Wednesday, August 26, 2015

PBP 2015

PBP2015 was a 'must do' for us. A chance to catch up with randonneuring/audax friends from around the world. At around 6000 people it's the biggest and best, although it's the international riders and amazing local support which really makes it so special. We went into it thinking we'd try for a fast time to make some use of the speed we'd developed for RAAM. As ever in life, everything did not go to plan, although we managed to have fun.



Mentally it was probably the toughest 1200 we've done. The combination of jetlag and worry due to the delay in our bike arriving in France meant that we didn't have the best preparation time. Big thanks to HK and Feline for the offer of solo bikes as contingency against the tandem not arriving in time. Thanks to everyone else who offered support and spares to ensure we would have enough lights and baggage to outfit the bikes too. If the ride had been anything less than PBP, we'd have cancelled a few weeks ago due to other hassles. It was great that everything came together in the end and we started in good spirits.

We learnt a hard lesson in the first few hours however, as we tried to work with another tandem who were significantly faster than us. We both went above our LT multiple times trying to stay with them on the climbs. We dropped off the back after around 100km and started riding at our own pace. We got mixed up with a few groups and managed to work with one or two of the solos which was nice. We didn't get to ride with another tandem for the remaining 1100km which was a shame. By the middle of the first full day, our speed had dropped significantly though and I was struggling to stay awake. Joths knee was hurting badly by Loudéac, to the point where we turned around 4km after the control and went back to it to seek medical attention. They quickly reassured him that riding on wasn't going to cause more damage and the anti inflammatory painkiller gel helped enormously. We were still really slow on the climbs though. A cup of tea and a sleep on a bench in the secret control perked us up a bit and we had fun all the rest of the way to Brest. While at the control in Carhaix we booked a hotel on route into Brest and stopped for a pizza in Sizun and gently rode down to 7 1/2 hours sleep in a real bed. Luxury! Having been distinctly unimpressed with the Brest control at the 2011 edition we opted to stamp and go before stopping at a boulangerie for breakfast a few km later. This was a fantastic choice, saving time and scoring tasty pastries in reward.

The climb up to La Roc seemed to take forever, but we were expecting it and once we joined the outbound route we enjoyed waving at riders coming the other way. The full night's sleep really paid off as this was the only day we didn't need to stop for an afternoon "jetlag" snooze. 
Roberta attracting attention at Tinteniac

The hills around Loudéac hadn't got any smaller and Joths knee started making worrying noises while climbing, a tube of voltoren was keeping away the pain however, so we just concentrated on maintaining a smooth pedaling stroke and tried to ignore the noise. The rolling hills on the run into Tinténiac were as fun as we remembered from 2011, even if we didn't have another tandem to share it with this time. An older French rider was the only one from our train who managed to stick with us to the control, and he thanked us profusely for a fun ride. Unlike our hotel in Brest, our sleep stop in Fougères was not successful. The combination of noise, light changes from the door opening and closing along with the remains of the jet lag meant little sleep. So we got up early, had the traditional breakfast of croissant and hot chocolate and pootled on. By Montagne au Perche we were struggling again, so after a quick bite Joth lay down for a nap. We had wanted to finish in daylight, but with the breaks it was looking increasingly unlikely we'd make that. Fortunately, at around 35km from Montagne the route becomes increasingly tandem friendly. We didn't go all out into the control at Dreux as we had in 2011, but still towed a significant number of solo riders into the control. Again, it was lovely to have riders come and thank us for the tow. The food at Dreux was great. The pastries at the controls were generally good, my pain aux raisin in Dreux was superb, and still warm. Yum. That only left the stage I struggled with so badly in 2011. This time I avoided caffeine, gels and adrenaline rushes and we opted for a gentle ride with a couple of Irish audaxers who kept us amused as the final kilometers counted down to the finish. We were disappointed not to do a fast ride, but the conversations and experiences we had instead did a lot to make up for it. We plan to be back in 2019!
Joth channeling Mr Larrington in Montagne au Perche