A great article today in the <a href=”href=”http://seattlepi.nwsource.com”>Seattle Post-Intelligencer on the truth behind “who pays for roads?”. If you ever need fuel for your pro-bike argument - this is a good place to start.
The first night was the best thing about PBP. Although I didn’t see any French countryside, I couldn’t really see the hills coming, and at least the first night it did not rain. For me, the first night was the best part of the whole ride - flat tire and chasing aside. Like everybody else I was full of adrenaline and sheer excitement. The weather was good too. At about 55 degrees it was perfect kneewarmer/armwarmer/wool jersey weather.
The first checkpoint on the way out was just a food stop. I hit it about 2 AM and had a ham sandwich and coffee. They were selling beer and wine, which wasn’t a huge surprise. What shocked me…
was the amount of guys drinking beer at 2 AM. I was getting a little bleary, and here are a bunch of Euros knocking back a fortifying beer before jumping back onto their bikes to head off into the pitch black French countryside.
Most of the ride is rural, the only town of more than 20,000 inhabitants is Brest, at the turnaround. In rural France at night there is no light. Houses don’t have yard lights, but they do have shutters, and they use them. It is pitch black. This makes it a little easier to ride than in the suburbs here at home, where my eyes are constantly trying to adjust to varying light. You can get by with a much less powerful light, assuming that you trust there are no potholes. If there were I didn’t find them.
The second checkpoint was about 220k into it. I got there about 5, the sky was just beginning to turn grey, and there was a lot of moisture in the air. I got off and my neck was just killing me (I had borrowed a camelback because I was worried about running out of water on the first night. Not only did I not use it enough to get my neck used to it, but I didn’t take a single swig from it. It wasn’t hot enough to worry about getting thirsty). I packed away the camelback and went in to stand in line for food and to get my control card stamped. I was getting pretty sleepy and weary by this point, but knew that I would perk up with daylight.
It was getting light when I came out, and I did perk up. Then the rain started.
I know some guys who went over to race in France, and they tell me that rain showers are really common. These weren’t showers, they were all day rain with short breaks where it only drizzled. Even with a rain jacket, you get wet in an all day rain. It was cold too. I was wearing 2 pairs of shorts, arm and knee warmers, 2 jerseys (one wool) and a rain jacket. As long as I was moving I was fine, but I started to shiver as soon as I stopped. At least the ride has gotten big enough that the control points (they have pretty good food too) are all in schools. You can go in and get out of the rain to eat and warm up a little. Up until the ’90s the ride was much smaller, and controls were sometimes a big tent in a field, riders were much more on their own for food too.
With the cold and rain PBP was getting more like a forced march and less like a ride. After hours in the saddle and hours in wet shorts, my nether regions were irritated, to put it politely. There was nothing to do but keep going though. I had only recognized one other rider, a guy I rode about 15 miles with when I did my 600k brevet. Just like on that ride, he dropped me, only faster. I didn’t have a phone, not that it would have helped, since my wife was in London.
On I rode, and eventually got in a group and started to make some time. I realized that I hadn’t eaten enough through the night, and started hoovering food at the checkpoints. By 7 pm the rain had stopped, and even though it was still overcast I started to feel better. The 24 hour mark passed and I had managed 304 miles. After the checkpoint at Loudeac (2nd to last on the way out to Brest) I hooked onto a tandem with some other guys and we got a nice pull into Tinteniac.
I’m working with Byron and MarkV on a new project bike. It’s still in-flight due to availability issues from the frame supplier, but I’m slowly amassing all the parts in my garage so it should be good to go once the frame arrives.
I get downright nuts about a new bike - I waste time shopping for the best looking cranks, the perfect wheel builder, and all the other minute details needed to make it all come together. What are you guys all building these days? Any new toys coming for the fall rainy season?
(In your best Dwight Schrute voice)
QUESTION: How good will that baby-blue frame look with the Hugger Green kit?
Our Bike Hugger jerseys and shorts just arrived – I’m unpacking the boxes, sending kits off to Bermuda with Team Bike Hugger, and we’ll wear them at Interbike for the crit. Our designer Grayson gets the big props and thanks to Hincapie for an outstanding job making them for us.
After seeing the kits, Jason joked that they looked like “superhero outfits.” Yeah, but Superhero Hugga Style!
We’ll have a limited amount of jerseys to offer our readers. Interested? Let us know in the comments. This photo shows the front/back of the jersey. The side panels include the cityscape and trees from our banner.
I took the bus to Byron’s house last week. It’s pretty convenient from downtown, but there’s a 4 block slog up-hill to get to his house. Knowing I’m lazy when it comes to walking, he offered to pick me up…on the Bettie! I really like the idea of the Sport Utility Bike as it relates to running to the store and hauling stuff, but I just didn’t expect it to act as a lazy-man’s taxi. Bettie with the Stokemonkey had no problems griding up the steep hills. Sure, Byron was hoofing it pretty good in his Flip-Flops, but we made it. Even with cautious estimates it was probably 450+lb going up those grades. Way cool. What do you use your SUB for?
Emailed from Matt in Tacoma, WA - The “Monkey Bus”:
Emailed from Seabiscuit - hauling daughter’s bike to the park:
8pm Monday: the 16th edition of PBP leaves Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines. I went for a brisk 8 mile walking tour of Paris in the morning, then went back to the hotel and got four hours of sleep. I caught the train to St Quentin and joined a huge crowd of cyclists at the start area. As 8 oclock approached, the excitement of the crowd grew, and at 8 a cannon was fired and the ride was on. If you’ve managed to make it this far in my narrative, you won’t be surprised to find out that there was a little snafu.
The speeches wind down, the cannon fires, and the crowd I was in didn’t move. Not even an inch. Though I knew that the 8 oclock group would go in a couple of waves, so as not to crowd the roads, I expected some forward motion. There was none. It turned out that I was standing in the 90 hour group, which was not scheduled to leave for a couple hours.
With some panic I pulled the old salmon routine and made my way backwards through the crowd at the start line, which was the third and final wave of my group. I managed to make it backward, turn around, get back through bike check, get my control card stamped and get back into the group with enough time for my heart rate to get back to a normal range before we started.
Next thing, the cannon fired and off we went.
It was awesome. Our pack was probably 300 people, the intersections were controlled for miles and we literally rolled into the sunset. Finally I was riding through France. With people who knew where they were going.
We passed fields of sunflowers. We ripped through little towns with skinny streets that would barely qualify as alleys back home. Luckily I was in the front of our grupetto, because more than once I heard bikes sliding across the ground behind as we passed over traffic circles.
After 20 miles it was getting fairly dim, and of course I got a flat. It was no problem fixing it, but my grupetto was long gone, and three others had passed while I pumped up my tire. The prospect of going solo for the next 2-300k until fast riders from the 90 hour group caught me was not enchanting, to say the least. I mounted up and started picking off single riders in front of me, but couldn’t get a group together. until…
Italians! God bless em! I had steeled myself to a long solo stretch when a group of three Italians overtook me. I hopped on, and 37 miles later we rode ourselves into a pack of about 100 riders “ I swear I was riding with most of the Italian contingent “ Â¾ of them had matching Randonneur Italia kit. I was finally able to put my early ride strategy to work and promptly sat in. The remainder of the night was great. We rolled along at a decent pace, and in the distance I could see the lights of a couple other groups just like ours. Until at least 2AM there were regular groups of villagers standing in front of their houses or the local bars just cheering us on. And there truly is nothing like rolling through a little town at 3 in the morning and having your riding mates bust out into song in Italian. I have no idea what they were singing about, but god was it cool!