn’t look like they’d ever wake up from their ’15 minute’ nap. Died a thousand deaths between there and Fougeres, solo in bitter conditions. Now eating for two in the restaurant at the checkpoint. It’ll take a while to process that so I may also grab a 12 minute nap. The sun will be up when I wake up, but 48 hours is sadly now out of reach.”

Paris bound

Darren Franks has set a blistering pace (27.3kph), making it to Brest in under 24 hours. He’s now on the return leg to Paris.

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Further back, Helen Kerrane has paused for a late lunch at Villaines-la-Juhel:

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And four controls ahead of Helen, New Zealander Ian McBride is fighting the winds:

“I’ve arrived at Loudeac… the headwind has been strength sapping. Eating, then pushing on to the next control. Hopefully I can make Brest and sleep for a few hours.”

TCRNo7 winner Fiona Kolbinger is currently on the road after stamping in at the Loudeac checkpoint around an hour ago. She rode from Brest (the finish of this year's TCR) to the start-line of PBP, and joked that she was riding her own BBPBP (Burgas, Brest, Paris, Brest, Paris):

Stay strong out there, randonneurs!

17 hours in

Darren Franks and the riders of the first wave are now 17 hours in on their journey to Brest and back. Up front on our tracker map, Darren is roughly 70km from Brest, where he’ll have his brevet card stamped before turning back towards Paris for the return leg. Here’s some atmospheric images from the road, captured earlier this morning:

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Behind Darren is Will Armitage, who found himself riding solo into a headwind as he made his way towards Loudéac. “Wheels came off about 20km ago plugging solo into a headwind. It was a struggle going more than 20kph having been averaging 30kph so far.”

Further down the course in a later wave, Jenny Dennyson has made it to checkpoint 1, and is refuelling ahead of her next leg. A quick nap in the early hours rejuvenated her strength, and now she’s back on the bike:

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And they’re off

The first wave of riders in the 2019 PBP has departed Rambouillet. TCR veteran Darren Franks is among them, in a group aiming for the fastest finishing times (the record is 42 hours 26 minutes). This wave hopes to set a blistering pace of 28kph average over the course.

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Currently Darren and fellow British rider Will Armitage are approaching the 40km mark, with around 80km to go before their first checkpoint at Mortagne-au-Perche, kilometre 118. Once here, their timing chips will be scanned with times published by PBP, and we’ll be able to gather an impression of their overall position on the road.

Preparation is underway

Riders in the 2019 PBP are now arriving in their thousands at the departure town of Rambouillet. Ahead of the staggered departures tomorrow and Monday, every participant must attend a mandatory bike check before they’re supplied with their brevet card and frame badges – no mean feat when there’s more than 6,000 bikes to assess.

Helen Kerrane captured these images of the field queuing for their checks, resplendent in their wet weather gear:

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This year’s field is packed with ultra-racing royalty. To name just a few, both Björn Lenhard and Fiona Kolbinger’s names are on the start sheet, alongside long-time TCR veteran Mikko Mäkipää, prolific distance racer Mike Sheldrake, and many more. We’ll be keeping an eye on their progress throughout the event, providing updates as they make their way to Brest and back over the next few days.

Until then, do your best to stay dry and enjoy some chocolat chaud and a croissant or two. Bonne chance, randonneurs!

EVENT PREVIEW

THE ROUTE

This year marks the 128th anniversary of the infamous French brevet Paris-Brest-Paris. Starting in 1891 as a 1,200km race, ‘PBP’ is known by many as cycling’s oldest road event – pre-dating even the Tour de France – and has been held roughly every four years since 1931 (give or take a year, including a postponement for WW2).

Taking riders on a self-supported adventure from a small commune just south of Paris to Brest in Brittany, then back again, the event covers 1,200km on its return journey along France’s Atlantic coast. It attracts participants from across the world on bikes of all shapes and sizes, and is so famous in France that it has its own pastry named after it – possibly one of the nation’s highest accolades.

Despite its roots in competitive cycling, PBP is no longer operated as a race. But, in typical French style, trophies and awards are still bestowed upon the first (and last) finishers to cross the line. In 2015, the last edition of the event, Björn Lenhard completed the route in 42 hours and 26 minutes – the fastest time since 1951, which was won by professional cyclist Maurice Diot when PBP was still a race.

THE COVERAGE

This year, we’ll be tracking a small selection of riders live on our map. We’ll also bring you updates from the road, with upwards of 20 participants reporting back on their experiences using a dedicated WhatsApp group, plus the official PBP timings from the control points along the way.

Amongst the participant names will be some familiar dots – including that of Fiona Kolbinger, the astonishingly recent winner of this year’s Transcontinental Race. Having finished first in the TCR in a time of 10 days 2 hours and 48 minutes, Fiona is reportedly riding from Brest to the start town of Rambouillet ahead of PBP.

While there are roughly 6,000 riders taking part in PBP 2019, we hope to offer you a small glimpse into this historic and highly esoteric event through our coverage.

Best of luck and bonne route to all those riding. We can’t wait to watch the dots.

FIND OUT MORE

Our friends at Apidura compiled this all-encompassing article about Paris-Brest-Paris. Take a look ahead of the event that begins on Sunday.

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