Leeds Beckett lecturer to cycle 1,200km in 80 hours
David Lane, Principal Lecturer in Marketing at Leeds Beckett, will join over 6,000 entrants (500 from the UK) competing in the Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) long distance cycling event, one of the oldest and most demanding bicycling events still regularly run.
Considered tougher than the Tour de France, the 1,200km bike ride runs every four years and sees solo cyclists ride day and night unaided, to complete the course within the pre-defined time limit of 80 hours. To avoid cheating, each rider must sign in at a number of controls along the course, including a secret control for extra security.
Speaking ahead of the race, David said: “Paris-Brest-Paris was something I was aware of but hadn’t considered before late 2014. When it last ran in 2011 I’d only just got back on a bike again and if you had asked me then I would have thought you were crazy.
“My motivation is simply that this is considered one of the key individual rides across the world. It’s the original event and one of the biggest; if I hadn’t tried to qualify this year I would have had to wait until 2019 at the earliest.”
Audax or long distance timed racing originated in Italy as an endurance sport. The first PBP race, designed to promote the practicality of the bicycle, took place in 1891 and was only open to French, male riders. Since then the rules and regulations have evolved considerably, including the addition of foreign and female cyclists and the change from race status to non-competitive sport – success is now measured by completion, however the organisers of the event, Audax Club Parisien, still award trophies and prestige to the first finishers.
To qualify, riders must complete a series of organised rides (brevets) of 200/300/400 and 600km across several months and in specified timescales.
Preparation and training are key to the ride, as David explained: “It’s about being creative with time and opportunity; I rode the Great Yorkshire Bike Ride in June and in addition to the qualifiers, I’ve been including other long-distance rides in my training schedule, including Etape du Dales, which is 180km of the Yorkshire Dales.
“Mental preparation is a key element of these events. I see these rides as a mental switch-off; a time to think rather than something to be endured.”
As cyclists must ride unaided, without the support of either a team or vehicle, it is necessary for them to carry their own food, spares and clothes, David said: “The list is quite short since I’ve got to tow things I (hopefully) won’t use from one side of France to the other and back again. It’s about a balance between carrying too much and trying not to stop too often.”
David aims to complete the course in 64-72 hours: “I’ve complicated things by booking a B&B on the Wednesday evening, leaving me with 72 hours to complete the ride. The plan is to ride the first 600km to Brest on the West coast without stopping, except for controls. At that point I’m planning to sleep for a couple of hours, with a further 2 hours at the 900km point.”
Sleep is the thing that David is most looking forward to post-ride, however it will be minimal as he is straight back to the UK to prep for the new academic year. A member of Ravensthorpe Cycling Club, he has many more events planned, including a 80km time trial and a 200km night audax across the Pennines: “I’d started this event saying to people that I’d do the qualifiers only, with the aim of riding London-Edinburgh-London in 2017. This event is like riding from Land’s End to Inverness in 3 days, so why not make it John ‘O’Groats in 4 in 2016? Alternatively I could just come to my senses!”
The Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) runs from the 16 to 20 August. The challenge begins at the national velodrome of Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines in Montigny-le-Bretonneux with the route including controls at Villaines-la-Juhel, Tinténiac, Loudéac, Brest, Mortagne au Perche and Saint-Nicolas-du-Pelem.