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Went to Paris, bought some espadrilles [The BPB]
WORDS: Max Leonard | PHOTOS: Andrew Edwards
If you didn’t already know, some at Rapha towers are undertaking the PBP, the Paris-Brest-Paris, this year. We, on the other hand, decided to do the BPB. That’s right: the Brighton-Paris-Brighton. An as-yet unheralded, completely disorganised endurance event. Around 360km on the bike and nine hours on the ferry in one weekend.
Why? Why do dogs lick their undercarriages?* More poetically, to quote the route sheet for one year’s Dunwich Dynamo: ‘In England – where there has to be a product – they ask: “Is it for charity?” In Flanders, Italy, Spain or rural France, where lunacy is celebrated, they say: “What beautiful madness!”’
This trip wasn’t quite such beautiful madness as the last time we rode to Paris (one way, on track bikes, a jaunt christened ‘One Day, One Gear’). But my riding buddy and I had matching bikes and matching kit. Why not celebrate with a two-up team time trial to the City of Lights?
Carrying only what we could fit in our jersey pockets and – horror of horrors – saddlebags, we set off for the overnight ferry. English guys, Italian bicycles, German jerseys, the French capital… how could we be more EURO? The answer, it turned out, was Belgian weather. We arrived in Dieppe at 5am on Saturday, just in time for 120km of dark, wet riding, first along the Avenue Verte, an old railway line that speeds you south, then along the D915, a Roman-straight road with nowhere to shelter from the downpour.
Although the rain didn’t let up, spirits lifted as the light came and the Garmin, redeeming itself somewhat after it had refused to read our route, testified that we were flying along. ‘There’s no such thing as a tailwind,’ runs the old adage: ‘there’s either a headwind or you’re having a good day.’ This, however, was a clear tailwind.
Five hours’ riding on straight, flat roads, has a pleasing simplicity: food in, energy out… food in, energy out; do a turn, follow a wheel… do a turn, follow a wheel. The Paris suburbs, though, were neither pleasing nor simple – dirty and convoluted, and full of B roads that turn in to motorways with no warning. Dodging traffic in endless retail strips, we found our way to the Porte de Clichy, into Paris proper and, after a spin up the Champs Elysées, lined with empty grandstands ready for the Tour finish, smuggled the bikes into the hotel.
Then, a problem: what to do? It was lunchtime in Paris, and we hadn’t planned anything to do at our destination. So we watched the climb up to Super Besse on TV, and Hinault laying down the law to the GC contenders, then went out to buy some espadrilles. Necessary, to avoid duck-walking all day in cleats; and necessary also to say, when answering the question ‘What did you do this weekend?’ ‘Oh I went to Paris and bought some espadrilles.’
Sunday began with an epic dawn raid on the hotel breakfast buffet, with the Nutella cache particularly badly hit. Then we saddled up, retracing the route in Sunday morning quietness. Rolling through Picardie cornfields and past turreted chateaux in Normandy in patchy sun was a completely different experience than the day before. The previous day’s tailwind was now a slight headwind, but the absence of rain made up for it. Average speeds were a kilometre or two per hour down, but tired legs only began to complain on the final stretch before lunch, an omelette frites at the start of the Avenue Verte. [Please note: 50 monotonous kilometres on the Avenue Verte on a Sunday afternoon dodging rollerbladers will make you question your love for cycling.] The final kilometres of any long rides are always a mind game, but the featureless railway path was really hard work.
Luckily, at the end, a beer in a bar overlooking the harbour and then cassoulet on the ferry home. The perfect recovery combination.
*Because they can.
Max Leonard and Andrew Edwards are the authors of Fixed: Global Fixed-Gear Bike Culture
- How good is this shot ! “@TourdeKorea2013: @mike_cuming looking good in yellow! #TdK2013 @johnherety @raphacondor http://t.co/CrCV1zkCUB”
- RT @TourdeKorea2013: @mike_cuming looking good in yellow! #TdK2013 @johnherety @raphacondor http://t.co/oCjdyhvSue
- Reality check we also lost teammates @AaronBuggle and @carthy94 today. Going to be tough to defend.
- @mike_cuming in yellow with just over a minutes lead going into the final 2 stages of @TourdeKorea2013 couldn't of happened to a nicer guy
- RT @TourdeKorea2013: 25km to go in Stage 6. @mike_cuming is the virtual leader for @raphacondor. #TdK2013
- RT @TourdeKorea2013: 102 riders will sign on today after eight were dropped by their teams in the TTT and failed to make the time cut. #TdK…
- RT @London_phill: @raphacondor @MiBsponsor @james_fairbank_ Rapha team in Tour De Korea 2013 TTT http://t.co/SW09x70Zs0
- RT @182Jay: @raphacondor please share my @JustGiving page @thomwilson88, @DavidMetherell1 and I are fundraising for @MyelomaUK http://t.co…
- Great ride by the boys in Korea. 3rd by only 3 seconds in the 25km TTT today. Mike Cuming now up to 5th overall.
- Some nice pics of the boys and report on the great Mr Cancy's ride last night: http://t.co/ctoHu37ixb