Muswell Hill Peloton’s squad of five for the 19th Paris-Brest-Paris:
Long Tom (steel Condor Fratello), Old Grey Socks (alu Giant 0), SavilleRowAlex (steel Casati), Bubbles (titanium Kinesis Gran Fondo ) and The Wattmeister (titanium Omega Axis).
Stage 1. 21.00 p.m start on Sunday night….ride 521 kms to Carhaix by midnight on Monday.
Stage 2. 06.00 a.m start from Carhaix on Tuesday morning….ride 348 kms to Tinteniac by midnight on Tuesday.
Stage 3. 07.00 start from Tinteniac on Wednesday morning….ride 305 kms to Dreux by 23.30 p.m on Wednesday
Stage 4. Depart Dreux after long sleep ….ride 45 kms to finish by 15.00 p.m.
At the very least, it always helps to have a Plan B.
Our ride began at 21.00 on Sunday 18th August. We were in the very last wave of 90 hour riders. The weather had improved massively over the course of the day, resulting in balmy, windless conditions for the start of our odyssey.
As we shuffled up to the official timing mat, everyone availed themselves of the opportunity to use one of the abundant portaloos except for The Wattmeister, who refused to break his golden rule…no pisses on rides of under 1400kms.
We set off….a micro plan was to avoid going on the front too soon, take a tow, save energy, recover whilst riding….and so on.
Within 100 metres, Tom and Alex were the fireball at the head of the comet of red tail lights…..chatting away at 38kms per hour, fifty riders in tow, expending energy like it was an infinite resource.
The comet sped down the D983, through Faverolles, Nogent-le-Roi, Chateauneuf-en-Thymerais before going off orbit and missing the left turn to Senonches….thank you five Garmins and one routesheet.
The Wattmeister’s bladder was at bursting point.
The hills of the Perche arrived, split the field into prisms of light and threw a cloak of muted endeavour over its participants on the approach to Mortgane’s refuelling stop at 120 kms.
Team MHP used their 20 minutes efficiently, and, at about 02.00 a.m we set off for the first proper control at Villaines la Juhel 100 kms distant, (221 kms). My word, the descent from Mortagne was quick….and very cold. Skirting Mamers, we set off into an overwhelming darkness through Courgains and Dangeul before the bracket of Bubbles’s super duper Edelux dynamo front light decided to snap in Beaumont sur Sarthe.
Unable to be fixed, it was strapped up and the reserve light put into operation.
Beyond Fresnay, the road climbs a ridge up into the ‘Alpes Mancelles’, on this night affording magnificent views of a multitude of red lights streaming towards Villaines, a town which takes the riders of PBP into its very heart.
We arrived at 07.00 a.m, parked our bikes, fulfilled our needs and pressed on to Fougeres 85 kms to the West. A nagging little headwind began to develop. Bubbles was sleepy tired and our progress was slowed as we trundled along the lumpy D113 to Loupfougeres and Hardanges with a long climb up and over to the crossroads at Le Ribay.
We stopped for a quick caffeine fix in Lassay-les-Chateaux and searched for a peloton in which to hide from the nasty wind. Alas, one was not to be found, but we managed to team up with a Swedish trio through Ambrieres, Gorron and Lavare which helped to give us all a bit of much needed cover.
Suddenly, with about 15kms to ride to Fougeres, Bubbles kicked into life with a strong attack….LongTom’s reply was immediate, and OldGreySocks, SavilleRowAlex and The Wattmeister were forced to chase (too) hard to get back into the group….this pattern continued all the way into the outskirts of Fougeres where a happily revitalised Bubbles careered down the D706 from Le Croix aux Morts for all the world like she was in The Tour de France with a stage win at her mercy.
At this point, Plan A was within reach, albeit that we had endured a slower than expected stage from Villaines to Fougeres due to tiredness and the headwind.
The Wattmeister’s bladder ached.