Chris has a diesel engine and loves the long miles. In 2011 he competed in the Paris Brest 1200K race. Read his report below. Last year he was recovering from a broken hip caused by getting hit by a car.
Chris getting ready to start the 750 mile Paris Brest Paris race
Paris Brest Paris 2011
I started preparing for Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) last year. Having completed this 1200 kilometer (750 mile) ride in 1999, at a leisurely pace of over 88 hours, just under the limit of 90 hours, this year I wanted a challenge. The goal is to equal or best a time of 56h 40m, which is the time the first American Charly Miller finished the ride back in 1901. He got fifth overall, and rode the entire ride unsupported, unlike the other top riders, who had elaborate support for food, water, mechanics, pacers, etc. He endeared himself to many French, who admired his perseverance through many difficulties he encountered on the ride. Doing the ride in this time or better would get me into the “La Société Charly Miller.” Americans with this qualifying time usually number around ten for each PBP. All the more special, since PBP is run only every four years.
After all my months of training and logistical technicalities, it was a few minutes to the start. I am lined up for the start in the first wave of riders, the fastest of who would finish in about 44 hours. The first finishers will invariably have some sort of support. I would only have what I was carrying in a rear seatbag, handlebar bag, and rear jersey pockets. I even opted out of an organized group bag drop at Loudeac and Tinteniac. I was going to use the official check-ins about every 50 miles to eat, drink, and catnap. I had memorized the stops, distances, and rough arrival time for each stop. My approximate finish time of 54 hours had a good buffer built in for contingencies to meet my Charly Miller goal.
After snaking though four different queues in over two hours, with half of that time being roasted in hot sun, I was lined up next to Brad, whom I have rode with on some of the qualifying rides. We have a similar pace, and has had three Charly Miller under his belt. Emotional waves shot through me as we all clipped into our pedals and started rolling. The lead pack tooled along the forgettabble office park area around the start, then we finally got out to the countryside. I sat in the back and found some other chatty English speaking riders. Paul from the UK was looking to break 60 hours. I also met an Aussie Oliver, who has a 48h PBP time from ’99. As we progressed to the first stop, we continously shelled riders through some brisk short climbs, at least four minor falls, and brutal crosswind tactics. Guys were guttering each other on the oncoming traffic lane to escape the crosswind from the right. The official motorcycles kept warning us to move “a droit,” but to little avail. Between the crosswinds and the hot sun, I was taxed a bit. I desparately needed water as we pulled into first stop. I filled up the bottles quickly, got back onto the route with Paul, but the main group had already gone. Somehow Brad and I missed each other, but I figured he was up with the first group, and at some point we may meet down the road, around a sleep stop. We kept a good pace and had a few other riders join to help each other. My legs started cramping ominously about mile 110. I slowed up, guzzled most of an electroltye bottle. Five minutes later I felt much better, and the problem did not reappear for the rest of ride.
We get to next checkpoint at mile 137. There are about 60 riders ahead of us. Next leg to Fougeres was all in the dark. The second wave of first starters came up on us and we hopped on their train to conserve energy. My front light had become a little loose, it was tightened up at Fougeres. We had also picked up a German Steffen, so were a core group of three. We traded our goals, and discussed when would be the best sleep time. My plan was to sleep a few REM cycles at Tinteniac on the return, at about 3-4am Tuesday morning, which would be a about 2/3 of the ride, 36 hours on the bicycle. We all knew things could change, and we may want to stop earlier. We plowed along with various groups to the next stops in the early Monday morning. Riding in a group helped a lot. Out of Loudeac, the terrain got steeper, and we were drizzled upon. Next leg was to Brest. This included a huge climb, to a spectacular view of the Brittany country side. We chatted briefly with Ryan from Colorado, who was doing the ride on a three speed Sturney-Archer rear hub – very impressive. We dropped Ryan in the ascent, but would meet up and ride with him again later.
We got to Brest in sub 23 hours. We were halfway done, decided to rest for over an hour. The slog out back to Carhaix was hilly and Steffen was really mixing it up passing groups of other riders on hills. We decided for sure to stop at Tinteniac about 100 miles away. Loudeac was a zoo with riders from the later starts. Sleeping there would have been impractical. I did a quick check, and saw Brad was about two hours ahead of us, giving me hope we could catch him after sleeping. We all agreed on a quick 15 minute catnap to recharge what was likely to be a tough section. We left and immediately the skies went from light dizzle to deluge. We kept getting wetter and colder; just miserable. We saw the last of the earlier starters coming toward us. We wearily arrived at Tinteniac a little after 4am. I saw Brad’s bike here; that was good, he was sleeping. I figured we would probably see him soon. We slept till 6am.
On the way to Fougeres we pick up Brad, Oliver, two French guys (one of them has a 46h PBP time,) and Jan, riding his shiny silver randonneuring bicycle. We get to Villains and I am feeling great. Paul and I leave together, and I announce we are going to try and catch “them,” who I think is Brad and Oliver. We go on a complete tear, and pull up behind Oliver in about a half hour. We ask if he has seen Brad, but we start to realize he has probably stopped on the road, and is behind us. So we dial it back and eventually we are regrouped with Paul, Oliver, Ryan, the two French guys, Jan, and a few others. We get to Mortagne and again get mixed up departing late. Paul, Ryan, and myself again are chasing to catch our group. We have nice flat roads and a tailwind and we rip it up, going 25mph+ for a good 30 minutes. We eventually latch on to our core group and slow down. I briefly get into a time trial duel with a rider. We get to Dreux, 40 miles from the finish. We all leave together this time. Right out of town my front tire goes flat. Brad stops and helps with a CO2 cartridge. I am grateful he stopped even after I told him to keep going. Brad and I are now on a chase mission. We turn on the after burners for about 40 minutes and catch the main group, which includes a 20+ group of very organinized, very supported Germans. We had been leap frogging them a lot of the way back from Brest. Jan made a funny comment that he thought their technique of going slowly uphill and fast downhill was not working. We were a big group, less than 25 miles from the finish. One of the strongest Germans from the group attacked. My race instincts kicked in. Jan, Brad, and myself relentlessly counter attacked. Eventually we shook off everyone, but we could not drop the German. Jan called a truce about 20 minutes to the finish. We four finished together. My time was 53h 41m. I am now a very happy, new member, of La Société Charly Miller.