PBP Stories

Arrivee 19, December 1987

PBP '87: 2597 starters: cool, showers , strong westerly wind: Fliss started at 04:00 and did a 70 hr ride

Paris-Brest-Paris 1987 on Three Wheels
by Fliss Beard

I've wanted to ride the PBP ever since Sheila returned full of enthusiasm in '83. At that time I thought anyone who could ride 100 miles with out stopping was super-human. I just managed to qualify for the '87 event by riding the wettest, windiest Windsor-Chester imaginable and sent in the PBP entry form choosing the 04:00 start as I do need sleep every night.

We took our caravan over with Jim and Mary Outram and camped on the official Audax Club Parisien site - which we eventually found with the aid of a police escort!

The bike check was from 13.30 to 17.30 on the Sunday and my time was 14.30. It was super to see everyone, new and familiar faces. Bry Ferguson gave my trike a very thorough check - I had dynamo and battery lights. After collecting brevet card, super-randonneur medal, route sheet, PBP bottle, and hat, and making sure we knew exactly where the start was, we went back to the campsite for evening meal and bed at 21.30.

At 23.00, I woke with rain bouncing on the caravan roof. I ran out and fetched my saddlebag off the trike. It looked like another wet start and at 02.00 it was raining still. Dave took me up to the start in the car and at 03.15 it stopped, thank goodness.

I've never seen so many cyclists, 1500 set off at 04.00. Tandems, tandem trikes, and trikes set off first, after the police escort. The tandems soon dropped me and I rode alone for 11km before the first bike bunch caught up then hung on but it was nerve racking racing through the lanes out of Paris in the dark.

Belleme (162km) is the first control. Talk about a 100 mile road race! Cars had a job to get past in either direction. I arrived after 6 hours as the main bunch was leaving and stopped 20 minutes for a big breakfast - coffee and croissant - then continued to Villaines (233km) where I met Wally Wright. We chatted over omelettes and cakes and set off together.

I couldn't keep with him and soon discovered why, when he disappeared over the hill - two broken spokes, the wheel wouldn't go round. An American came to my rescue, releasing the brakes to get me to the next control.

Alone again, the wind quite strong, three French men caught me and we arrived at Fougeres in the late afternoon (323km). John Brooking informed me that there was a mechanic and he got my wheel sorted out while I had a good meal - 5 francs for 2 spokes, very good I thought.

Only 50km to the next control, Tinteniac, and this is one of the flattest parts of the ride. It was still windy so I elected to ride alone only 'cos I couldn't keep with the groups I passed. I arrived at 21.30, just as it was getting dark. This was the worst control, not much food, so I only stopped 15 minutes and set off with some Americans including the Mother & Daughter 24 Hour Champions on tandem.

This night leg seemed to go on forever. I was doing my usual falling asleep (possible on trike) so promised myself a bed at Loudeac - if ever I got there! I did. At 02.00 and booked a bed and an 05.00 call. I slept well and after a good wash met Wally Wright again. After breakfast I felt OK 'apart from the legs. A massage might help - it did, and I set off at 05.30 feeling much better.

Out of Loudeac I took the wrong turning, missing the arrow in the dark, but only went 3km off course. I didn't see another rider on this leg (75km) but it was a lovely morning and the wind wasn't strong at this stage. Arrived at Carhaix (521km) at 09.00 and, after two coffees and gateaux, set off on the last leg to Brest 80km away.

The wind was increasing and my massage was wearing off, it seemed to be uphill all the way - the worst being the Roc Trevezel, it was so steep and exposed I could have crawled faster. 40km from Brest I caught a Frenchman and we rode together into Brest. He said his name was Rattae, what he didn't say was how many mountains there were going into Brest. Up, up, up, I though we would never arrive. But we did, at 13.30 to a super chicken meal. I did enjoy it but couldn't rest - I must use the back wind.

We left Brest at 14.30. Rattae wanted to stop for provisions after 20km so I said 'bye' and continued with the wind and a group of French that had caught me. It was lovely riding out of Brest seeing familiar faces from the 10.00 start riding in.

Back to Roc Trevezel (660km) the control car passed us and informed us that the leader of the 16.00 start was coming. He had made 12 hours on me in 36! He finished in 44 hours - an American professional rider.

Carhaix (690km) at 17.00. Bernard Mawson was there with the Audax UK support car so I got new batteries and clean clothes. Also I saw Noel with the ACP control car. I had a quick snack and continued with my French friends. They were sleeping at Loudeac and I wanted to do one more leg so we parted company there.

I was pleased to meet Mark my Irish friend from the Windsor-Chester. He said I could ride the night leg with him. It was a really clear night, not cold, and still some back wind.

Tinteneac at 02.00, shattered. We booked beds which included a shower, so I had one before I fell into bed - no towel so I used my T-shirt, should I throw it away? No, it may come in handy!

I set off, alone again, feeling the need to get going slowly. The thought of another massage at Fougeres was the only thing that kept me going. Here, after coffee and croissant, the masseuse was really good - she gave my knees the full treatment.

Feeling much better, and glad to speak English, I set out from here with Mark and Ron Sant. This leg was 90km so we thought we'd have a half way stop and found a superb cake shop which provided shelter from the first storm. Mark and I set off, not realizing Ron wasn't with us, and continued into the rain that got heavier so by Villaines we were WET and cold (980km, 12.00).

I went to the loo and put on my T-shirt-cum-towel, all the dirty clothes from the day before, but was still cold. We reassembled in the canteen, Mark, Ron, and myself, trying to cheer ourselves up. I had a big meal and we set off, plastic bags in our shoes and newspaper under our waterproofs.

It stopped raining but we were all feeling rough and took it steady at first. The sun
came out and we started to get going but the meal objected and I was sick every 5km until be reached Belleme (1052km). It was wonderful to arrive here. I went and had a good wash and a massage but didn't want much food. Mark had a massage and he was saddle sore - they saw to that as well!

Whether it was that we only had 100km to go, or the massage, we made great time from here to Nogent (1137km). The heavens opened as we walked in and the storm lasted half an hour - just long enough for a meal and MASSAGE!

80km to go, we set off in a big bunch of 30 and the pace was brisk. I started to recognize places and was sure we were nearly there when I saw a sign 'Paris 45km'. It was the longest part of the ride. We arrived at the finish at 02.00 with a police escort. I couldn't believe I had arrived in 70 hours with no saddle sores, blisters, or other ailments, just sore knees. I would recommend anyone who enjoys distance cycling to try the next PBP in 1991. I hope to be there.