Qualifying for PBP 2019 and the Spirit of The Randonneur

Step 1: Do one 400 Brevet In 2018 which will almost guarantee a pre-registration place,

Step 2: Complete a series of Brevet’s in the first 6 months of 2019, a 200, 300, 400 and 600 and you get a start place.

It's easy you only need to ride 1900 kilometres in 18 months and you are on the start line.

Two steps and it’s all that simple - then you drill into the detail of 1200 kilometres in three and three-quarter days. Its 90 hours to cycle the distance, feed, rest, sleep, wash, navigate and handle any equipment failures that might occur. It is a challenge and putting your mind into the head space where you think you can do this is the hard part, the cycling! You do that for fun.

This pretty much echoes a conversation Joe Fitz was having with a work colleague at the water cooler. Joe's colleague was asking questions about the start in Paris in August and stated 1200 kilometres,” that’s tough”. Joes answer was “the 1200 kilometres is a celebration, the two and a half years to get to the start line was tough”

Or maybe Valerie Plant in reply to her friend commenting on the “legs” she must have to complete a 400 in the time she did. “You don’t cycle these events with your legs you cycle them with your head.”

A Brevet baby step is a 200K cycle in 13.5 hours, it’s a blast, a day out with mates a few coffee stops and a decent lunch break. You become blasé, the distance becomes normal. There is no training plan needed, there is no three-month lead in to the event. You just turn up outside some church with 20 others, a brief briefing and off you go. It’s a lark. Then one day you have the start of a cold or you are just under the weather. The distance now becomes difficult and the effort a real challenge, yet you are only five percent off form. You have underestimated how much effort it takes.

Then you hit 300 K and it’s just five hours extra. In the Audax world if you can do a 200K you can do a 300. It’s a bit longer but once again once you do it, it becomes a given. The fear is gone, and you now know how to and what it takes to be out on the road for 18 hours.

You do a 300K you can do a 400K, well this is a different animal, this starts to get rough. 27 hours. Its not like you do 200 one day go home, sleep, wash, feed and do the rest the next day. No, the 27 hours is for the full distance. Rest stops, breakdowns, mechanical, physical or psychological must happen within that time. The touring Randonnee has now become a TT with an elimination time. You are now competing against the clock and your ability to manage the distance, logistics and the pace. You learn, and the fear goes, so you try the 600K in 40 hours and somewhere along that journey you realise you are not normal, that normal people do not do this in their leisure time or as Louise would say “nutter”.

To you though its not an endurance event, no one is competing, does anyone really care how quick or slow you have gone, no. Most people are just notice their time if even that, but all want to finish. It is not about the endurance, mind against the body etc etc. it is about the journey. It is the places you see and the people you meet. It’s an adventure in your back yard, get on the bike head off literally across the country to see what happens on the road. Why? Because its much better living your adventure then sitting on the couch watching some other persons trek on TV.

The qualification process has not been smooth. Some of the Irish contingent have had to pull out due to falls since qualifying. A broken arm and leg as a result. We are all a bit skittish having to get the distances in but worried an injury could end the journey before the opportunity to complete it.

We have all had our issues getting to this point from home and work life crashing into our cycling, to at least three knees causing concern. A few falls resulting in bruising and scrapes, to confidence seeping away on a dark night. Admin errors and some poor map reading are just some of the things that nearly done us all in.

So, cycle 1900 kilometres, that will qualify you for the Paris Brest Paris, we have all done that. Being qualified to ride it, might take a little longer.

Sunday morning in bright sunlight I rock up to the traffic lights in full PBP 2019 speck for a 100K training solo. Sitting on a Scott carbon fibre space ship, decked out in the team Orwell paint job, bags, Garmin, lights, making sure they fit well and work. Spares, food, clothes, tools and everything needed for multiple days riding. I’m Orwell colour co-ordinated right down to my green wrist watch and yellow id band. The latest short sleeve summer jersey with the cool white cuffs that show off the go-fast tan lines, shades on. There is an old lad at the lights, three speed Sturmey Archer hub, Raleigh black bike with rod breaks, a classic. He is in his Sunday best, suit, tie, crisp white shirt and we exchange greetings as cyclists do.

Lights go green and we cycle the next few kilometres together, he tells me about attending mass in every Parish in Dublin (over 200) by cycling there. The different personalities of the congregations and of the masses he has attended. He describes how he has discovered roads, byways, sights and history he could never have guessed. He tells me of the changes in neighbourhoods and communities of buildings old and new. How he has seen wealth and riches, because the two are not the same, in every corner of the county. I then realise he is a kindred spirit, he is on a journey to see places, meet people and take a full part in living an adventure. He is a Randonneur, so we part company he to the local Parish Church me towards Rathdrum.

Point, pedal and carry on.


A few of Andrew's choice PBP videos: