It's finally here! It's Paris-Brest-Paris starts tomorrow, Sunday the 18th of August sees 13 Scott Orwell Wheelers line up to complete the 1,250km challenge that they have been working towards for the past 2 years. This is the second of a two part look at the who is taking on the challenge and why!

Andrew Potts put some questions to the group and who better to start with than the man who has passed on his love of touring to many, encouraged the group since day one and who has a good collection of PBP finisher medals already ........


Rider number & start time: U023 @ 20:45 on Sunday 18th Aug

Cycling career to date:

Still only getting started, I hope, but I started off from a background of hillwalking, mountaineering and hill running, drifting into MTBing and cycle touring in my college years. I worked as a Cycle Courier for a while, but the arrival of Foot and Mouth disease in Ireland in 2001 put most of the countryside off limits for the whole summer, and I ended up moving over to road cycling almost exclusively for a while. That summer I toured unsupported from the Pyrenees to the Alps, over several of the biggest or most famous cols. I was woefully underprepared, and it turned into an unbelievably hard trip, but by the time I got home I was hooked for life, both on France and on Cycle touring. I raced for a few years before drifting back into cycle touring. I have done or still do if I have time; Audax, MTBing, Road racing, Touring, Track racing, TTing, but most of my time in cycling nowadays is spent organizing.
Bike choice:

My ancient Colnago C40, with a new set of Ksyrium pro’s on it. When I bought it originally I had it built up with 8 speed Dura-Ace, and like trigger’s broom every part of it bar the frame has been replaced more times than I can recall. I’ve used the same bike for racing, training, touring, audaxing and even commuting over the years, and I think it’s still one of the best bikes ever made.

Why PBP:

I had always enjoyed the longer distances, and loved to pick a direction to point my front wheel and just go until I reach the sea, and particularly cycling through the quiet hours of the night when you’re alone on the road bar the wildlife and the stars, or riding into the dawn and knowing that breakfast is coming and when you sit down you might be 300km away from where you had your dinner, on the other side of the country or even in a different country altogether.

I rode my first 200k Audax in March of 2007, as part of a series organized by Paul O’Donoghue, and in the usual way I finished that and signed up for the 300 that followed. Once you do the 300 you might as well do the 400, when you do a 4 you have a go at the 6 and so on, and so I found myself lining up for my first PBP 5 months after my first introduction to Audax.

I had intended to race it, and being the National record holder for the 24hour TT at the time I expected to be in contention to win it, but after finishing the Rás that May I had lost my motivation for racing. When PBP came around I found myself suffering on one of the succession of drags about 200k, and I sat up and let the leading bunch go, arrived in to the first control at 220k and found my way to the dorms. The dorm attendants kindly and helpfully tried to persuade me to keep on going, explaining that no-one had ever slept that early on PBP and then managed to finish, but at that point I didn’t really care- if I wasn’t going to win I wasn’t that bothered about finishing. I woke up a few hours later in much better form, and rode the remaining 1000km at a touring pace, sleeping when I was tired, eating when I was hungry, stopping when I liked and keeping going when I didn’t. PBP is a 1200km long festival of cycling, with several thousand riders but tens of thousands of supporters, and there is so much support at the controls and even more so on the roadside that it’s almost impossible not to be buoyed up by their encouragement and enthusiasm.

I think I was about 100k from the finish of that ride when I realized I didn’t really want it to end. I ended up cruising into the finish slow and steady, making the most of my last few hours on the road, and by the time I reached the finish line I had the next 4 years of my life already planned out. I have done a lot of different things in cycling, and most of them I’m glad to have done and may or may not do again, but PBP is the one that I will be going back to every 4 years as long as I am physically able.

Journey so far:

I didn’t get to do a 200 this year, so subbed in an extra 400 instead. Midlands 300 was my first spin of the year, and I suffered like a dog.

REK 400 was next, and I paced myself very steadily (and slowly), and felt better and stronger as it went on.

The National 400 followed, an overnight spin with the Orwell gang, and starting to get fit I really enjoyed it.

My last qualifier was the Coast to coast 600, ridden solo, cycling out to the start and home after to make it a 700. Again I paced it very steadily, but a lot faster this time, got stronger as I went on, and knew as I was cycling home from Stamullen that  I was ready for PBP again.

Worst moment:

There have been a few, but I think of all of the low points the ones that stick out are the friends or club mates who died too young.  Kieran Hammond was one of the guys who helped me get into the sport, always there and always helping out, when he passed away it was a huge shock. The following year Brian Lennon died suddenly 2 weeks before the Rás. He was an inspiration to me at the time and it was my first realization that young, fit and healthy people could still drop dead without warning.  Morgan Sparrow’s death in a club race in 2012 is the other one that sticks out. Everyone who organizes an event knows that there is always a possibility of participants getting injured, possibly seriously, but you don’t expect to see the day that one of the riders you send off will never come home. There have been several more since, Pat, Keith, Tonya and Ryan, some sadly expected and some sudden and shocking, but Morgan’s passing more than anything changed my perspective on the sport.

Best moment:

There have been too many high points to mention, but best of them was obviously meeting the love of my life...



Rider number & start time: U018 @ 20:45 on Sunday 18th Aug

Orwell Career Cycling Career

I began as a newbie Feb 2015 and almost never go cycling alone ever since. I had this expectation that, what Orwell called, Leisure Cycling, was old school cycle touring. That became a hope, for me, when at a March general club meeting, Dave Mc spoke about Audaxing. It was not until March 2016 that I cycled my first audax 200km. However, I also very quickly fell in love with so called leisure spins as well.

My bike and modifications

My summer bike is a Cube - ATTAIN SLT with Disc brakes. The tech spec says the carbon design: increases frame's stiffness but also softens the impact of harsh road vibration.

My winter bike is also a Cube: Cycle Cross aluminum frame and yes Disc brakes, plus front and rear pannier mounts.

Why, oh why, am I doing a PBP?

One audax just led to another…

The journey so far

Well it’s the audax/Orwell team spirit that has kept us all going on the journey

Worst moment so far:

Having to abandon my first 400 half way around as the pace was far too high and my tank emptied too fast. Or was it ‘not finding the pen’, when I got home, after finishing my first 600 to write down “NEVER DO THIS AGAIN”.

Ah no; it really was cycling (with Andrew wait) for 170kms in the rain on a midland 200 audax. It felt as though someone was flying above us with a power assisted shower head.

Best moment so far:

So so many. It’s the unexpected around the corner things: I can highly recommend the Birr 200 – try it and be prepared for a wonderful journey.





Rider number & start time: U024 @ 20:45 on Sunday 18th Aug

Cycling career:
'Career' may be overstating it. I've been riding casually, on my own, for enjoyment and transportation much of my life. Began riding regularly (though not 'seriously') when I joined the Orwell Pathways in 2018.

Bike choice and modifications:
Specialized Roubaix. The Roubaix was the first road bike I ever got, back in 2003 - we shared many miles until my wife got jealous and drove over it in 2014. I kept that chit in the bank, till last year when I decided to go for PBP and cashed it in for a shiny new Roubaix with all the trimmings.

Remapped the Di2 shifters so I can shift up and down with either hand. This may seem silly, but on a long ride I'm often holding food in one hand, so this lets me eat while retaining full control.
Speedplay Frog pedals - I've never met anyone else who uses them, but I find the free float and recessed cleats to be ideal for long rides.

Aerobars setup for endurance riding. Yes, I get scorned at. But my hands and shoulders dont hurt as much, so there.

Why oh why am I doing the PBP:
I just wanted to go for a ride...

Worst moment:
They say "its mostly mental", but you don't realize that till you've had a mental issue. On one ride I had a disagreement with a buddy - in hindsight it was trivial, but in the moment the negativity was overwhelming, and was more difficult than any nausea or knee pain or headwind I had faced. The answer was the same: just put head down, quietten the mind, focus on turning the pedals, and like nausea/pain/wind it eventually passed.  

Best moment:
On the National 400 organizers ride this April, somewhere around Kilkenny, midnight, -2C. The most wondrous starry sky ever - nary a light nor cloud. I would stop to look up and take it in, till I started shivering from the cold, then ride to warm up and stop again, repeat.




Rider number & start time: K142 @ 18:30 on Sunday 18th Aug

Cycling Career:

7 years in Orwell doing club spins. Can go orange pace and hang on, on a good day.

Bike choice

I've a Scott solace and will carry panniers for PBP. It's carbon and designed for a long day on the bike. It provides a more upright position than the "slammed" racing position.

Why, oh why, am I doing PBP?

I love a challenge and sure what else  would I be doing anyway. Looking forward to the French countryside and mix of nationalities involved.

The journey so far:

It started in November 2016 when an Orwell group started an RRTY challenge, that is to complete an audax every month for a year. Followed that with completing the Mile Failte (1200K) last year in 88 hours in and now want to see can I improve on that time on PBP.

Worst moment was on Mile Failte after 600k feeling rotten on a beautiful summer evening going through Ahakista looking at Beer gardens and sea food restaurants. I must be nuts!

Best moment was 12 hours later after eating and sleeping cycling across the Beara peninsula as the sun rose. Beautiful



Rider number & start time: U026 @ 20:45 on Sunday 18th Aug

Cycling Career:

Very short and undistinguished; I joined Orwell in January 2018.

My bike:

2017 Trek Domane SL, Mavic Ksyrium Pro wheelset.

Why am I doing PBP?:

Potentially troublesome combination of being very easily led, with an extreme case of FOMO (on reflection, things could be worse!!)

Journey so far:

It all began in Leonard Kaye and Tommy Smith’s WW200 training group last year. Leonard talked a couple of us into a 300 a few weeks later. A 400 followed in August, which meant pre-qualification for PBP, conditional on completion of an SR Series (200, 300, 400 & 600km) by June 2019.

Worst moment:

None that I can think of!

Best moment:

Friendship, encouragement, patience and support of my brilliant PBP team mates and the wider Orwell cycling family over the last 18 months.




Rider number & start time: U201 @ 20:45 on Sunday 18th Aug

Cycling Career

I joined Orwell in January 2015 with little other than enthusiasm and a complete lack of cycling knowledge. I remember my first white spin out in Lucan where I did not unclip in time and end up falling into the ditch at the side of the road. Since then I have covered many KM's and shared many fun & tough days on the bike but as they say, every day on the bike is a good one and it's so true I call it "bike meditation".  

My Bike Choice and Modifications

Cube Peleton Race, 105 groupset.  This bike is my only road bike and is like triggers brush from the TV comedy Only Fools & Horses where nearly every part has been replaced numerous times. I have electrical tape on the saddle at the moment as I don't want to change the saddle before PBP.

Why, oh Why, am I Doing PBP.

It's kinda the Olympics for Audaxers and it all came out of a WhatsApp exchange between Leonard and me over 3 years ago about doing a 300km ride.  Leonard then spoke to Dave who arranged a special 300Km Audax for us which was followed by a 400km Audax, then we did an RRTY, Super Randonneur and then, of course, this is PBP year so why not it only occurs every 4 years.  

The Journey So Far

The journey has been challenging between family commitments, sickness, injury and bad weather but with the help of my PBP club mates, I qualified.

Worst Moment

I thought the Innisfree 400 in 2018 with John Turner was the worst due to the weather conditions but getting hypothermia on the Orwell 200 in March 2019 and having to abandon at the Yellow house trumped it.  I was shaking so badly by the time I got to the Yellow house with only 3km's to go that I decided it would be too dangerous to continue. I was brought into the Yellow house by a kind retired couple and fed tea as I was unable to hold a cup and barely able to talk.  

Best Moment

I think one of my best moments was doing the first 300Km Audax in 2016 and racing in through Tallaght near the end of the event with Gary Somers, Barry O'Donnell and Donal O'Connor, it was great to have power left in my legs after such a long ride on a nice sunny evening - "It's a beautiful life on a bike".



Rider number & start time: U015 @ 20:45 on Sunday 18th Aug

Cycling Career

Joined Orwell in 2017 with little prior cycling experience. Like many, I joined to participate in the W200 training spins and subsequently completed the event. While on holiday shortly afterward I was feeling lazy because I was not doing any cycling so signed up for the Midlands 300 audax which was taking place the weekend I returned from holiday. I’ve been audaxing ever since.

My Bike Choice and Modifications

J. Guillem Orient, Brooks B17 saddle, Son dynamo and lights, 3T Wrist Comfort aerobars

Why, oh Why, am I Doing the PBP.

I blame Leonard!  But seriously, I’ve enjoyed the learning I’ve gained each time I ratchet up the event distance. PBP is just that little bit longer than any event I’ve completed.

The Journey So Far

The journey has been as straightforward as it gets. Completed an SR (i.e. 200k, 300k, 400k, 600k brevet) last year and another this year to qualify.  As I didn’t want to jump from 600k to 1200k as being the longest event I completed I also completed the Celtic Knot 1000 this year.

Worst Moment 

I completed the Innisfree 400 2018 with Colin Coffey.  It was completed as the tail of a tropical storm hit land.  We rolled in 15 minutes before the cutoff having spent 26 hrs 45mins in the saddle, most of it during torrential rain.

Best Moment

I decided I would do an Orwell 200 permanent solo one cold, wet Saturday last year. About 90k in I had a puncture which, because I could hardly feel my hands, took 30 mins to repair. I never recovered and the weather deteriorated. I persevered until 130k until I noticed smoke billowing from a small pub at the roadside. Best moment is pulling up 2 chairs to the fire, one for my weary self and the other for my dripping wet rain gear. I left the bike against the side of the building, ordered a Guinness and a glass of whiskey, called my wife to pick me up and suggested she take her time.  I was the target of the local humor for the next 2 hours.