For the eight years since my first PBP in 1999, I've told anyone willing to listen (and some who weren't) that Paris-Brest-Paris offers a unique and wonderful cycling opportunity - promising great challenge, wonderful people, and a great experience. I hope that I never promised fabulous weather. I had a wonderful ride (see article below), but there was much more to it for me.
As always, the experience of PBP started long before the event. I had the privilege of working with some great people at Randonneurs USA involved in getting the largest group of US riders ever to the event. Over 40 RBAs worked hard to offer qualifying rides and to prepare their riders for PBP. Through my travels, I witnessed first-hand the efforts of Mike Berry in San Diego, Susan Notangelo and Lon Haldeman in Arizona, the Davis Bike Club folks in California, Susan Plonsky in Arizona, Matt Settle in DC, and Susan France in Oregon. On these rides I also saw RUSA members assisting their RBAs and their fellow riders by volunteering. At home in Seattle, the usual outpouring of rider-volunteers brought us a great series of qualifiers. I rode some pre-rides with organizers (300, 600, 1000) and enjoyed the camaraderie of the larger group on the 200 and the 400.
I was proud to be part of a team of sixty SIR members and of a team of six hundred RUSA members bound for Paris. The tireless efforts of Don & Phyllis Hamilton to process memberships, of Don Bennett to keep the website updated, of Lois Springsteen to handle brevet results processing, and of Jennifer Wise to get our applications to the ACP benefitted us all and were impressive to watch. Equally impressive was the work of the ACP to register more than 5000 riders - many were involved; in particular, we saw the work of Jean-Gualbert Faburel as he processed results and helped us find an efficient way to register US riders and the work of Claude Lepertel as she registered all of us.
In Saint-Quentin en Yvelines before the ride, it felt like a reunion of old friends. Riders from Seattle were all over the place. A non-participant from Seattle called out to us in line in Paris at the Musee d'Orsay. I chatted with many RUSA members that I've known and I made the acquaintance of many more that I had not met before. Leroy Varga, the oldest member of the RUSA team, and Johnny Bertrand, the most experienced, were staying at my hotel. Puerto Rico RBA William Medina and some friends bumped into us at the Eiffel Tower on Thursday.
RUSA's board of directors was well represented. Treasurer Tim Sullivan, VP John Lee Ellis, and brevet coordinator Lois Springsteen were there to ride. Jennifer Wise and Don Hamilton were non-riders but on hand to help. Webmaster Don Bennett and newsletter editor Mike Dayton were there to ride, as were medal/award volunteers John Kramer and Peter Beeson. Super-volunteer Bill Bryant offered advice and assistance as always.
In addition to SIR and RUSA members, the reunion included international friends as well. Over the years, I've had the pleasure of participating in a few major international randonneuring events - two prior PBPs, two Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200s (2002 and 2006), London-Edinburgh-London in 2001, the Great Southern Randonnee (which I DNF'd in 2001), and the Rocky Mountain 1200 in 2002. So, in the days before this year's PBP, I ran into old friends from Canada, the UK, Denmark, and Australia.
Delighted to spend time with fellow randonneurs, I barely spent time riding or sightseeing before or after the ride. One day in Paris before the ride, we saw a couple museums, walked a lot, and met some friends for sunset pictures by the Eiffel Tower. A shakedown bike ride took a few of us to the grounds of the Palace at Versailles. After the ride, Bob Brudvik and I spent a great day riding around Paris on the rental bikes, drinking coffee and enjoying the atmosphere, before meeting the Dusslers and Greg Cox for dinner. Other than these excursions, however, I spent my time in SQY with other randonneurs.
Behind the scenes
Unlike my prior PBPs, this trip exposed me much more to the organization of the event. On Saturday, I joined Jennifer Wise and her husband Pierce in offering help to the ACP in setting up at the gymnasium. With her good French and winning personality, Jennifer is an amazing ambassador to the ACP from RUSA. I met the first family of the ACP - Bob and Suzanne Lepertel, still running strong, as well as their daughter Claude, who handles all French brevet results in addition to her PBP duties. Also present - president Pierre Theobald and do-it-all Jean-Gualbert Faburel, who processes all non-French brevet results. We liberally distributed gifts from RUSA and pins from SIR.
On Sunday, the volunteers at bike inspection and rider check-in included a strong RUSA contingent. Don, Pierce, and Bill working outside directing riders. Inside Phyllis and Jennifer handed out registration information and brevet cards to US riders. In addition to checking myself in and joining my SIR teammates for a picture at lunchtime, I spent much of the day inside the gym offering what help I could to US riders. Late in the day, many of the RBAs present gathered for a meet-and-greet and picture outside the gym. Afterwards, the board and volunteers gathered at Pizza Pino for a nice dinner.
On Saturday after the ride, I represented RUSA at a meeting and lunch of the Randonneurs Mondiaux. This is the association of correspondent organizations that sponsor brevets around the world. Specifically charged with the sanctioning of events of 1200km or more (other than PBP), the RM also promotes randonneuring around the world. Although I could probably have done without 7 hours of chair-riding after spending 4 days on my bicycle seat, I enjoyed meeting randonneur officials from around the world.
On Monday, I flew home still high on the experience. I can hardly wait until 2011!