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So. How is PBP different from other 1200k's?

Old 08-28-19, 06:57 PM
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So. How is PBP different from other 1200k's?

I've done two 1200k rides... both last year, both in the eastern USA, both well supported. Very different rides, to be sure, different terrain, different people, different strategies, &c.

So I understand you can't compare apples to oranges.

That said, for those of you who've participated in PBP and at least one other 1200k: what's the difference?

My two 1200's would be hard to compare. I could enumerate the differences. There were many. But somehow I suspect PBP is just a different species of critter.

Do I know what I'm on about? No, that's my point for sure. So please: enlighten me!
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Old 08-28-19, 07:39 PM
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One of the biggest differences for me was the roadside support in the form of townsfolk cheering us on, kids lining up for high-fives. People that live along the route set up tables and offer water, coffee, cookies, etc. to riders at all hours of the day and night. I think in the 90h groups you'd be hard pressed to be riding alone for a long time. There were a couple places along the route where the whole town congregated in the square and they set up grills to cook sausage and make crepes... the Galette-saucisse is a traditional Breton food. People of all ages were out too. Bakeries and bars opened up in places along the route and it was pretty neat going in and hanging out with the locals. I got beers bought for me 'cos the guys saw the Canadian flag on my jersey and just loved that I spoke French with them.

I suspect it doesn't snow much in Brittany because the roads are really nice. I think the French also pay a hefty amount of taxes and it shows in the condition of the infrastructure. There were some rough roads but overall it was so much better than any roads I've ridden or driven on in North America. The drivers are much more reasonable in how they treat cyclists. People would honk but they were gentle toots to let us know they were behind, then when they passed people would cheer and wave. Drivers waited until they could see the way was clear and I didn't see anyone pass on an uphill or on a blind corner. I don't think there's people going around "rolling coal" in Brittany either.

The big groups of cyclists are sometimes worth avoiding; I termed these 'blobs' and they'd just be in a constant churn with no discernible form. It was easy to get enveloped in one and sometimes it would be a few km before I could make a safe exit to the side of the road. Other groups were more disciplined and generally well-behaved. It was fun to hook up with different groups and work together with strangers, sometimes without common language and minimal hand signals. I had the pleasure of working with a club from southern France after hanging on for a while they told me I was riding with them now and I gladly took a few turns at the front. Their accents were hard for me to understand but we chatted a little bit... lost them in Brest but saw them a bit on the return leg.

Having sleep options at a lot of controls allows a lot more flexibility than most North American 1200s, the two that I've done both had set hotels for the overnights (which is awesome) but it usually means the ride is split 400/300/300/200 or something along those lines... not a bad way to go at all but PBP and its evening start treats people differently. I was lucky that I made it ~450k to Loudeac in 25 hours. I don't know that anyone does stuff like that on domestic 1200s. Some of them do get people riding through though.
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Old 08-29-19, 03:59 AM
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The people!
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Old 08-29-19, 05:32 AM
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You can't discount the sheer mass of riders as a good and bad feature of PBP. And the 178 villages along the route. There is someone cheering you on at all hours in each one of them. My favorite part is the kids that want to high five you. Got some "wowah" from a couple of groups for catching all of them . Although I saw one guy that got a crew of kids of vastly different heights at high speed and then crossed himself because they were standing in front of a church. That was impressive.
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Old 08-29-19, 12:14 PM
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Yes, the crowds, the history, the cultural reverence for cycling was awe-inspiring.

One thing I somewhat struggled with was the "choose your own adventure" aspect of how to split up the ride. On a domestic 1200k when hotels and overnights are prescribed, it's easier for me to focus on the task at hand and just get to the overnight. In France, I found myself thinking too far ahead because I would be calculating the pros and cons of sleeping here, sleeping there, when do I take a longer break? Do I wait for my body to fail? etc. etc. I ended up stressing out a lot about the big picture instead of just focusing on the next controle.

Myself and the Philly Dyno squad pretty much ended up riding the 240 miles to Quedillac where an AirBnb awaited us for our first and only real sleep stop, and then we rode the remaining 800k+ to Brest and back only taking crappy cafeteria naps or roadside shut-eye. We didn't have time on the return leg to stop at the Quedillac AirBnb because we were worried about the intermediate time at Tinteniac. Highly not recommended.
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Old 08-29-19, 12:47 PM
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I think Quedillac works well for really fast riders, especially on the return. On the way out, the conventional wisdom is that stopping before Loudeac usually leads to problems.

I wished I had been able to push on to Carhaix or Brest the first day, but the line for the cafeteria at Loudeac was very long and I either needed to eat or sleep. Since there was no line for beds, I chose sleep. I ate after I woke up and there was no line. I probably should have checked on non-control places to get food there.
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Old 08-29-19, 03:15 PM
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So, it's kinda like a mashup of a grand randonnee and RAGBRAI, with some aspects of an obstacle course thrown in?
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Old 08-29-19, 03:21 PM
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There was a dominoes pizza in front of the control in Loudeac. I was about 20 minutes waiting for a pie, which gave me time for a beer at the bar next door and some banter with the locals there. Lots of fun. I had an airbnb near the control and went back for a huge breakfast around 3am but spent too long there eating... I was lucky to make up lost time on the way out to Brest but apparently the times on the control cards weren't exactly right so it didn't seem to matter in the end.
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Old 08-29-19, 03:42 PM
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PBP is the only 1200k I've done, but it's also the only brevet where I had complete strangers who 1) knew what I was doing, and 2) cheered me on throughout the whole course.

As an Iowa boy, it was neat to ride through so many towns hundreds of years older than any I was used to. Maybe not so impressive to those of you who live on the East Coast.

Speaking of Iowa, I can see some similarities to RAGBRAI. It's not a silly drunken circus, but the feeling that "we cyclists own the roads" for the time being was very much there. You're not the lone weirdo riding your bike to work, or training on the trail, it's what everyone around you is doing... that feeling counts for a lot with me, and I'm always sad when the big event is over.
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Old 08-29-19, 06:07 PM
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Well sure, I understand that just by being in France PBP is going to be pretty different from what I'm used to. Add to that the large number of riders etc, it's gotta be a unique experience.

I did a couple domestic 1200's last year, finishing both with not a whole lot of extra time. It's not that hard to ride that distance in less than 90 hours. I even had time to relax and drink a beer a couple times. But I had to be pretty careful about time spent off the bike: there just isn't that much time to waste. That's what puzzles me about PBP: so many opportunities to have fun off the bike, and it can be hard to say no to a glass of red wine.

If I ever do PBP, I'm definitely going to make it last as long as possible. No Charly Miller time for me, but possibly Adrian Hands time.
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Old 08-29-19, 07:58 PM
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If I get faster in the future and go back to PBP I think I'd still try and do it in around 88 hours, the only thing I might do is try and get more sleep, though I feel like I got plenty this year.
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Old 08-29-19, 10:38 PM
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I found myself with about 2 hours "in the bank" for most of 2015. That seemed like a good compromise in case anything unexpected happened and ate up time. But thankfully, a lot of things went right that were under no obligation to do so.

As I neared the finish, I noticed some people pulling off to run out the clock for Adrian Hands time. Seemed a little pointless, but it was their ride...
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Old 08-30-19, 02:37 AM
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Originally Posted by rhm View Post
Well sure, I understand that just by being in France PBP is going to be pretty different from what I'm used to. Add to that the large number of riders etc, it's gotta be a unique experience.

I did a couple domestic 1200's last year, finishing both with not a whole lot of extra time. It's not that hard to ride that distance in less than 90 hours. I even had time to relax and drink a beer a couple times. But I had to be pretty careful about time spent off the bike: there just isn't that much time to waste. That's what puzzles me about PBP: so many opportunities to have fun off the bike, and it can be hard to say no to a glass of red wine.

If I ever do PBP, I'm definitely going to make it last as long as possible. No Charly Miller time for me, but possibly Adrian Hands time.
The very fact that the controls often have lengthy queues means that you may take longer on the PBP than on other 1200s.

Like I say ... the people make the difference in so many ways.

Plan to spend at least 3 weeks over there ... that's what I've done. Go over several days early to do some sightseeing and get over the jet lag. Focus on the ride itself ... you'll be too busy doing the ride to notice "opportunities to have fun off the bike". And then do a cycling tour after.

I can't say I actually notice wine on either of my PBPs. I did, however, notice fresh croissants ... and huge bowls of coffee & tea ... and long queues ... and limited privacy to do anything ... and an elderly French lady walking along who noticed my jersey and called out "CANADA!" and cheered me on ... and the little coffee and biscuit stands people set up on the side of the road in the middle of the night ... and the noisy crinkling of the space blankets making everyone look like baked potatoes at Loudeac ...

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Old 08-30-19, 05:59 AM
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I understand people that want to do Charly time, but not people who want to finish in 75 hours or something like that. I would have considered it a failure if I spent less than 85 hours. No danger of that this year, unfortunately. If you were going for Adrian Hands time and had time in hand, there were cafes and a nice chain patisserie conveniently off course in Rambouillet. Can't imagine stopping by the side of the road.

They have wine and beer at all the controls, afaik. Didn't partake this year, but a beer at Fougeres on the retour in '11 really hit the spot. There were a couple of people that had wine in front of their houses, one in particular I saw outside of Carhaix, "help yourself."
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Old 08-30-19, 06:51 AM
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A few anciens mentioned that the lineups weren't as bad since the ride moved to having the more organized starting waves. The lines for toilets at the controls were worse than the food lines for me. The rest of the controls need to do like Villaines and rent a bunch of outhouses.
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Old 08-30-19, 07:44 AM
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I've only done one domestic 1000k, but the big difference I noticed is that everything takes a lot longer on PBP, and the control times seem set up so that it's tougher to sleep for four or five hours at a time. I'm sure much of that is my inexperience. But I spent more than 25 hours off the bike, mostly just waiting for things: food, bathrooms, showers. I only slept about two hours.
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Old 08-30-19, 09:53 AM
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Originally Posted by samkl View Post
I've only done one domestic 1000k, but the big difference I noticed is that everything takes a lot longer on PBP, and the control times seem set up so that it's tougher to sleep for four or five hours at a time. I'm sure much of that is my inexperience. But I spent more than 25 hours off the bike, mostly just waiting for things: food, bathrooms, showers. I only slept about two hours.
The main reason I didn't ride PBP this year is that I don't like crowds, and I espcially don't like waiting in line. I heard that the 84-hour group was better in that regard, but it sounds like there's still a lot of standing around and waiting. Maybe there's less of that with the 80-hour start?
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Old 08-30-19, 11:06 AM
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
The main reason I didn't ride PBP this year is that I don't like crowds, and I espcially don't like waiting in line. I heard that the 84-hour group was better in that regard, but it sounds like there's still a lot of standing around and waiting. Maybe there's less of that with the 80-hour start?
I was on the fence about going this year, and said "I hate crowds, this sounds like a disaster" but honestly they weren't that bad. It's possible that I somehow stayed ahead of the bulge but I was almost 89h to finish. I didn't have to worry about sleeping at the controls for the first two nights since I got an airbnb but I wasted some time finding it on the second night. When I slept at Mortagne there was easily a hundred sleep spots in the gym, it felt almost empty, which made it easier to sleep... it was 3am and cold so I expected more bodies in there but instead they were littered on the roadside. There are many opportunities to eat outside of the controls as well as use toilets (just bring your own tp). I don't think I was ever more than 10 minutes to get my card stamped, often it was just 5 minutes. I wish I'd brought the musette they gave out at the start with all the other stuff... it'd have been handy to carry all my stuff around. Probably gonna start using it on local rides.
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Old 08-30-19, 12:44 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
I understand people that want to do Charly time, but not people who want to finish in 75 hours or something like that. I would have considered it a failure if I spent less than 85 hours. No danger of that this year, unfortunately. If you were going for Adrian Hands time and had time in hand, there were cafes and a nice chain patisserie conveniently off course in Rambouillet. Can't imagine stopping by the side of the road.
Well, I took 75.5 hours. First, I did the morning start, so you can say I started my ride with 7 extra hours of sleep :-). I slept in Loudeac for 4.5 hours each night. I could have slept in Mortagne on the way in, but really wanted to finish and sleep at the hotel afterwards, so pushed on. Stopped at roadside cafes and bakeries often, but also wanted to be efficient with time.
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Old 08-30-19, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by rhm View Post
Well sure, I understand that just by being in France PBP is going to be pretty different from what I'm used to. Add to that the large number of riders etc, it's gotta be a unique experience.

I did a couple domestic 1200's last year, finishing both with not a whole lot of extra time. It's not that hard to ride that distance in less than 90 hours. I even had time to relax and drink a beer a couple times. But I had to be pretty careful about time spent off the bike: there just isn't that much time to waste. That's what puzzles me about PBP: so many opportunities to have fun off the bike, and it can be hard to say no to a glass of red wine.

If I ever do PBP, I'm definitely going to make it last as long as possible. No Charly Miller time for me, but possibly Adrian Hands time.
Agree 100%.

When I did the PBP in 2011 initially I started very fast with a fast Italian group. But when we past a beautiful castle and I could not even glance at it for the fear of loosing a fast wheel I started thinking why I ride the PBP in the first place.

I was training hard to qualify, but I want it to be more than just a long ride. I purposely slowed down to have time to enjoy what PBP represents. I wanted to take it all in , lines at the controls for food, cots and showers, 5000 people from all over the world that had the same dream as myself, control food, cafe food, fans along the road, etc...I wanted to sleep at the controls, on the side of the road and under the tables, etc...

If the ride had a 100 hour option or more I would have chosen that.

On the other hand if I had done it many times and the novelty would wear off I may opt for the fast time.
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Old 08-30-19, 08:27 PM
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
The main reason I didn't ride PBP this year is that I don't like crowds, and I espcially don't like waiting in line. I heard that the 84-hour group was better in that regard, but it sounds like there's still a lot of standing around and waiting. Maybe there's less of that with the 80-hour start?
The 80hr group is only less crowded if you are fast enough to keep ahead of the 90hr group behind you.

Until my dnf, the 84hr group was pretty uncrowded. Not much waiting around the first checkpoint. Second checkpoint, Villaines, I was a bit late (30mins to cutoff) so can't say about that... but was relatively empty when I arrived.
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Old 08-31-19, 06:57 AM
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Originally Posted by atwl77 View Post
The 80hr group is only less crowded if you are fast enough to keep ahead of the 90hr group behind you.

Until my dnf, the 84hr group was pretty uncrowded. Not much waiting around the first checkpoint. Second checkpoint, Villaines, I was a bit late (30mins to cutoff) so can't say about that... but was relatively empty when I arrived.
I was in the 84 hour. It was fine until Loudeac or so, when we caught up to the 90 hours.
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Old 09-01-19, 08:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Andrey View Post
If the ride had a 100 hour option or more I would have chosen that.
Yes, I would also have chosen the 100 hour option if it were available. But, given two options of 90-hour start at night vs 84-hour start in the morning, I will take the latter. I end up riding more during the day, start the ride without a sleep deficit, and don't waste time waiting in lines.
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Old 09-01-19, 08:55 AM
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I finally came to appreciate the night start. As the sun went down, the winds also died down a lot. I should have kept going to Brest in the dark. Although that climb after Carhaix is really beautiful and you miss it on the way back, unfortunately.

The lines weren't as bad as everyone feared, except at Loudeac on the way out. And for bathrooms. Going to go with less hydration next time so I don't need them as much

Funny thing about the cots in Loudeac, you can keep your cot as long as you want unless you tell them when to wake you up. Then you have to get out right away. Nothing like fumbling with your clothing in the dark when there is somebody standing there waiting for your cot.

While I was eating at Loudeac, I sat with someone who had already ridden to Brest. He was going to go get a cot, because if he got to Rambouillet on the schedule he was on, he wouldn't have had anywhere to stay. That's another advantage of renting an airbnb and not giving it up during the ride.

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Old 09-03-19, 06:32 AM
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Originally Posted by MetinUz View Post
Yes, I would also have chosen the 100 hour option if it were available. But, given two options of 90-hour start at night vs 84-hour start in the morning, I will take the latter. I end up riding more during the day, start the ride without a sleep deficit, and don't waste time waiting in lines.
Interesting. I chose the opposite. Every time I started the major brevet in am I was not tired enough to justify the sleep on the first night . I prefer the night start, ride all night and all day to built some extra time before I m really tired and I need some sleep the following night. I also preferred seeing all the riders from different countries in lines taking it all in (or wasting time, depending how one looks at it).
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