Sunday, September 18, 2011

Final Whitney Classic Training Ride Report

Resplendent in our 2003 and 2009 Whitney Jerseys!
September 18, 2011
South Mountain Park, Phoenix AZ

This morning Joe Tansill and your humble correspondent rode the Summit Road at South Mountain Park for our final training ride (actually our only training ride together) for this year's Whitney Classic. Joe and I have teamed on a number of Whitney Classic events, last riding as Team Catholic Old Guys in 2008! We leave for California this Friday!

Joe wasn't planning on riding the Whitney this year but when I called him after the PBP, he said he would be ready. He has put in two solid weeks of training; and as evidenced by these photos, is ready to go!!

I decided to ride an unpaved section of canal bank on our way to the park. Joe noted that it was prime flat territory. I said that I had ridden this canal bank many times and never had a flat! About 10 minutes later, we stopped so I could fix my flat front tire!

Great morning at South Mountain Park!
Soon we were battling the steep inclines that make up the Summit Road at South Mountain Park. We feasted on brownies near the summit and then enjoyed the twisting descent to the Circle K at Dobbins and Central to reload our water bottles and finish off the brownies. Refreshed, we pointed our faithful companions back toward the barn and headed home.

Joe said my rear tire looked a little mushy just a few miles from home! Another flat, but we were so close to home, I just topped the tire off with a hit from a CO2 cartridge and we made it safely home (although I do need to remember to repair the flat before we leave for California!).

A great morning on the bike. Thank you to all that have donated to Summit for this great fund raiser, click here for more information on the ride or to make a donation!

Steve Atkins

Sunday, September 11, 2011

End of the World Training Ride Report

At the End of the World

September 11, 2011

This morning I decided to head out to Superior to do a little hill work and test out the XTR setup on the road bike. Between Superior and Kearny there is a particularly steep hill, known as the End of the World, on SR 177.  I decided to drive to the top of the hill, park the Suburban in the safety pull out area, ride down to the town of Kelvin (about 9 miles), turn around, and head back to the top and repeat.

Dawn on the US 60
I installed my mountain XTR derailleur and rear cog (12x36) on my Trek road bike last weekend to be ready for the long climbs of the Whitney Classic. I needed to get out and test the setup on some steep hills. After a minor roadside adjustment, the setup was dialed in and I enjoyed about 36 miles of riding in the mining country around Superior on a cool and clear morning.
Looking north toward the Superstitions

The road descends at 10%+ grades past the Asarco Ray Mine to the town of Kelvin. There had been heavy rain this morning before I arrived, but was clear, cool (about 72 degrees), and all that remained were puddles on the side of the road. On this Sunday morning, there was no activity in the mine.
On the second loop I continued down the Kelvin-Florence Highway about another mile or so to the Gila River. It was flowing but was quite muddy.

Memorial by the Gila
At the bridge there was a very nice memorial to a Riverside resident near the Gila River single lane bridge. I found it very moving on 9/11/11 with the Stars and Stripes against a clear blue sky. The highway continues into the mountains, the pavement ends, and continues west to Florence. Paul Layton has a permanent RUSA route that I think follows this road, that I would like to ride, but not today!

After a few minutes of watching the muddy river flow under the bridge, I pointed my faithful companion uphill and rode to the End of the World a second time!
Single lane bridge over the Gila River

This mornings data: 36 miles and 3510 feet of elevation gain. At just under 100 feet of gain per mile this ride does not quite match the 113 feet per mile of gain on the Whitney Classic, but certainly has some nice steep grades that are as steep, if not as long as the climbs on the Whitney.

In just under two weeks and Joe Tansill and I will be on our way to Lone Pine and my 12th Whitney Classic. If you would like to join my support team click here to make a donation (indicate Atkins WC in the comment box).

At the safety pullout after the ride
Very happy with the XTR Setup!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

30th Annual Whitney Classic Appeal

Steve Atkins

September 4, 2011

Riding through Death Valley in 2010!
Yes, its that time of year again…The 30th Annual Whitney Classic Bike Ride, Summit Adventure’s main fundraising event, will take place on September 24th-25th .The Whitney is an adventurous 135-mile bike ride that starts at 3:00 p.m. at Badwater, Death Valley, California (282 ft. below sea level), continues through the night and finishes the next morning at the portals at Mt. Whitney (8365 feet above sea level). The ride includes three major climbs of 17 miles, 13 miles and 13 miles, two of which by Tour de France classifications are considered “Out of Category” which to you and me means “really, really steep.” Total elevation gain for the ride is 15,300 feet.

This is my 12th Whitney! What, are you nuts? Yes, nuts and addicted to this awesome ride. I love to ride, I love Summit Adventure, and I love this event. Nothing matches the awesome course, camaraderie of the participants, and incredible support from Summit Staff and volunteers. Many of you have been loyal supporters of Summit all these years. I cannot thank you enough!

Even at this late date, I am not sure if I will ride solo or part of a team for this year’s addition. All my riding focus this year was on the Paris-Brest-Paris Randonneur. All I know at this point is that I can’t resist the siren call of the Whitney Classic and I will be at the start line in Bad Water later this month!

In the past eleven years, through your generous support, we have contributed over $115,000 to Summit Adventure! Thank you! Here’s where you come in: I have set a goal to raise $10,000 for this year’s Whitney. Course income provides for only 45 percent of the Summit budget. The rest comes through fund raising events such as the Whitney Classic. I served as a member of the Summit Board of Directors and know how critical a successful Whitney is to the financial health of the ministry. Debby, Mark, Michael and I have all participated on Summit courses over the years and have been deeply impacted by this great ministry! We all love Summit. That’s why I ride!

Please join my support team and send in your donation today! (Donate online by clicking here and indicate ‘Atkins WC’ in the donor comment box).

Please pray with me for a safe, successful event. If you have any questions, or would like to just catch up, please call me at 602-549-5331 or at home at 480-775-1682. I would love to hear from you. Thank you and God bless!

Check out:
My ride report from last year by  clicking here.        Summit’s web page by clicking here         
                                                Donations are tax deductible.
YES, Steve you are crazy and
 I WILL SPONSOR YOU AND SUMMIT FOR; $2,000  $1,000   $500  $250  $100  $________
If you prefer snail mail please send your gift with this stub to Summit Adventure. Thanks!
Atkins WC

PO Box 498, Bass Lake CA  93604

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Paris Brest Paris 2011

Ride Report
Paris Brest Paris 2011
We arrived in Paris the week prior to the 2011 Paris Brest Paris Randonneur. The PBP is the 'Super Bowl' of  randonneuring (self-supported ultra distance cycling) and is held every 4 years. It is the longest continuous running cycling event in the world. It started as a professional race, but is now an amateur event. Nearly 6,000 riders from around the world participated in the 2011 PBP. I rode the 2007 PBP (ride report), and found the event to be exciting and addicting. Here is my report for this years event:

Check-in and pre-ride activities

We arrived in Paris at the CDG airport. Perhaps the most challenging part of the PBP is logistics. After lugging the bike case around Paris in '07,  we arranged to have the bike luggage picked up by Blue Marble Travel at the airport and transferred to our hotel in St. Quentin en Yvelines (SQY). The Blue Marble Travel representative arrived exactly on time and took the bike case and duffel bag to our hotel. Debby and I then boarded our train to Amsterdam at the TGV terminal located at the airport. Very easy, convenient and worth the euros to be rid of the case.

My faithful companion at check-in
Deb and I spent three wonderful days in Amsterdam; we rented city bikes, visited windmills, and enjoyed the local vibe. That's about all that's fit to print!

Our days in Amsterdam passed way too quickly and we were off to SQY for the race. We hopped aboard the Thalys high speed to Paris Nord, then took the 4 Metro line to Mt. Parnasse and a regional train to SQY. We arrived at the Hotel Mercure in SQY and retrieved our luggage. We checked into our tiny room with a funky smell and a defective air conditioner. Since the hotel was booked solid, we could not change rooms. So we opened the windows and made the best of it.

The first order of business was to assemble my bike and prepare my drop bag. This is a small duffle bag that would be picked up by Des Peres Travel (official logistics coordinator for the American Team) and transferred to the Loudeac controle point (I planned to nap at Loudeac outbound and inbound). The drop bag contained fresh kit (cycling clothes), on bike cycling food, and a few contingency items. I dropped the bag off and we went to the SQY mall to find some dinner.

My selected check-in time for the PBP was Sunday morning at 0900. I proceeded to the bike controle (safety check), collected by PBP carnet (control card that is stamped at each controle and required to complete the event), PBP jersey and reflective safety vest. There were no lines and I was back at the hotel within an hour. Deb and I took the train to Chartres for a day of sight seeing. Since this day trip involved a 1.5 hour train ride each way, it was a perfect way to do a little light touring and stay off my feet the day before the PBP.

0500 Monday - SQY to Mortagne au Perche

Riders lining up for the 84 hour start
I selected the 84 hour start time. There are various start times with different time limits; 80, 84 and 90 hours. The 84 group starts at 0500 on Monday morning generally has about 1,000 riders and is less crowded than the 90 hour group that starts at 2000 on Sunday. The PBP consists of 18 stages and the riders must follow the route (easy because each intersection has directional signs) and check in at each controle within a specified time limit.
Your humble correspondent
Bikes at the Mortange controle
I was in the first group of 500 riders that departed SQY at 0500. It was a very fast and hectic start through the streets of SQY. There are many short cobble stone sections and road furniture that make the start very sketchy. Additionally, if something is loose on the bike it will fall off here. In 07, I almost lost the rain pants lashed to my saddle bag. This year, my back-up rear light vibrated loose! It was dangling dangerously close to my rear spokes so I had to pull off to remove it before it caused some real damage. The big groups were sorting themselves out and I had managed to stay with the lead group. I quickly pulled out and removed the light, but the group was already down the road. I looked back, and only a few riders that had been spit out the back were approaching. I decided to chase down the fast group, normally not a good decision in an ultra event, but I was only off a minute or so, and with all the road furniture and other obstructions, I was able to catch the main group after only a few minutes of hard effort. The rain started only a few kilometers from the start, but the group was very fast, the peloton was huge, and I didn't want to stop again or try to put on my rain jacket so I simply rode wet. I stayed warm even wet because of the fast pace. We made great time and the group stayed together almost all the way to the Mortagne.

Race photographer caught me between storms!
Outbound, Mortagne is a service controle only and I made a quick stop to buy a Coke, reload my water bottles, and was outbound after a ten minute stop.

Volunteer directing riders to the controle
0955 Monday - Mortagne au Perche to Villaines la Juhel

Driving rain, thunder and lightning was the order of the day for this stage. The group thinned out substantially and I rode most of the way solo or in small groups. I became very adept at putting on and taking off my rain jacket while riding along as the rain changed from heavy to light and back. Normally the arrival at Villaines is a page out of the Tour de France with hundreds of spectators and a flurry of activity. Today, only a few people supporting riders and event volunteers.

I hopped in to the control, bought a Coke, refilled my bottles and was on my way to Fougeres.

It cleared just as I arrived
 1355 Monday - Villaines la Juhel to Fougeres

The light and heavy rain conditions continued throughout this stage. I figured that 300 of the first 310 kilometers of the PBP were in the rain. It cleared just as I hit the controle, but new dark clouds were moving in. I planned to take a 60 minute break here and have a light dinner. So I checked into the controle and then rode my bike to the cafeteria. They were serving all kinds of food, I had portage (hot potato/split pea/vegetable soup), pomme frittes (french fries), and poulet (chicken leg), and a cafe (coffee). The food went down great, but as I ate a thunder cell moved in and the rain started again. Some thoughts about the rain (I noted these on my e mail update):
Dinner in Fougeres

Good things about the rain:
-water bottles stay cool
The Restaurant in Fougeres
-wear my clear glasses with a little distance correction, better to view the countryside
-no sunscreen
- test out the new rain gear

And the number one reason:
-won't need a shower tonight, saves a few euros!

I walked out of the controle 39 minutes after I arrived into a fresh cloudburst of rain!

1726 Monday - Fougeres to Tineniac

Abandon board at Tinentiac
After a nice meal and lots of rain leaving Fougeres, this stage was quite calm (meaning I don't remember much of it!!!!) Weather was still heavy. In the controle the power would go out with each lighting strike and the alarms on the power supplies for the race computers would go off. I bought a Coke and was out of there in 15 minutes.

Portage and banana in Quedillac
2045 Monday - Tineniac to Loudeac

I left Tineniac in the rain. I hit the 'secret' controle at Quedillac and grabbed a hot porttage soup and a banana for pocket food later on. The severe weather continued with scattered thunder storms. As if on cue, a cell hit just before I rolled into Loudeac at 1:30 am and continued as I located my drop bag. I reloaded my bottles restocked my food supplies on the bike and headed off to the cafeteria for a '4 hour meal.' Since I planned to sleep, my goal was to consume as much food, primarily carbohydrates, as I could. I loaded up my plate with mashed potatoes, rice and gravy. I also added some chicken and a bowl of portage soup. I finished my meal and checked into the dormir and told the attendant to wake me in 3 hours. I was assigned a cot with a blanket. At this point, my kit was still soaking wet from the rain. I decided to slip into my dry kit for the next day, however, I had only one pair of leg warmers, and decided to sleep with them on, hoping my body heat would dry them off overnight. I slipped on the fleece shirt I stashed in my drop bag for an extra layer of warmth.

It was very noisy in the dormir so I inserted my ear plugs, and despite the cold from my wet clothes, I slept well and got in a solid 3 hours before I woke on my own, a few minutes before my assigned wake-up call. I completed getting ready, drank two Ensures (stuck one in my pocket), and headed out into the mist. At least it wasn't raining!

0545 Tuesday - Loudeac to Carhaix

Misty morning in St. Nicholas
Bikes at Carhaix
I was on the bike at 0545 and climbed out of Loudeac in the dark. As the sun came up, the mist continued to build to almost a light rain. I rode mostly solo but occasionally teamed up with other riders to pick up the pace. My on bike food combo (2-3 scoops per bottle of Hammer Sustained Energy mixed with a half a can of Coke and Cliff Shot blocks for snacks) was working perfectly. Since it was so cold and wet, I increased the SE by 50% and decreased the water. I picked up a chocolate croissant or banana from time to time to have a little food on the stomach.  I never tired of the combination and was able to save a lot of time in the controls because I just needed to refill the bottles with water, buy a Coke, get my card stamped and move on!

1000 Tuesday - Carhaix to Brest

Scenic Lake
Roman arches on the road to Brest
Brest! Still no sun!
I continued to make good time, although the headwinds picked up as we neared the ocean. I teamed up with a huge Danish rider. We were well matched and shared the work most of the way to Brest. With his size, I pulled on uphills and we really motored on the descents with me on his wheel. Soon we were riding through the park just before the bridge that leads into Brest. We had joined one of his Danish teammates, but I dropped off for a natural break and a photo opportunity on the bridge. Soon we were riding through the congested town of Brest into the control. This was a different control location from 2007. It was located nearer the port, but the facilities were quite dirty and seemed somewhat disorganized. I had planned to spend a little more time here, but instead had two cups of portage, reloaded my bottles and was on my way back.

1515 Tuesday - Brest to Carhaix

The sun burned through the mist and fog as I rolled out of the controle in Brest. The first few kilometers were uphill through heavy traffic in downtown Brest. I was actually hot for the first time in two days! The route was easy to follow with the retour Paris directional signs and other riders up the road easily visible in their yellow PBP safety vests!
Church in Carhaix

Before long we were back in the clouds on the long climb out of Brest. Somewhere along this section I ran into Rebecca and Scott from Tempe. We had ridden together on a number of the Casa Grande brevets. They are also known as members of the Extreme Picnic Society and were motoring along at a nice pace. I rode with them sharing stories of the ride so far. It was at this point that I learned that the 90 hour group that left Sunday evening had missed all the rain! The only moisture Rebecca and Scott noted was the heavy misting that fogged their glasses earlier that morning! As we reached the top of the climb I bid them farewell and stopped to put on leg and arm warmers and my rain jacket. With the temperature dropping and the long descents toward Loudeac, I figured I'd best layer up. After my quick change I was on my way.
St. Nicolas Controle
The clouds thickened I was greeted with a light rain when I arrived at the St. Nicolas du Pelem controle. This controle was for rest, resturantation (food), and sleeping. It is only 33 kilometers from Loudeac. The organizers added it to the route to relieve the congestion at Loudeac. Since I had no trouble getting a bunk in Loudeac I think it served its purpose. Additionally it had a very convenient water faucet and fast bar where I could reload my SE/Coke brew and be on my way.
The last 18-20 kilometers into Loudeac seemed to go on forever. Finally I reached the top of the hill where I could see the lights of the town and knew it would be a fun descent into the controle. Here is where my Schmidt generator hub and new eDelux LED light really paid off. While other riders had to slow on the descent (very rough road) because their battery lights were dim, I could descent without touching the brakes as my light had the whole road illuminated and it was easy to see the rough spots well enough in advance to adjust my line. 
I rolled into Loudeac at 1244 am and set about the same 4 hour routine as the previous night: 1-Get the bike reloaded and ready to go for the next morning. 2-Eat as much carbohydrate as possible. I added a Kronenburg beer to the menu thinking it would help me sleep, it did!. 3- Get to bed. I checked into the dormir, gave them a 3 hour wake-up time (0415) and was assigned a foam pad (actually more comfortable than the cot the previous evening) and fell fast asleep. I awoke 45 minutes AFTER my requested wake-up time! 
I am a noisy sleeper (so Debby tells me) so I don’t know if the attendant nudged me to a particularly loud snore, or if they just screwed up the wake-up time. In either case, I got up, drank two Ensures, repacked my drop bag and was on the bike by 0530, about an hour later than I wanted to be on the road!
0530 Wednesday Loudeac to Tineniac
Since I was behind schedule, I didn’t grab a coffee in Loudeac, but just headed out onto the road, with daylight time in France, it was still quite dark at 0530! I chowed down several Shot Blocks (gel cubes with caffeine) that give the illusion of eating with the benefit of sugar and caffeine. That along with my witches brew of SE/Coke, I was generating nice power for early on Day 3! As the sun came up, we rolled into the next ‘secret’ controle outside Loudeac. Again it was properly situated for me, in that my bottles were nearly empty. So I reloaded them and checked into the controle and was ready to roll out when Sophie Matter rolled in. She has completed the PBP a number of times (4-5?) and was looking for a different challenge. She dressed in period clothes as a flower vendor and rode her 6-speed city bike for the PBP.
Sophie Matter, the Flower Girl
I met Sophie on the Oregon Blue Mountain 1000 last year. She is a famous randonneuse who has ridden these sorts of distance events all over the world. My German friends (who you will meet later) also had met her on an event in Germany! In any case, we exchanged greetings, wished each other well, and I was on my way.
Shortly after I left the contole, I came upon Vicki from Ft. Worth. She had a Texas sign on the back of her saddlebag so I struck up a conversation. This was her first 1200 and she was moving along quite well and we shared stories about Texas and our respective children. She was very happy that Mark had spent a year at UT and was excited that Michael was considering Texas State!  We chatted for some time, but as we rolled into the restaurtation controle in Quedillac she continued on and I stopped in for a bottle reload, chocolate croissant, and a banana!
Sun Block in Tineniac!
Refilled, I made good time into the controle Tineniac!

1013 Wednesday Tineniac to Fougeres
Castle in Fougeres
Tineniac was quite a different scene from two days ago. The sun was out, I had to roll up my leg warmers and my vest came off for the first time on the ride! I lathered up with sunscreen, reloaded my bottles, checked-in and was out of there in 15 minutes. There were many riders on the road at this time, including many teams and riders not affiliated with the PBP. I made good time passing many riders. Occasionally a ‘fast train’ would flash by and I would hop on. Unfortunately, those trains were just a little too hot for me and I would drop off. I rider from Taiwan hopped on my wheel and we ended up working together most of the way from Tineniac to Fougeres. A few riders would hop on our train, but would drop off so it was just the two of us. I think he must have weighed all of 95 pounds and was about 5’ tall. Not like the freight train draft of my Danish friend the previous day, but a solid partner that made the kilometers go by. He would grab his camera and photograph each church in village squares as we rolled through, then stow his camera and continue to hammer away!
We rolled into the town of Fougeres a little after noon, we shook hands and I dropped off to take a picture of the castle, he did too!
1234 Wednesday Fougeres to Villaines la Juhel
The park where I flipped my bars in 2007
This is the stage of truth! It was on this stage in 2007 that my neck blew out (Shermer’s Neck). Back then, it came on suddenly, a slight twinge at the controle in Fougeres, then about half-way to Villaines I could not hold my neck up without support. I ended up flipping my handlebars to be able to sit more upright. To no avail, by the time I arrived in Villaines in 2007 it was the middle of the night, and I went directly to the medical controle and spent several hours getting care and sleep before pressing on. I finished with my helmet supported by inner tubes lashed to my CamelBack harness!

What a difference 4 years makes! I motored along feeling strong the whole way from Fougeres to Villaines rolling through farm country noting the places along the way in 2007 where I stopped to fix my bars, add clothes, and generally suffer my way along. This year, I felt strong, was generating good power and my only concerns were a) finding a riding partner that could keep up and b) running out of SE mix for my power brew before reaching Paris!
What is different this year, other than I am 4 years older? The biggest difference was my preparation for this year’s PBP. My total training volume was not that much more than from 2007, but this year I engaged John Hughes as my coach to prepare an annual plan and monthly training programs. He provided detailed training plans and feedback from December 2010 to my taper for the PBP in August 2011. I had used many of John’s articles and information he has published for my preparation in 2007. I didn’t think he would take on a 52 year old randonneur as a client, but he did and I have him to thank for my structured preparation and strength on the final stages of the 2011 PBP!
John’s detailed training plans included riding of course, but also included a regime of strength training, stretching, and specific neck exercises because of my experience in 2007. So while my training volume was only slightly higher than 2007, it was clearly more specific, directed, efficient, and effective than 2007. I also had the relief of not having to prepare my training plans, but simply ride them and get feedback from John. I would highly recommend his coaching services to anyone preparing for an ultra event! Thanks John!!!

Same controle different day!
I really had no takers on the run into Villaines so I rode alone most of the way. A fast train of riders from Slovenia passed and I hopped on, but I could not hold the pace and decided to drop off. 
Rolling into Villaines, it was totally different than outbound! Hundreds of cheering spectators, applause, and shouts of bon route and bon courage as I rolled into the controle.  An announcer was going on and on about the number of riders, where they were from, and who was entering the controle and where they were from. It felt like a page of a miniature Tour de France finish line!
As usual, I simply checked in at Villaines, refilled my bottles, purchased a Coke and left the controle to the cheers of hundreds of spectators lining the streets!

Here is a video from the controle and just outside town.

1702 Wednesday Villaines to Mortagne au Perche

French kids cheering on the riders!

I left the controle and was soon riding along alone in the rolling farmland passing riders. I stopped twice, once to take a picture of some kids cheering me from the second floor of their farmhouse, and once to reload my bottles a stand a local family had put up for riders on the side of the road. They didn’t have Coke, but they did have sugar cubes, so I gladly added two each to my bottles of SE and I was on my way.

About half-way to Mortagne I caught a strong Swedish rider on a hard-tail mountain bike. At first he seemed annoyed that I caught and passed him so he hammered away but I caught him about 500 meters later and I asked if he wanted to share the work to Mortagne. He did and our energy fed off each other, with each pull we seemed to get stronger and stronger and before we knew it we were rolling into the controle in Mortange. We shook hands, he was a supported rider and went off to his camp for some hot soup. I bought two cokes, a jambone et fromage sandwich (in case I got hungry later) checked in, reloaded my bottles at the eau stand at the controle. Again I was out of there very quickly.

2028 Wednesday Mortagne au Perche to Dreux

This stage involves a lot of climbing toward Paris. Again I was passing many riders, but came upon a group that included a number of German and Swedish riders. I powered past the group, but then one of the Germans flashed by me, but slowed about 300 meters up the road. I caught him again, but again he took off. Just then another German, who had been on my wheel, introduced himself. I mentioned that his friend is going to kill himself continually attacking on this long hill. He laughed and said that his friend Johann was just tormenting one of the Swedes!  We chatted and introduced ourselves (his name was Frank) I mentioned that my son had spent a year on Koeln (Cologne) Germany on exchange and that Debby and I were heading to Koeln after the ride to visit his host family. Suddenly we were fast friends and riding partners. Frank and I ended up doing most the work as we headed toward Dreux. We picked up a couple more Germans and a Spaniard as our train grew as we picked up the pace to Dreux. Before we knew it, we were rolling into the last controle before Paris!

0025 Thursday Dreux to St. Quentin

As we were making great time toward Paris, we decided to enjoy a hot meal in Dreux before continuing on. We passed on the beer, but I loaded up on potatoes, portage, and a little chicken. We were soon on our way with the lights of Paris on the horizon, but fighting the sleep monster as we all were a bit sleep deprived. How can you tell you have not had enough sleep? Mail boxes and shrubbery look like people cheering you on, until you get closer and realize they are not people at all but your mind telling you to stop and sleep!

Frank got particularly sleepy as we rolled into the villages outside Paris. I offered a caffeine pill I kept as a contingency. He took it, but he was too far gone and started to fall asleep on the bike. We stopped and agreed he would sleep 20-30 minutes, but Johann and I would continue to Paris and we would meet at the finish.

After lots of short climbs and endless villages, we finally rolled into the start/finish town on St. Quentin en Yvillennes! At about 0445 in the morning traffic was light and we rolled into the controle a few minutes before 0500, just under three days after I started! 71 hours, 51 minutes!

Post Ride Meal at 0500 Thursday Morning
Johann, Steve, and Frank
Johann and I checked in and proceeded to the food tent for a huge dinner and beer (at 0500). We had hoped to see Frank. Since my hotel reservation check-in was not until later that day, I went back to the controle, found a spot under a table, and feel asleep for 3 solid hours. I woke to find Johann and Frank milling around with other riders. We took pictures, exchanged phone numbers, and I exited the gymnasium, feeling strong and very happy that my room (albeit small) was ready for early check-in. I crashed for another 3 hours, woke, packed the bike and prepared for Debby’s arrival from England!


We traveled to Koeln on Friday to spend the weekend with Hubert and Gerlinde Fester and their family. They picked us up at the train station and literally rolled out the red carpet. We picnicked in the rain, rode bikes, toured Koeln, attended a German Mass and Village Festival, and generally chilled for two days before heading to Brugge Belgium for two more nights. We explored the town of
Brugge on foot on Sunday and the surrounding countryside on a tandem bike on Monday. Tuesday we traveled to Paris and spent the day on foot shopping and enjoying the city. Wednesday we picked up the bike at Blue Marble Travel and took a private shuttle to the CDG Airport. After a nerve-racking ride (traffic was heavy and our driver was slow) to the airport we checked in and were seated on our plane home.

Closing thoughts

I wore my 2009 Whitney Classic Jerseys during the ride. It was a great conversation starter (if we get some entrants from Belgium next year we will know where they heard about it). One couple on a tandem asked me if the Whitney was tougher that the PBP. I said it depends. The 2007 PBP was the hardest event I ever participated in, by far more difficult than any Whitney. I can think of a number of Whitney’s that were more grueling than the 2011 PBP. This year’s PBP while rainy, had relatively mild temperatures and generally favorable winds. With my preparation, I can say that I enjoyed most of the time on the bike on this year’s PBP. Of course there were times (those seemingly endless kilometers into Loudeac and Paris) when the riding was not so joyous! In any case, the PBP is a special event like none other and I am happy that I have completed the ‘07 and ‘11 versions. Deb and I are already planning our trip for PBP 2015!
Click here for all the pictures from our trip!

A bientot!