Road to Paris : Initial Thoughts

Introduction

2 years have passed since I joined the group rides with Hyderabad Bicycling Club.

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(One of the few pictures I took on that day-none including me)

I did my first Brevet in July 2017 which ended up with a Late Finish.

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(Vishal had a Tyre burst and I finished late)

(What’s a Brevet? Coming Up)

After some dejection and disappointment and a 4 month break, I completed my SR series starting with 200 BRM on Nov 4th and finishing with 600 BRM on Jan 6th, 2018.
All of these Brevets were possible with the help of my cycling friends who had lent me their bicycles for those days.

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(Lessons from a Super Randonneur)

Post the SR, I happened to get into distance running and completely sidelined cycling. I ended up finishing two Full marathons, one in the month of April with a 6 hour finish and the other in August with a 4h 37min finish.

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Post the second marathon, I was in a fix.
Should I set forth a running goal such as Comrades which is a 90 km road run or the Vibram Hong Kong 100 which is a 100km trail run.

Or put forth a cycling goal like the PBP or LEL

A couple of reasons gravitated me towards cycling:
1. Events like PBP and LEL happen every 4 years whereas the Ultramarathons happen almost every year. Taking into account the long wait and unforeseen future circumstances, one point for cycling.
2. I enjoyed doing the Brevets more than the marathons. More sceneries and more conversations. (No offence to the running folks :D)
3. I was eagerly waiting to have a cycle of my own throughout college and since it was an expensive affair, I had held back for 2 years. Post graduation, I had started working and was ready to take the plunge.

I made up my mind and started zeroing on the bike. Though at the start I was more inclined to an adventure bike – something close to a Specialized Diverge I ended up with a bike of race geometry in mind. After guidance from the team at The Bike Affair, I brought home a Merida Scultra 300 🙂

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This Blogpost is all about that once in a lifetime opportunity (or at least 4 years) to explore the beyond and push the human potential. My resolution to participate in a 1200 km race in Paris and the initial thoughts on this and things to be prepared for.
Glossary

  • What is Randonnuering
  • Paris-Brest-Paris
  • The Eligibility for it
  • The Training Plan
  • The Gear
  • Visa, Travel and Expenses
  • Parting Thoughts
  • Bonus

 

What is Randonneuring

 

You might be wondering what randonneuring is all about.

A Brevet/BRM is a long distance cycling event. The smallest one is 200 km and the longest one I know is 1400 km. In order to check if the riders are indeed riding and not taking any shortcuts or any other means, each of these distances have checkpoints between them where the volunteers put a stamp mentioning the time.

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For Example, you can see in the Brevet Card(which is given to you at the start) that at every checkpoint there is a stamp of approval along with the time of arrival.

The rules are simple:

1. Reach the checkpoints on time.

2. Complete the overall distance in the stipulated time.
200 KM : 13h30min,
300 KM : 20h,
400 KM: 27h,
600 KM : 40 h,
1000 KM : 75H,
1200 KM : 90h

3. Always have the safety gear in place
-> Reflective Vest
-> Head Lights. Tail Lights – one blinking and one constant
-> A good helmet

4. No drafting behind vehicles. Drafting behind riders is allowed.

It’s good to Carry some spare tubes and puncture kits though not mandatory.
Carry some cash, food, energy bars, painkillers and you’re good to go.

This whole sport is called Randonnuering and it is governed by a French body called Audax Club Parisien. The Indian events are organised by Audax India Randonnuers and Hyderabad specific events are organised by the Hyderabad Randonnuers team.

Some other terms which will clear any airs of confusion:

  • Super Randonnuer Series: A series of 200, 300, 400 and 600 km rides completed in one particular season. A rider who completes this is given the title of a ‘Super Randonnuer’
  • Randonnuer: A rider who has successfully completed a 200 Km Brevet.
  • LF : Late Finish. Finishing the course but outside of the stipulated time
  • DNF : Did not Finish.
  • Homologation: Unique number given to the rider after completion of a successful Brevet.

You can take a lot at the events planned for this year. Randonnuering season usually starts from November to October of the next year.

Audax Calendar.PNG

 

Paris-Brest-Paris

 

Coming back to PBP.

Paris-Brest-Paris or fondly known as PBP, is a 1200 km randonnuering event in France. Held every four years and with more than a century of history, PBP is the pinnacle every randonnuer would like to achieve.

Unlike other Brevets wherein anybody can participate, PBP has a two phase registration process-pre-registration and registration. This two step process is to ensure a better successful completion rate. The organizers wouldn’t want late finishes and DNF’s due to lack of proper preparation.

Pre-registration happens between Jan-Feb’2019 and registration happens between June-July’2019 with the ride being in August

The Preregistration

This is held on a priority basis wherein riders who have completed the farthest distance brevets in the previous season have the chance to register before the others. Hence the name pre-registration.
For Example, a rider who has finished 1200/1000 in 2017-2018 gets the advantage of registering before the 600/400/300/200 finishers. Similarly, the 600 finishers get the advantage of registering before the others. And so on and so forth.
You can imagine a virtual queue getting established with the 1000 and 1200 finishers at the front followed by 600 and the others.

The official Pre-registration dates are as below:

Pre Registration Dates.PNG
Why is this important?

The organizers of PBP limit the number of entrants to around 6000. So the faster you reserve your place in the queue, better the chances of your successful registration.

The Registration

Even after the pre-registration, a rider has to complete an SR series and submit the homologation numbers at the time of registration, no later than 18th June 2019.

With this two step registration process in place, riders will have a better idea as to what kind of physical and mental burden one might be facing in those 90 hours.

To recap,
1. Complete a 1000 or more in 2017-2018 to have better chances
2. Pre-register in the month of Jan
3. Meanwhile complete an SR series no later than June
4. Register yourself by submitting your homologations for all the SR Rides and confirm your slot.

 

The Rides

A day or two after I purchased my first road bike, I had a conversation with Rajesh Krishnamaneni,the power horse of Hyderabad Randonnuers who has conquered both LEL and Alpi 4000.

He strongly suggested that I ride the 1000 BRM rather than bank upon the 600 BRM which I had done earlier (remember the pre-registration priority ?)

The 1000 BRM was the toughest mental and physical strain I had endured. Vomits, diarrhea and also the infamous shermer’s neck.

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(My neck refusing to sit up straight after hours of riding)

But it also gave me an idea of how much sleep I require, which food I am allergic to and also ride posture.

With the 1000, the 2017-18 season had ended and to ensure I had proper recovery, I skipped the first 200 and 300 Brevets in the 2018-19 season, and completed the 400 and 600 Brevets.

No worries. Brevets are held throughout the season and the next 300 is scheduled on Jan 26 and the next 200 on Feb 9 and Apr 20.

 

The Training

 

Paris Brest Paris is a different ball game altogether with 25-40% more elevation compared to the rides back here. It would be foolish to be under the impression that the Brevets back here are an adequate preparation.
For me, a proper planning would include:

  • Strength training regime to have a strong upper core
  • Technical Know-how in case of a mechanical failure with fixing a puncture being the bare minimum to handling spoke and saddle failures.
  • Training Regime including Cadence and Hill workouts along with Intervals.
  • Mental strengthening through meditation and mantras.

So far, I have been

  • Strength training 5 days a week for 30 minutes in the evening.
  • Cycling every other day for 90 mins
  • Endurance Rides on Sundays for 4-6 hours

Consistently sticking to this plan would really help build a solid base.

 

The Gear

The man can only do so much if the machine is not ready.

It’s been 3300 kilometers on my Merida so far. I plan to change the tyres and chain towards mid-July along with a full bike service.

I still need to make a couple of purchases

  • Good Bib shorts: cause 90 hours on the saddle is a sure sign of a sore bottom.
  • Strong and powerful Lights: Requiring minimum number of recharges along with being waterproof.
  • Saddle Bag: For carrying all that’s needed in those 4 days of time.
  • Thermals: It might get really cold, so more than 1 layer of clothing is definitely needed.
  • Bike Fit: Wherein the seat/saddle along with the handle is adjusted properly based on your body dynamics for increased efficiency and minimal discomfort.
  • Cleats and Pedals: Sports shoes don’t effectively transfer your energy to the pedals. Cleats improve pedal efficiency and also reduce cramping.

 

Visa, Travel and Expenses

 

VISA

After some quick searches, seems I can apply for Visa within the 3 month duration before departure and not any earlier. It’s good to have all the supporting documents ready as soon as possible with ITR being one of them.

EXPENSES

Coming up to the expenses part,

  • the registration fee for PBP is 130-140 euros i.e 15k INR
  • the flight charges along with VISA are coming up to 45-60k INR
  • During the ride, a good estimate for food, beverages, shower and sleep would be 100 euros i.e 8k INR
  • I’m not sure if there will be hotel booking in between the ride. Will update on this.
    A couple of riders have already booked their stay and it’s coming around 2.5k INR per night. I’m still wrestling with options from Airbnb and Hostelworld.

Since I probably wouldn’t be travelling to Paris in near future, would love to go for sightseeing for a couple of days.

  • Each day of sightseeing might cost another 100 euros. 4 days of travel and down with another 30k INR.Coupled with cost of the bike, the brevets and the equipment, the overall cost would sum up to 350k-400k INR from October’18-August’19.

That’s some pretty good motivation to brainstorm for more parallel income streams 😉

 

Parting Thoughts

 

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Having a tunnel vision for the next 6 months and transforming into a fitter version of myself would definitely be uncomfortable.

Comfort is comforting. Discomfort is discomforting.
Let me search for comfort in discomfort and discomfort in comfort. That is when the magic happens.

 

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( And also get rid of that tummy in the process 😀 )

 

BONUS

For Riders:

  1. I have made a compilation(ongoing) of some of the online resources of the training plan, travel, blog experiences etc. Do take a look at them here. Might help with some or the other thing.
  2. Audax will also be offering a ‘Randonnuer 5000’ award to riders who have completed 5000 km in the 4 year period of 2015-2019 which must include – a PBP, a fleche, an SR series and a 1000 BRM. With the Fleche coming up on Feb 23, be sure to not miss on it.

For Readers:

If this article has generated a minuscule of interest in cycling at the least, we do have a couple of events coming up in Hyderabad over the following two weekends. Do register. No worries about having a bike because you can always rent or borrow from a friend.

  1. Jan 27
    The Great Hyderabad Cyclothon
  2. Feb 3
    The Bike Affair’s Feb 50/100

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