Paris-Brest-Paris 2019 Experience
PBP is the holy grail and the grandest brevet available. The 2019 PBP saw the highest number of Indians participating till date. The prerequisites to ride PBP ensure that only physically and mentally strong riders with good endurance get entry. But the successful on time completion record was around 10% for Indians and took many of us by surprise. What went wrong?
I have huge respect for randonneurs and have to admit that I have only done 200 & 300 brevets. Riding multiple nights without sleep is beyond me. So this is an attempt at objectively analysing the reasons with the intention that future PBP riders could learn from this attempt.
“I will never race” - this is an oft repeated phrase I hear as I help riders choose a road bike at the bicycle store which I run. Majority of these riders are looking to do brevets or have done a few and are looking to upgrade. This approach has served them well in India because the conditions allowed them to ride for longer hours with lesser breaks and hence complete a brevet with lesser average speed.
This approach however was tricky to execute in PBP as the conditions this year were quite harsh, making it extremely difficult to ride a few nights with 2/3 deg centigrade. I heard many participants describe about European riders forming a pace line and riding at 30+ kmph and sleeping about 4 hrs in the night. Looking inwards, this approach doesn’t really give me an excuse to not do the longer brevets.
I am sure there are multiple ways to do the PBP, but this was an approach which few of us would have thought of. This requires the riders to practice riding faster and being able to ride in pace lines when tired, which is definitely not easy.
How do we implement the strategy to get faster?
- Have a structured training plan with emphasis on increasing your Functional threshold power
- Follow a balanced nutrition plan to achieve racing weight. Every kg you lose will make you faster on the climbs.
- Take a fresh look at equipment and apparel from the speed perspective. Things like - getting a bike fit and working to get more aerodynamic while being comfortable to ride 1200 kms, skin tight jerseys, lighter wheels and most importantly a nutrition plan that will enable you to maintain speed.
- Form small groups and train together with the intention of riding in pace lines.
- Participate in local club races (its perfectly ok to race :-) ). Interestingly only two riders from my city finished PBP in time this year. Both had started participating in the local club races and were getting faster leading to PBP.
There were a few other aspects as well. But I think this lack of speed is what really hit most of our riders. I leave out the other aspects to enable us to evaluate and debate this closely.
Would you like to discuss about it? Just drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will share my thoughts.
I should thank Gautam Narne, Rajesh Krishnamaneni, Vishal Kant, Hemanth Chandan, Siddharth Bachloo for sharing their experiences of the PBP this year, which allowed me to draw this learning.