Up PBP 2003 PBP Support Summary 2003 600k Brevet Brevets 2003

1200k - PBP (Paris - Brest - Paris), France - 18 through 22 August 2003

or "The ride of my life"



Brief ride report
Prologue - Monday, 18 Aug
The last day - Monday, 18 Aug
St. Quentin En Yvelines / Paris to Mortagne Au Perche (Start to Food Control)
Mortagne Au Perche to Villaines La Juhel (Control 1)
Villaines La Juhel to Fougeres (Control 2)
Fougeres to Tinteniac (Control 3)
Tinteniac to Loudeac (Control 4)
Loudeac to Carhaix Plouguer (Control 5)
Carhaix Plouguer to Brest (Control 6)
Brest to Carhaix Plouguer (Control 7)
Carhaix Plouguer to Loudeac (Control 8)
Loudeac to Tinteniac (Control 9)
Tinteniac to Fougeres (Control 10)
Fougeres to Villaines La Juhel (Control 11)
Villaines La Juhel to Mortagne Au Perche (Control 12)
Mortagne Au Perche to Nogent Le Roi (Control 13)
Nogent Le Roi to St. Quentin En Yvelines / Paris (Control 14 / Finish)
The next day after the finish
The Support Team
Arriving back home
FAQ (Frequently asked questions)




Start:    Monday, 18 August 03,  10:30 PM
Finish:   Friday, 22 August 03,  2:27 PM

Sleep: (total 9 hours)

1. night:  no sleep
2. night:  3 hours
3. night:  3 hours
4. night:  2.5 hours
2 x 15 min. at the side of the road

Distance: 771.2 miles 1,241.1 km
Elevation (climbing): 34,088 ft 10,390 m
Riding time: 58:24 h  
Total time: 87:57 h  
Average speed: 13.2 mph 21.25 km/h
Calories burned 34,100 kcal  

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The profile of PBP 2003 for the last 500 miles (804.7 km)

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Brief ride report:

Power Generation magazine March 2004 issue:  PBP report - English  or  PBP report - German

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On my last day before the departure from the U.S. to Germany, my work colleagues gave me this basket full of stuff that I could use on my ride. Even so I thought I had everything, some of the things in the basked actually made it over to Paris, especially the horn, that I mounted to the top tube of my bike. As I found out later, this was a great idea. The people cheering along the roads in France really did get excited when they heard my horn and gave me some extra cheering. Thank you, deer friends from work.

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From the U.S. I flew first into Germany to stay a few days, overcome the jet lag, to do some work and see family and friends.

The weather was still something to watch. For the last weeks France and Europe experienced an unusual heat wave. It has been the hottest summer for more than a century. In France some people were dying due to heat and others had to go to the hospital. This was the biggest concern for most of the riders. I have actually been not that much concerned since I got somewhat used to it during summer training rides in Florida with temperatures of 104 F (40 C).


Saturday, 16 Aug we loaded our rental van to head towards Paris. We were a team of three:  Reinhard, the rider, Jutta the support of the rider and Barbara, the support of the support :-) During the next days Jutta did all the driving. She did a good job and we arrived well Saturday afternoon in Paris.


Sunday, 17 Aug morning, what was that? It seemed the heat wave was over. We had some rain coming in. In the afternoon, we had to head over to the starting area to get the bike inspected. We realized some first excitement, to see all the different riders from all over the world with the most interesting bicycles. After 1.5 hours the first hurdle was taken. The inspection was passed and I now knew that I was allowed to show up at the start.

This night we met with our friends: Dan from Titusville, FL and Barb from Gainesville, FL. Together with Barbara, Jutta and a few others from Florida, we went for some fine dining. This could have been the last good food for a while :-)

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After that we headed back to the hotel room. I took a last bike inspection and prepared the bike for the prologue ride for the next morning. Time to go to bed: A last night with some good sleep for the next days.

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Prologue - Monday, 18 Aug:

The Prologue was an approx. 20 mile ride through the suburban of Paris. It was the chance to interface with the locals. They were able to bring their bikes and ride together with the people that participate in PBP. What a great idea! Some people especially dressed for this event. We had light rain and approx. 500 PBP participants showed up. I enjoyed this part. It helped to keep us busy, took away some of the nervousness that seemed to increase as closer we got to the start and eased the muscles.

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The Prologue ended at the starting area of the ride. Here was the possibility for everybody to look at all the special bikes.

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The last day - Monday, 18 Aug:

After the Prologue I went back to the hotel trying to get some more rest before the ride. Since the ride start was at 10:00 PM, a quite unusual time for the human body, it was important to get as much rest pbp07-preride-dinner-030818.jpg (493748 bytes)as you can. Calm down, get some sleep, don't think too much about the ride. Luckily I was able to get approx. 5 hours sleep. Later I found out, that a lot of other people were not that lucky. While I was sleeping, the support crew was cleaning the bike from the impact of the rain during the Prologue. What a team!

I got up at approx. 5:00 PM. We loaded the bike and headed over near the starting area. We met Barb and Dan at 7:00 PM to have dinner together prior to the ride.

Ok it was time to go. Approx. 8:30 PM we headed to the start, just to join the traffic jam of the approx. 3000 other bicyclists that were also heading to the 10:00 PM start. All riders had to be funneled through the entrance to go to the starting arena. You could feel the excitement. It took us a little more than one hour to make it into the arena at 9:45 PM.

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Barb, Reinhard and Dan ready to be funneled to the starting arena

Jutta and Barbara encouraging us at the start

The mass field of riders consolidated in the starting
 arena and ready to ride

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Magnetic card swiped, Brevet card received: we were ready. It was amazing to see all those riders clustered up in the starting arena. Everybody trained so hard to be here. Riders from 26 countries were participating. We wanted to roll to get on to this ultra endurance event, but the organizers couldn't send 3000 riders on the road at the same time. So they sent them off in groups of 500. The first 500 took off at 10:00 PM. It still seemed a long way for us to go. Now it felt tough to wait and to be patient. Finally at 10:30 PM they opened the exit gates for the group of 500, in which Barb, Dan and I were in.

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The ride:  Monday, 18 Aug, 10:30 PM - Friday, 22 Aug, 2:27 PM


St. Quentin En Yvelines / Paris  to  Mortagne Au Perche (Start  to  Food Control)


Distance: 86.8 miles 139.7 km
Elevation (climbing): 3,376 ft 1,029 m
Total time: h  
Departure: Mon  18 Aug 10:30 PM
Arrival: Tue  19 Aug  

Once we left the arena, we were welcomed with cheering and applauding from the spectators. These were mainly French people, but also family, friends and supporters of participants. Jutta and Barbara were there too, watching the exciting moment of the riders heading out into the night. People were cheering along the roads for miles and miles. Escorts on motorcycles led us out to more suburban areas. Roads and intersections were blocked. We didn't have to stop. Car drivers were waiting and cheered towards us. They were amazed about the long line of riders, all with front and rear lights. It was a fantastic picture to see all the rear lights in front of us. While heading out with this large group it was not easy to keep track of where Dan and Barb were. Barb was calling my name every once a while and I sounded my horn to let her know I was still there. With people cheering along the roads and cycling with all the other riders, I started out faster than what we anticipated.

Due all this excitement time was flying by and suddenly we were in rural areas and what remained were tail lights up to the horizon. The fast riders of the next group already came by. We got into the first hills. I guess now we were realizing: It was real, we were crazy enough to start in PBP 2003.

Midnight went by. Barb and I decided to take it easy. It was still a long way to go. Barb and Dan were a little tired. Both of them didn't sleep that well the night before and Barb had an upset stomach. It was the first time for all of us that we started at that time of a day and had to ride all night for a beginning of a ride. But the weather was great, the low temperature was approx. 60 F (15 C) and so we cycled through our first night, knowing there were more nights to come.

At 1:45 AM we came through a small town. To our surprise we saw a lot of riders standing there. It was the local baker with his family, who served bread, cake and water for free to the riders. This was purely amazing!

We were getting close to the first control, Mortagne Au Perche. The last miles were up the hill. Hmm, why was the control on top of a hill?

I walked in and was looking for the place where I had to swipe my magnetic card and could get my stamp. I couldn't find it. I tried to ask somebody, but they didn't understand me. Finally somebody was there who spoke English. This was not an official control, this was a food stop only. Wow, the first official control would be after 137 miles. I guessed who couldn't make it in time to the first control, should forget about making the total distance.

We ate and drank something. Thereafter we went back on the road.

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Mortagne Au Perche  to  Villaines La Juhel (Control 1)


Distance: 50.4 miles 81.1 km
Elevation (climbing): 2,430 ft 741 m
Total time: h  
Departure: Tue  19 Aug 6:08 AM
Arrival: Tue  19 Aug 10:07 AM

It didn't take long and the sun was rising. We made the first night and seeing the sun reenergized us. A lot of riders went by (faster riders from the groups that started behind us). Riders were everywhere. At this time we were having fun. The legs were still fresh and we were cycling with steady speed up and down the hills. The hills were not that steep and we usually could stay in the middle front chain ring.

Villaines La Juhel should not be far away. But was that? Again, it seemed that we had to do serious climbing before we reached the control, another small village on top of a hill. The village was nicely decorated, banners welcomed us, music played, people cheered. Fantastic how the French were ...

Barb, Dan and I arrived together. It was the first time I met Jutta and Barbara. It was good to see them. They took my headlight batteries to recharge them during the day. At the stop we also saw Andrew and Linda from Florida.

We took some food and drinks. A first body maintenance was due: Bag Palm and something for my feet.

The following pictures were taking at Villaines La Juhel:

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Barbara and Reinhard


Barbara and Jutta


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the control parking lot


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Villaines La Juhel  to  Fougeres (Control 2)


Distance: 55.0 miles 88.5 km
Elevation (climbing): 2,378 ft 725 m
Total time: h  
Departure: Tue  19 Aug  
Arrival: Tue  19 Aug 2:55 PM

We had to keep moving again. We realized how easy you could spend an hour at a control. We had to watch this.

More hills came up. This stretch was quite hilly (that's at least what we thought at this time - later, we did know better). At this time I had great legs, while Barb was taking it somewhat easier. So every once a while I went ahead on the hills and this gave me time to take pictures.   

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Barb, riding with Peanut Butter in a Jelly Jar. we saw this frequently


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Reinhard and Dan


For a change we didn't have to cycle up a hill to get into the control. We met Jutta and Barbara again. It took us quite some time to get food. Before long we spent more than 1 hour at the control. But we enjoyed it :-)

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Barbara, Reinhard Barb and Dan

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Fougeres  to  Tinteniac (Control 3)


Distance: 34.8 miles 56.0 km
Elevation (climbing): 1,177 ft 359 m
Total time: h  
Departure: Tue  19 Aug 4:06 PM
Arrival: Tue  19 Aug 6:36 PM

After a long break, we were riding again. This was one of the shortest stretches between controls, only 35 miles. It contained constant rollers, but we were able to complete this in 2.5 hours, even so our legs started feeling the first 20 hours into the ride.

This time we kept the break short. Right before we left, I saw Jim Solanick (the Florida RBA) coming in. He was part of the 84 hour group. They left 7 hours after us and already caught up. He seemed to be quite fast. But we all knew that he is a strong rider.

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Tinteniac  to  Loudeac (Control 4)

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Distance: 53.1 miles 85.5 km
Elevation (climbing): 2,419 ft 737 m
Total time: 4:16 h  
Departure: Tue  19 Aug 6:50 PM
Arrival: Tue  19 Aug 11:11 PM

What was happening? Up the hill we went. Barb felt her legs and needed to take it easy. I was still ok and so we agreed that I would continue on my own. There were still a lot of riders around us.

This stretch was quite hard. Hill, over hill, over hill. I did get into the second night and had no sleep yet. People were still on the roads and cheered.

Not far to Loudeac. Wow what was coming up here? A group of 10 to 20 riders was heading towards me. Was this the front group? If so, they had to be flying. It seemed that there were 2 or 3 cars right behind the group. It looked almost like a Tour de France front group. Was this for real or was it just my imagination?

After endless hills I finally reached Loudeac. According to our plan, this was the control were I wanted to take some sleep. This place at this time was the most crowded control on the whole ride. Some people came in, others got up after some sleep and some of them were already on their way back from Brest. To what I heard  the food lines were more than 1 hour long. That also was the amount of time you needed to get a bed for a few hours sleep.

I met with Jutta and Barbara. We loaded the bike, put me on the back seat of the van, gave me some food to eat and we drove 25 min. to the Hotel. I ate while Jutta was driving. At the hotel I took a short shower and finally got some sleep. I was able to sleep 3 hours. When the alarm rang, I was awake quite fast. We went back into the van and drove another 25 min. to Loudeac.

Then they sent me back on the bike again.

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Loudeac  to  Carhaix Plouguer (Control 5)

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Distance: 46.7 miles 75.2 km
Elevation (climbing): 2,498 ft 761 m
Total time: 4:14 h  
Departure: Wed  20 Aug 4:19 AM
Arrival: Wed  20 Aug 8:35 AM

It seemed that most people took their sleep break here and lots of people left about the same time I did. A long line of riders approached the long climb out of Loudeac. It was a clear night and I found this one of the most impressive moments, seeing all the lights of riders in the far distance still going up the hill. It must be hundreds of riders at this time. An immediate climb that's what we needed while the muscles were still cold. So, slow I went.

The temperatures in the second night were significant lower. They dropped down to 52 F (11 C). I was still barefoot in my sandals and about ready to freeze.

A downhill and more uphill. I reached Saint Martin Des Pres and saw a crowd of riders. As I came in, I suddenly saw some known faces: Barb and Dan. I heard they did get approx. 2.5 hours sleep in Loudeac, even so they couldn't find their booked hotel.

What was going on? It was a secret control. People were laying all over the floor and trying to get some sleep.

Barb, Dan and I continued to ride together again. It was quite hilly, up and down, up and down ... Once again the Florida Flatlanders were taking it easy. Dan felt very tired. Since he was the strongest rider of the three of us, usually he was riding in front. He started swinging from left to right and right to left. Barb asked if we should take a short break. Dan responded that he was ok and we should continue. For a while he rode in a straight line. But, suddenly he swung all the way to the left into the other side of the road and then he controlled his bike again. Barb and I were shocked. Luckily we had no upcoming or passing traffic. What happened? Dan felt asleep at the bike! At the next possibility we pulled off the road and took a break, we stretched and did a few exercises. After 15 min. Dan felt better and we kept going. The sun came out and this helped Dan to control his tiredness.

Later I heard that during this PBP, they had approx. 30 to 40 people with crashes due to falling asleep. It seems that this was the most common reason for crashes.

Ann Mullins (RBA from SC) caught up with us. She was used to hills and had no problems at this time. She was chatting and riding with us for a couple of miles. Than she is took off again.

With daylight, my legs were getting better and after I talked to Barb and Dan, I once more decided to keep going. This was something we heard from experienced PBP finishers e.g. Ann Mullins and Jim Solanick. Don't stick together. Everybody would have their strong and weak points at different times during the ride. So it was best that everybody rights their own ride. You would always find people to ride with. Right they were, so I said goodbye. This was the last time I saw Barb and Dan on this ride.

In daylight and temperature raising, the hills seemed to become easier. I was heading down to Carhaix Plouguer. I met Jutta and Barbara to drop off the batteries for recharge. They already organized breakfast for me. I was hungry at this time. We decided that they will not meet me in Brest and rather again in Carhaix on the way back. This gave them the possibility to get some needed rest. It was also not an easy task to provide the support.

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Carhaix Plouguer  to  Brest (Control 6)

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Distance: 54.4 miles 87.5 km
Elevation (climbing): 2,214 ft 675 m
Total time: 4:16 h  
Departure: Wed  20 Aug 9:30 AM
Arrival: Wed  20 Aug 1:48 PM

Out I went towards Brest. I was really looking forward to this, since this would be midpoint. It had a special meaning. From there on, you would be on your way back. The only big thing between me and Brest was the biggest climb and highest elevation as people told me, called Roc Trevezel.

It went uphill for more than 1 hour, but overall I had no problems at all. Actually I liked this much better. It was a known long climb. It was steady and not that steep. I was kind of prepared for it and went up in a constant speed. For me this was much better than the constant up and downs e.g. as they occurred between Loudeac and Carhaix.

Cheering and applauding went on and on. The French gathered along the hill. In between people were reaching out cups of water or gave you even refills for your bottles. There were whole families with the grand parents, parents and kids. They were just so wonderful and made this ride a special experience and memory.

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French on the side of the roads of Roc Trevezel: cheering and providing water Finally what we were looking for: The bridge into Brest

Especially at the top there were quite some people. Again, it almost felt like I was part of a big event like the Tour de France.

After a long climb, there was usually also a long downhill. This one was really enjoyable. It was not steep and therefore we rolled down for some miles.

Now I saw Brest in the far distance. Seeing Brest kicked up the adrenalin and I started pushing the pedals harder. I was flying towards Brest. A large and long bridge came up. Like other riders I stopped, got off the bike and enjoyed the view and took a few pictures. Then again flying towards the control, even so my mind told me I shouldn't push that hard. I told myself, shut up, I would get a break and some lunch anyway.

The control had to be close now. Suddenly it was going up a steep hill and I had just exhausted all my energy. They had to be kidding me! No, it was true the control was on a hill again. Did I love or hate this ride?

I made it and from now on it was going home. 40 hours went by, 50 more until the cut off. If you were able to do Paris to Brest in 40 hours, than doing Brest to Paris in 50 hours would be no problem, right?

My throat was getting kind sore and it was getting more difficult to eat. Unlike others, I was hungry and was able to eat quite a bit at most controls.

I met Ann Mullins again. I also met Melanie from Florida. She shared her feelings at this time: Hills, hills, hills, she would never, ever do this again.

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Brest  to  Carhaix Plouguer (Control 7)

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Distance: 51.9 miles 83.5 km
Elevation (climbing): 3,154 ft 961 m
Total time: 4:18 h  
Departure: Wed  20 Aug 2:44 PM
Arrival: Wed  20 Aug 7:03 PM

On the way home I went ...

Up to the highest elevation, Roc Trevezel again. As on the way out, it didn't bother me too much going up this long climb. I just used a steady (slow) speed and up I went.

More people cheering. Kids had a lot of fun, reached out water or held out their hands for a clap from of the famous PBP riders. This had to be me. I felt honored. Sounding my horn increased the excitement of the spectators. By the way, grapping a cup of water while riding was not that easy as it looked like on TV, when the Pro's did it. I usually dropped most of the water. I guessed I needed more practice. I might had to come back :-)

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At this time, I still saw riders heading towards Brest. As further I was heading towards Carhaix the less riders I saw coming up. But some of them were still there. Even so, by looking at the time, most likely they wouldn't be able to make it in time to the 5:30 PM closing of the control in Brest. Knowing this, some of the riders were still cycling towards Brest. Never give up until they take you out of the ride! Others had the mindset of finishing this, even though it would be beyond the time limit. There were a lot of amazing brave soles out there.

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After I crossed Roc Trevezel again, it was not that hard to get to Carhaix Plouguer. This little town now looked much different than earlier in the morning. They had a festival going on to welcome all the riders.

I met with Jutta and Barbara. They gave me the batteries for the night. We agreed, on taking the sleep break at Loudeac again. But in order not to loose the time driving to and from the hotel, we decided that I would just sleep in the rear of the van. Barb and Jutta wanted to go in between to the hotel to drop off not needed equipment, to make room in the back of the van.

After some food and best wishes from the support team I headed back out.

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Carhaix Plouguer  to  Loudeac (Control 8)

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Distance: 47.0 miles 75.6 km
Elevation (climbing): 2,512 ft 766 m
Total time: 4:10 h  
Departure: Wed  20 Aug 7:47 PM
Arrival: Wed  20 Aug 11:59 PM

Huh, up we had to go. As on the way out, this stretch seemed to be harder than others.

There were still lots of riders around. Especially I saw frequently riders from Denmark, Canada and Spain. I rode with a Spanish group for quite a while. It was that you might ride with a group until you might stop, they stopped or you got dropped. All of this did occur to me.

Dark is settled in and I wished I could have a bed and some sleep. But there was more riding to do and by the way if you didn't know it by now, there were more hills. So I called the support team to let them know it most likely would be after midnight until I would be there.

But then I began concentrating again on the overall goal. I cycled steadily and proofed myself wrong and was coming in before midnight, even so it was only by one minute.

Jutta and Barbara were having a short nap in the car, but were glad to see me coming in earlier than announced. They somehow organized food, and I took my midnight dinner. Once more I was amazed on how many bicycles were there from riders that took a break or sleep. It was a constant in and out of the control, but no sight of Barb and Dan. I asked the officials and to my understanding they checked in ok in Carhaix.

After dinner, I crawled into the sleeping bag in the back of the van and felt immediately to sleep. Jutta sat on the driver seat and Barb on the co-driver seat. They were trying to get a nap too. They would go to the hotel and try to get more sleep, after I left.

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bicycles of riders that rested / slept here

my hotel for the night

the bike had to sleep at the front of the car

The alarm rang. This was once more a three hour sleep break. 6 hours in three nights. Nobody needs more, right? I was afraid not to hear the ring of the alarm, but this time I was awake immediately and knew that I had to get up to get my goal accomplished.

Okay, I got dressed up and out of here. It was 4:00 AM in the morning and quite cold. So I decided to get arm warmers, leg warmers and socks. I asked Jutta and Barbara to give those to me. What did you want? Arm warmers, leg warmers? Search, search, search ... None of those items in sight. Where were they? They were in the box with this other stuff. Ah, this was one of the boxes that had to leave the van to make room for me to sleep. They were sure the box was at the hotel. If we would get it, I would lose too much time.

Oh well, I guess I had to get out in the cold without this ...

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Loudeac  to  Tinteniac (Control 9)

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Distance: 53.9 miles 86.7 km
Elevation (climbing): 2,148 ft 655 m
Total time: 5:32 h  
Departure: Thu  21 Aug 4:23 AM
Arrival: Thu  21 Aug 9:58 AM

It became really cold. The temperatures dropped down to 45 F (7 C). I was freezing. I had my rain jacket on, but still froze like hell. It felt like my toes were falling off. It was hurting. It was dark.

The hills were still there too. But actually at this time I enjoyed the uphill's more. They kept my body moving and the cold had less impact. The downhill's were bad. I even did those slow, since the wind and cold was really painful, the more the faster I went. Who would have thought at the beginning, that I wished the downhill would be over and I could get uphill.

Every once a while I saw riders laying on the side of the roads sleeping. Some wrapped in with thin foil/blankets. It sure was no fun at those temperatures to be laying on the cold ground. I assumed they did get so tired, that they had no other option. I felt sorry for the poor soles.

Still dark, early in the morning, suddenly a village with a mass of people came up. It was at the town of Illifaut and another secret control. Riders were laying all over the place and sleeping. In some areas, it was not easy to walk. I took an extended break but without sleep and then headed out again.

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the third sunrise - lifted the spirits

Finally the sun was rising. I really was looking forward to this. It still was cold and temperatures only increased very slowly, but at least now I knew, it will get better.

What I noticed, that it seemed to me much less riders on the road than the days before. Maybe some of them stayed longer in bed or were ahead of me. I was able to hang on to a Spanish group and this brought me to Tinteniac.

Since I was slightly behind my planned schedule, I kept the break short.

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Tinteniac  to  Fougeres (Control 10)

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Distance: 35.0 miles 56.3 km
Elevation (climbing): 1,359 ft 414 m
Total time: 2:47 h  
Departure: Thu  21 Aug 10:16 AM
Arrival: Thu  21 Aug 1:04 PM

After only 15 min., I headed out of the control. The temperatures were now back to 72 F (22 C). Let me share with you, after the cold of the early morning, this was really enjoyable.

Even the hills were less strenuous at this time. So everything seemed to encourage me at this time, including the French people that were out there again with whole families and cheering.

The Spanish groups were still around. I hang on with two different groups for quite a while. In a group we are moving quite well. At least it felt like it.

In between Josh from Miami was cycling by. He told me that this time he felt much better than 4 years before. He was quite fast and seemed to be able to get 5 - 6 hours or more sleep each night.

I made it into Fougeres in a good time. I gave Jutta and Barbara a phone call ahead of time, so at my arrival they already had food there. We agreed that instead of sleeping in Villaines La Juhel as planned, that it would be better to try to make it all the way to Mortagne Au Perche. This way I still could use the full day light time and sleep while it would be cold and dark. That would leave a nice short distance on the last day (less than a century). We called the hotel to cancel the reservation. A night in the van, wouldn't this be fun?

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Fougeres  to  Villaines La Juhel (Control 11)

pbp-2003-profile11.jpg (24016 bytes)

Distance: 54.9 miles 88.4 km
Elevation (climbing): 2,722 ft 830 m
Total time: 5:18 h  
Departure: Thu  21 Aug 1:36 PM
Arrival: Thu  21 Aug 6:58 PM

Since I still felt good at this time, after a half hour break, I left towards Paris again. Yeah, wouldn't that be nice. But something seemed to be in my way. Where did all those mountains suddenly came from?

I swear, they were not there on the way out. On the way out we had some rolling hills, that we cycled with the middle front chain ring. Some of the mountains now required the small chain ring. They were certainly different and I did not appreciate this.

In addition my butt started hurting. I was glad, that I was able with "Bag Palm" treatment to go that far without major problems. But now, my seat was fighting with my butt. It seemed like the seat was winning and it wouldn't take long before I would lose some skin.

I couldn't concentrate on riding anymore. My head was bouncing and my bike was swinging. Since I had the time, I decided to take no risk and took a sleep break right there and then on the side of the road. I was afraid that I won't wake up and would sleep for some days. So I set my watch and my cell phone for the alarm. I put my cell phone out of reaching distance and hoped nobody would take it while I was lying there.  The "Bonanza" melody of my cell phone woke me up. I was immediately awake and knew what I had to do.

It was amazing how much this short 15 min. break did help. More hills were to come. Hills, butt, hills, butt, hills, ... but I was able to handle it now ...

If you think a century (100 miles - 160 km) is fun, now you can imagine how much fun this long ride was at this time :-)

But I was not complaining. This was what I signed up for and I knew this all along. I felt I was still in control and that only one thing was important: Reach the finish within the time limit of 90 hours.

So I and others kept cycling. I met some German riders and chat with them. There was Bernd, who was as focused as I was, even so he was tired and his legs were moving slow on some hills. But the mindset was 50% of making it. At this time I had no doubt that Bernd would make it.

We reached Villaines La Juhel and as on the way out we were welcomed by the crowds with applause and cheering. They had a lot of things going on. At this time I just didn't have enough spare energy to take pictures as I did on the way out. Things just changed ...

Ok, it was getting close to 8:00 PM. Let's use the last 1 to 2 hours of day light and so I got out of there ...

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Villaines La Juhel  to  Mortagne Au Perche (Control 12)

pbp-2003-profile12.jpg (23068 bytes)

Distance: 51.1 miles 82.2 km
Elevation (climbing): 2,537 ft 773 m
Total time: 5:19 h  
Departure: Thu  21 Aug 7:57 PM
Arrival: Fri  22 Aug 1:18 AM

More hills to come. I noticed significant fewer riders on the road. Were they all at the finish or taking a break?

Now it was really becoming difficult. Would we constantly go up and down? There was no break in between. I was either in the big chain ring (3 minutes downhill) or in the small chain ring (15 minutes uphill). It felt like that I was cycling a constant uphill. I didn't remember any of this on the way out. My body required me to slow down on the hills. They were really mountains. I started to hate them. Down and another one up. It was getting dark and still up and down, one after another.

What was I doing out here? Why was I doing this? I wanted to sleep! I wanted no more hills! Should I quit?

This mood was suddenly coming over me. I was told before that a lot of riders experience this during those long rides like BMB or PBP.

Now I started talking to myself, Ridehard was fighting Reinhard: Stop thinking, just cycle. All that counted was the goal, all that would count is reaching Paris. It could be much worse. So far you had no rain, no mechanical defect and your legs were still moving. So shut up and keep moving.

660 miles done, about 110 more miles to the finish and still 16 more hours. I started to think about team "Tortoise". I was sure they could do it in this time. I had done this before. Why shouldn't I be able to do this now?

Ok, I would continue. But I knew, this was an once in a life time experience. I would never do this again.

I was really slow now and some English and Russian riders came by. That kind of woke me up and I picked up the speed to follow them. I realized they are not much faster. They suffered the same symptoms. In addition we had to be very carefully. Most riders were very tired and didn't have their full concentration. It was best to leave lots of space between riders and not to have a tight pace line. It just was too dangerous.

This was the most difficult section between controls so far and I just hoped it only would get better now. The group was taking a break and I continued slowly, but surely. The temperatures were dropping again and I was glad that I should arrive at the next control soon. I was sure I earned a (sleep) break by now.

After endless hills and riding through hell, I finally reached Mortagne Au Perche. Later than expected, so the break had to be shorter.

Jutta and Barbara were there with the van and for a last time after some food I crawled into the back of the van to get some sleep. After only 2.5 hours somebody was shaking me and yelled at me: This was your decision. You made it so far. Get up and finish it! Obviously I had successfully ignored the alarm. I felt like I had no sleep, but there was the shaking and that voice again. I did get up.

Gladly this time I had arm warmers, leg warmers and socks. After putting on all gear, I said good bye to Jutta and Barbara to see them hopefully at the finish. I was heading out into the cold and dark night.

pbp30-mortagneauperch.jpeg (23749 bytes)

Mortagne Au Perche: A nicely decorated village. As I heard later, some people at this time lost control over where they had to go: Paris, Brest, Paris, Brest ... They needed help from the organizers or the public to get pointed in the right direction.

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Mortagne Au Perche  to  Nogent Le Roi (Control 13)

pbp-2003-profile13.jpg (18550 bytes)

Distance: 51.8 miles 83.4 km
Elevation (climbing): 1,735 ft 529 m
Total time: 5:04 h  
Departure: Fri  22 Aug 5:15 AM
Arrival: Fri  22 Aug 10:19 AM

Temperatures down to 43 F (7 C).  With all the lack of sleep and being worn out, the body felt this was really, really cold, even with arm/leg warmers. I wouldn't' know what I had done without them.

A group of English riders came along. They were amazed of the amount of light my helmet light is producing. One guy had this self-made 15 LED light, powered by a notebook battery. He thought that he had a bright light, but couldn't see his at all when he was next to me, since mine was so much brighter. Even so they were faster, they stayed with me for half an hour to enjoy my light.

We came through a small town and were surprise that all PBP signs (arrows) were gone. It seemed like that people took them as souvenirs. We stopped at an intersection and didn't know where to go. Suddenly a window opened and a French lady was looking out of the window and yelled at us. It seemed that she wanted to give us directions on where to go. Unfortunately nobody in the group did understand French. We and she gave hand signals, but we still didn't understand fully. We had an idea and headed out in the assumed direction. We heard the voice from the window again. This time it sounded like encouraging and cheering. It seemed that we took the right turn. Once more it was amazing how supportive the locals were.

Despite the fact that my light was brighter, the group dropped me on one of the next hills.

Shortly after that, on top of a hill, riding by myself I heard that well known short noise, when air escapes from its enclosed environment within milliseconds. Most people call this a flat tire. Later I can't even recall if this was the rear or front tire. I sat on the side of the road and changed my tube. It seemed to take forever. This was right before sunrise and I was glad to have my LED helmet light to fix the flat. Probably a hundred riders came by. At least now I know that they were still there. Ok, finished the repair, loaded the equipment, up on the bike and downhill I went.

On the bottom of hill I looked in my rear mirror to see if riders were behind me. Oops, which rear mirror? It was not there. My rear mirror was usually sitting on my glasses, which were not there either. I must have left them where I changed my flat. Damn, so I had to go back up the hill. It seemed like that I was cycling against the traffic. Upcoming riders were shouting at me in different languages and wildly gestured in the other direction. This is where Paris was. I tried to tell them, that I knew ...

After a 5 minutes search on top of the hill, I finally found my glasses with the mirror. Back on the bike and now heading in the right direction.

There was the sunrise. Finally, the last night was over. Only the butt did revolt: there was some skin missing. But the legs were still good and no cramps so far. Now I knew that nothing will stop me.

It was noticeable that most others felt the same. Riders were back on the road and it didn't matter where they took their sleep breaks, it seemed that now everybody was back in the same general area. I saw some German riders ahead of me. I caught up with them, chatted and cycled with them for a while.

Temperatures were rising, energy was coming back. I felt much better.

We were reaching Nogent Le Roi. For me personally this section of the ride was the easiest. Much, much easier to ride than e.g. the night before up to Mortagne Au Perche.

It was time to take breakfast. A good solid basis should bring me into Paris.

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Nogent Le Roi  to  St. Quentin En Yvelines / Paris  (Control 14 / Finish)

pbp-2003-profile14.jpg (13909 bytes)

Distance: 36.4 miles 58.6 km
Elevation (climbing): 1,370 ft 418 m
Total time: 3:10 h  
Departure: Fri  22 Aug 11:17 AM
Arrival: Fri  22 Aug 2:27 PM

I joined the stream of riders that was getting towards Paris. I got out of the seat very frequently, even so it hurt when I went up and it hurt when I sat down.

Despite the difficulties of sitting, I was in a good mood. I had enough time to finish. The legs were ok. I started to reflect the ride: I had no serious problem. It seemed that I was getting enough sleep. The legs were still fine, the French were fantastic. We had no rain, the wind was not to strong, the temperature in day time great and at night a little chilly. Overall this was not a bad ride. These thoughts were lifting my spirits.

I was getting faster and faster. I passed lots of riders. Paris, I was coming ...

Even so the mindset was there and the legs were fine, about 13 miles (20 km) before the finish I realize that tiredness was taking over again. Could you believe this? I almost could see the finish. Since I had enough time left, it was better to be safe. A bus stop with a bench came up. I took another 15 minutes nap. I was not falling asleep very deeply. I heard constantly riders coming by.

I was amazed how much a 15 minute nap can improve the situation. I now was flying towards Paris, passing riders again that passed me during the nap.

Traffic was getting tighter. On intersections, in a lot of cases cars just stopped, even so they had the right of way, to let the PBP riders go through. They honked their horns to cheer and encourage. It seemed that everybody was aware of what we were doing and celebrated with us. I couldn't imagine this to happen in the U.S. Car drivers usually just honked their horns to get you off the road.

People were cheering on the side of the roads.

Hey this is the area I knew from the days before the start. I had to be almost there.

Finally there was the turn to the roundabout to the finish of PBP. Lots of people were there cheering and partying. I had to be carefully to make it through the line of people. Jutta and Barbara were there. I was very short worded, jumped off the bike and wanted to do the official finish first at the control station.

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87:57 hours and I was there: Magnetic card swiped and Brevet card taking away.

It seemed that I missed something. Did I finish? There had to be something else, a metal, a certificate, anything? No, that's it. I heard that it takes probably until Jan 2004 to receive the information if I officially finished. Wow, this was quite unspectacular and disappointing (at this time).

I went back out of the control. Now it was time to see Jutta and Barbara. At this time I got the feeling, we as a team accomplished something. In realization of this, I was getting quite excited. The adrenalin was up. I was not tired. I was just happy. We stayed at the finish to see other riders coming in.

There was Linda from Florida and Tom Christopher (guy with most Brevet kilometers in the U.S. in 2003). They were as exhausted and excited at the same time as I was.

After we hung around for a couple of hours we went to the hotel. Oh that shower felt good and finally at 8:00 PM we felt to bed.

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Everything dropped off at the control. Was that it?

We did it!

watching other riders coming in

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The next day after the finish:

We slept until 8:00 AM in the morning. A good 12 hours and it seemed that I was almost recovered. Besides the "sitting issue" I just felt fine the next morning.

After breakfast we went to the camp ground to meet part of the German team. Peter Zinner, one of the German riders was so generous to give me his brand new German PBP 2003 jersey. This was a very nice group I met there.

pbp34-germandelegation-thenextday-030823.jpg (499330 bytes)

meeting part of the German team: Bernd, Peter and Michael

We head back to the Campanile hotel, where most U.S. riders stayed. Throughout the town we could see who was riding and who was not. Riders while walking spread their legs apart like a cowboy would. If they sat down or got up, they did this very slowly, gently and carefully.

Amazingly some of them even rode their bikes, but most of them did that out of their seat :-)

We chatted with several riders from the U.S. Wasn't this a good ride? I think we should do it again.

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The Support Team:

Jutta and Barbara were of great help. We met about every second control. To see them was always a pleasure and encouraging. They went with me through the up and downs and always had some good words for me. They were part of the event.

They picked up food at the controls so I that I could avoid long waiting lines. Without them it would have been harder.

At the beginning we had not really an idea what it meant to support. They never had done anything like that. Barbara agreed to join Jutta in support, knowing it probably would not just be a vacation. After the ride we realized this was a very hard job and didn't even come close to vacation. Jutta overall drove 2,000 miles (3,200 km) with the van. Driving between controls was not easy and rather exhausting. It was much harder to drive a car when you were tired, than riding a bicycle. Finding the route for the support vehicles in a foreign country was a challenge.

They even gave up their hotel the last night and took naps in the car, so that I could get an important 1/2 to 1 hour more sleep. They dedicated everything to me, the rider, to make it a successful event.

I felt honored for this support and was really thankful. They were a major part of the success!


Supporting "The ride of his life" gives you an inside view from the support team.

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Arriving back at home:

While I was riding in France, my friends at home were constantly monitoring the internet and comparing with my planned schedule. They logged information into an Excel sheet and provided this to me.

On my arrival back home my Orlando riding friends invited us to a dinner. They gave me an awesome trophy. It was build completely from bicycle parts. Since the finish was very unspectacular and I received no metal or certificate, it was great to receive this honor from my friends.

In addition it was better than anything I could get from PBP, since this was my own unique trophy. There was not another PBP rider with the same trophy. This trophy would stay with me and remind me forever about PBP 2003.

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Thank you my friends. You are so great!


In addition I got a trophy from Jutta, describing how she experienced me through PBP. Thank you ...

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 pbp-2003-trophy-jutta-04.jpg (520238 bytes)    pbp-2003-trophy-jutta-05.jpg (505225 bytes)

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The Randonneurs USA (RUSA) describe PBP as follows:

First run in 1891, the 1200-kilometer Paris-Brest-Paris, or "PBP" as it is commonly called, is a grueling test of human endurance and cycling ability. Organized every four years by the host Audax Club Parisien, the Paris-Brest-Paris Randonneurs is the oldest bicycling event still run on a regular basis. Beginning on the southern side of the French capital, it travels west 600 kilometers to the port city of Brest on the Atlantic Ocean and returns along the same route. Today's randonneur cyclists, while no longer riding the primitive machines used a hundred years ago over dirt roads or cobblestones, still have to face up to rough weather, endless hills, and pedaling around the clock. A 90-hour time limit ensures that only the hardiest randonneurs earn the prestigious PBP finisher's medal and have their name entered into the event's "Great Book" along with every other finisher going back to the very first PBP. To become a PBP ancien (or ancienne for the ladies) is to join a very elite group of cyclists who have successfully endured this mighty challenge. No longer a contest for professional racing cyclists (whose entry is now forbidden), PBP evolved into a timed randonnée or brevet for hard-riding amateurs during the middle part of the 20th century.


I couldn't agree more. This ride was different from anything I had done prior in my life.

I thought the endless hills were killing me and to overcome the lack of sleep was quite challenging. That's why people said that 50% of a successful finish is the mental preparation and not just the physical ability. You have to stay focused throughout the ride. You need the mental strength and will to fight the hills, to still move with the lack of sleep, to overcome minor problems e.g. missing skin in some areas.

On the other side this ride is special and different. It is the "Wimbledon" of the Randonneurs. No other ride can compare with it. The French's enthusiasm and engagement is unheard of in other 1200k events. In addition on this specific ride we had great weather. The wind was low and we had no rain.

I stayed focused and mostly close to my plan and schedule. I really enjoyed the ride for the most part. I was well trained and had no real problems to make it to the finish. It took me only 24 to 48 hours after the ride to recover, besides a few missing skin spots and two numb toes (lasted for 6 months).

Besides the strenuous part, I have mostly good memories about this ride. It was the ride of my life. Would I do it again?


See you again at PBP 2007 !!!

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FAQ (Frequently asked questions):

  • What did you eat during PBP?
    Everything I could get a hand on. Even so I burned 34,100 kcal, I don't think I lost weight during the ride. I ate a lot of French sandwiches
  • What did you drink?
    Water during the ride on the bike and the at controls I had "Coke". I approximately had 3 gallon (11.4 Liter) of  "Coke" during the event. The 3 months before PBP I didn't have a single carbonated or caffeine drink. So drinking "Coke" helped me staying awake. It was my kind of doping, if you so will :-)
  • Did you take supplements and if so which one?
    Yes, I took e-caps from Hammer Nutrition: E-CAPS Homepage
  • Why are you doing this?
    Well, how should I know? Some people consider this insane and insane people don't know why they are doing what they do :-)
    Or it is for the same reason, why you are cycling a century.

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top Last updated by Ridehard -     09 Dec 2004