PBP Stories -1999

BC Randonneurs Cycling Club

(More about the source of this text - Gerry's PBP99 info archive)

Paris-Brest-Paris 1999:
What a cosmopolitan suffering for 72h18m
and Hansi's true french experience.
- by Hans Mixdorf

Just wanted to share with you my experience on Paris-Brest-Paris
1999, 750 Miles with a time limit of 90 hours. This is the oldest
bike race in the world with some 3700 people participating,
qualifiers to pass before allowing to ride in it. Facts for me.
785miles in 72h18m with 4 hours sleep. Time limit 90 hours. No
shower, no change of cloth, only riding, riding some quick eating
and changing batteries for the front light. Nice weather all the way
with some sporadic very light and refreshing showers in Brest.

Wednesday 17/Aug/99.

As discussed earlier my first disaster happened with the Delta
flight cancelled to Paris on Wednesday 17/Aug/99. However I made it
out the next day on Thursday but got again scared at the airport
since some 40 people were overbooked. After some begging I got on
the flight and made it into Paris fine.

At the airport Charles de Gaulle in Paris I retrieved my bike and
jumped on the PBP bus organized by De Peres Travel for a fee of $
30.- to my Hotel in Saint Quentin in Yvelines/Guyancourt, close to
the ride start, just outside Versailles. The Hotel was packed with
riders from the States. My room was small but OK, hence nothing

Without delay I started putting my bike together and called Tom and
Janet to join me and bike friends from Florida/Ohio for a nice meal
at the local Plaza, just down from my Hotel in the Center of town.

After a good night sleep we went out the next morning Friday
20/Aug/99 on a "PBP training ride" for some 50 miles starting at the
Hotel Mercure in St. Quentin. Jim Solanic the fine Brevet organizer
from Florida joint us and it was very nice to see the old friends
from our Brevet series. The whole Ohio gang was out there too. We
all joint together for Lunch at the local plaza in St. Quentin and
ate pasta and drank wine.

After some siesta Tom, Janet, Mims and myself went out to explore
Paris. Janet found this perfect place for Dinner in Paris "Bistro
Breteuil" at Place de Breteul for $ 30.- all included from Hors
d'euvre to cafe expresso. Really good food. I went back at least 4
more times.

Saturday same routine, training ride, eating at the plaza, exploring
Paris and Bistro Breteuil.

Sunday a complete off day. Just eating in St. Quentin, sleeping,
relaxing, last bike adjustment.

Monday packing up the bags and store them in the Hotel until return.
Got some sleeping pills to fall a sleep and was ready for departure
to the Stadium at St. Quentin en Yvelines. They let the first riders
in at 8:15PM and we stood in line, got our first departure stamp in
our booklet and waited for departure from the Stadium at 10:15PM,
laying on the ground.

10:00PM, slowly but surely we got out of the stadium in time and it
was quite a spectacle with people cheering and clapping. One minute
silence for people who died on PBP before me, and off we went. It
was amazing to see all those red tail lights in the dark in front of
me, thousands, unbelievable, everybody with the same goal to finish
this ride in 90 hours.

Tom, Tim and myself we tried to move up some, to a group who was
riding our pace. However, with so many riders you kind of loose
control and wonder if your friends are still around. Therefore
everybody is yelling names to make sure that their biking buddie's
are close. Tom and Tim was hanging behind me. However in one small
town I made the wrong turn and had some Australian guys in front of
me. We figured this out quickly since the long line of red tail
lights went a different route, very visible at night. We turned
around and jumped in again. I found Tom and Tim again after some 20
minutes searching.

We rode all night long, all day long and the crowds thinned out
some. However, you never ride alone. In Tinteniac, some 200 miles
into the ride, arriving at 4PM I got a little nervous since the food
line was too long for my taste and went for a sandwich on the bike.
Tom and Tim wanted to eat at the stop in Tinteniac and I left them
behind. I have only seen them one more time on the whole ride when I
was on the return leg from Brest.

Next day Tuesday around 9PM I came to Loudeac and went down for two
hours sleep in some chouchettes prepared for the riders. I did not
shower or changed close, I was so tired. Just wanted to concentrate
on some sleep.

At midnight Tuesday I left Loudeac and rode by myself, seeing some
red dots from the tail light ahead of me, indicating the proper
route. After some 2 hours of riding in the hills I found two cyclist
riding my pace and they were French guys. One was 43 and the other
was 55 years old. I did some pulls in front, we rotated, started to
talk and somehow bonded. When you sweat together, young, old, black,
white all becomes one. This is the way I felt. They invited me to
eat at the same table and I met Papa who was their personal sag and
went from control to control.

I like to point out that the Bretagne from Carhaix to Brest is very
beautiful but very hilly. We had some serious climbs in front of us.
Not like the Georgia mountains but long and steady uphill.

We passed Carhaix, Brest, turned around and our goal was to reach
Loudeac still by day light on Wedneday. We did and I was totally
exhausted after some 200 miles in hilly terrain.

However my French buddie's wanted to keep pushing to Fougers some
80miles further and I was totally exhausted by then. However, their
commitment was to carry me into Paris under any circumstances.
Therefore I had no way out, did not want to disappoint them, kept
going until we reached Fougers around midnight. We had a quick meal,
went down two hours for some sleep and started riding again on the
final leg into Paris.

By this time I had not showered, did not brush my teeth once, had
the same cloth on, on and off the bike, riding or sleeping and
smelled like a dirty dog.

Papa was so nice to take my heavy big bag of the bike and carried it
all the way into Paris. This helped a little.

So we started on our last leg at 2AM on Thursday morning and kept
riding. I was about to fall apart by this time but my new friends
did not leave me behind and slowed down on the hills. The old man
even pushed me up the hills if I couldn't hold the pace. You know
how humiliating this can be! However, I did recuperate some and we
kept riding and riding and riding.

The young guy somehow smelled the arrival some 100 miles before
Paris and the pace he put on was tremendous for me. Some 22-23 miles
per hour. At this time I was not able to ride at the front anymore
and happy to stay in the draft of my friends. However the terrain
was flat by now but I suffered like I have never suffered before in
my life and my friends kept increasing the pace. I yelled often
"Slow down" and the old man would come back and push me for a while.
What a guy! We did stop twice in bars in some little towns and had a
"Pression" which is a draft beer. This had a great impact on me and
I was able to keep going a little better. Beer and wine was always
on the French guys menu during the ride and so on mine. Finally
after some heavy suffering we arrived at Nogent le Roi 50 miles
before the finish.


I broke down, physically and mentally at this point but did not let
loose and knew that I have to keep riding. I was ready to creep on
my knees to Paris if I had to.

I eat very quickly and told my friends that I already go ahead and
ride my own pace, very easy to recuperate until they reached me some
50 minutes later. This did help me a lot and when they finally
arrived I could not believe it! My friends now pulled a group of
some 30 riders behind them. The young and old guy in front all the
times! As soon as they came up to me they yelled. "Hans jump on
quickly" I had serious doubts that I could do it but somehow the
addrealine kicked in and I forgot how tired I was. Those last 30
miles in this big group were incredible. The pace increased again
and we rode into St. Quentin with a pace of 24 miles per hour. 10
miles before the finish a ride Marshall on a motorcycle came up and
closed the roads for us, diverted the traffic, stopped busses, you
name it. We kept the pace high and reached at some point racing
speed towards the stadium some 5 miles to go.

When we reached the stadium 500 local people cheered us on at the
round about before the stadium. What a feeling. I had the biggest
smile on my face I ever had. We decided to do a victory lap in front
of the crowds and they kept clapping their hands; "BON COURAGE,

In the stadium we got our cards signed and picked up some pictures
taken during the ride. My official time was 72h18m and I couldn't
walk anymore. However, I felt very much relieved and happy to have
finished this ride.

Some beer's in the Hotel and some left over sandwiches from somebody
helped me to recuperate.

Some information about my French biking buddy's. 43 and 55 years
old. 15 years old touring bikes 6-7 speed. Absolute minimum gear on
the bike. Arm/Leg warmers no helmets. Lighting system. The young guy
had a a handle bar bag with an oversized motor cycle battery his
father was charging while driving during daytime in the car. One had
an old rusty chrome flashlight mounted on the handlebar with some
home made brackets they have welded together. On the downhills I had
to light the way with my Cateye since it was a lot brighter, se we
could keep up the pace. Absolutely nothing exeptional on their bikes
at all. However they had some clipless pedals and good biking shoes.
I think I have seen them only very sporadically sipping on their

Food was mostly soup/bread at the stops. Some vegetable. I tried
some eggs and bacon and could not ride after this efficiently.
Water, Beer, Wine was all fine with them. We did stop twice on the
road for some pression, draft beers and this was very good!!!