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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Paris-Brest-Paris, the ultimate event [Velo News]


2011 Paris-Brest-Paris, photos by Philip Gale
The face of a finisher. Photo: Philip Gale
Four riders walk into the finish check point to get their final stamp on their route card. It is clear by their eyes red from the wind, their faces weathered by the hours they have been in the elements and their hollow cheeks due to the fatigue, that these riders have been truly tested. As they walk, with a wobbling motion similar to someone drunk, everyone knows that they have been pedaling for so long that their muscles are struggling to cope with motions other than pedal strokes. Polite applause meets them, in respect for their achievements. They hug, new friendships formed on the road. Slowly it sinks in that they have finished the hardest Audax event, Paris-Brest-Paris.
4pm on Sunday the 21st of August. The “Gymnase des Droits de la Homme” in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelynes, on the western suburbs of Paris, saw the 5,200 Randonners start Paris-Brest-Paris. Facing them was 1,200 kilometers (746 miles) that had to be covered within the 90-hour time limit. This eclectic mix of riders, some on normal bikes, some on recumbents, and others on specially designed bikes, have all had to qualify for the right to take the start. This qualification process involves four different “Brevets” or events (200, 300, 400 and 600 kilometers), each of which had to been ridden during the past 12 months. The air thick with the anticipation of what lies ahead; both riders and supporters have many sleepless hours ahead of them to take on this epic challenge.

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