Eschewing the opportunity to sleep in a bed for the last night….like Young SavilleRowAlex, Pistol and The Wattmeister opted for an al fresco patch of concrete near the entrance to the Dreux control, made a little more comfortable with the aid of a couple of mattresses preceded by a few bottles of beer.
Sleep came and went in waves of semi-consciousness as riders arrived during the night. Each one was applauded and cheered throughout the witching hour almost as if they had won the Tour de France itself. The interested and compassionate disposition of the supporters lies at the very heart of everything that is great about Paris-Brest-Paris.
After the mellow night, morning traipsed along guiltily, pregnant with precipitation. We had so far been extremely fortunate with the weather conditions, but now it was fated to rain on our parade.
Baking Ben from Muswell Hill, who started with the 84 hour group on Monday morning, had caught us up and preferred to sleep in a nearby ditch rather than join Pistol and I on the concrete. Such a traditionalist!
Many, many riders had slept at Dreux, one of the alternatives being to finish in Paris in the middle of the night. Thus, there were once again long convoys of cyclists garbed in reflective wet weather gear as they headed eastwards through Sainte-Gemme-Moronval, Mezieres-en-Drouais, Broue and Bourdonne before the piquant little climb near Gambais.
On Sunday night, we had been keen to jump from group to group in order to speed away from Paris, but this was a rather more sober affair. Some riders were clearly suffering badly with sleep deprivation, saddle sores and physical exhaustion. Therefore, all of us drifted along steadily like a huge herd of bison, taking care at all times not to startle the infirm or weaker members of our number with unnecessary displays of zeal nor to leave them toiling alone to battle their demons.
Eventually, we entered the suburbs of Elancourt and Trappes before being ushered into the traffic-free park which led to the finish at the Velodrome Nationale. The rain was persistent and there was a distinct chill in the air, however, many hundreds of people had lined up to give us all a rousing cheer as we approached the line. Despite having won the Tour of Trotters Bottom in 1985, this was a very moving experience for The Wattmeister and his two excellent companions Pistol and Alex.
Perhaps it is only after the event that the enormity of the enterprise truly sinks in, as on the road much time is spent concentrating on the wheels around; wheeler-dealing with the mind and the body to coax more effort; willing the kilometres to decrease quickly: but all the while, we are honoured by the roadside support and the patience of the volunteers without whose time and effort none of this would be possible.
For some riders, time is important, but for all of us, taking part is the true reward.
Omega Axis Titanium 58.5 cms frame.
Shimano 10 speed 105/Ultegra mix.
Chainset 50/34, cassette 12- 28.
Topeak top tube TriBag. Topeak Mondo XL saddlebag . Karrimor small handlebar bag.
Schmidt hub dynamo/Cyo light on Mavic Open Pro 32 h (self built)
Dura-Ace C35 aluminium clincher rear wheel.
Cree 1600 lumen ebay rechargeable light.
Nalini Rodano Bibknickers/Santini Fluid bibshorts/Muswell Hill Peloton bibshorts.
Shimano MTB shoes with SPD pedals.
Garmin 810 with no route loaded.