Kate Churchill rides Paris-Brest-Paris in less than 80 hours!

Kate Churchill of Velo Club Baracchi has just returned from the Paris-Brest-Paris Randonneur, having ridden 1,230 kilometres (just over 760 miles) in less than eighty hours.

There were about 6,000 riders. The start was from the National Velodrome at St Quentin-en-Yvelines, a suburb to the south-west of Paris and near Versailles.



Churchill said, “We were sent off in groups of about 250 every 15 minutes. I started at 6.30 on Sunday evening (16th August). The first 10km were on closed roads and we set off with a police and motorcycle escort. The crowds at the roadside were amazing, with people cheering and clapping.”

Her plan was to ride to a hotel she had booked just before Brest control, hoping to reach it in 30 hours in the very early hours on Monday morning. However she lost time because it took so long at the controls, where it was easy to take an hour before setting off again.

Churchill was very tired as she left Carhaix, the control before Brest. It was about 11pm and there were still about 80km (50 miles) to go to the hotel, but the thought of a shower and a comfortable bed spurred her on.

She added, “However, not long after leaving Carhaix I was falling asleep and nearly ran off the road twice in quick succession,” but she managed a few minutes of sleep on bus shelter seat.

Shortly after getting going again, she was passed by a string of six Norwegians who asked her if she was OK. When she said I was tired and sleepy one of them said “take my wheel” and they talked to her and looked after her nearly all the way to the hotel, where she arrived at about 3am on Tuesday morning, had a shower, three sachets of protein/carbohydrate recovery powder and fell into bed for five hours’ sleep.

Churchill said, “Getting going again at 9am was really hard. The first hour back on the bike after a long stop was always a real trial, but after an hour the aches and pains would begin to subside and it would feel a bit easier.”

“The Brest control was 12km from the hotel – and who should I see but my Norwegians, so I was able to thank them properly for looking after me! I did a quick turn around and was finally on the homeward journey.”

“I had decided to split the return into two 300km rides so was aiming for Fougeres, half way between Brest and Paris, where I promised myself another sleep. I arrived just before 4am, had something to eat and found a mat in the gym for 3 hours sleep.”

A rendezvous with a friend on the journey

A rendezvous with a friend on the journey

She spoke highly of the support from local people all along the route and especially in the last 300km. Some people come to the roadside just to cheer. Others set up a stall outside their house and hand out water, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and sometimes food such as pancakes. Mostly they do not expect any payment.

Churchill said, “When you are feeling completely wasted, and it’s all feeling like it’s a step too far, some unknown person cheering you and shouting, “Bravo” or “Courage” is wonderful for the morale. Cycling is so much part of French culture that you have a sense that they know the scale of what all the riders are doing and also what they may be going through.”

She pressed on, wondering if she could get back by 2.30am on Wednesday morning and so finish within 80 hours. Just as it was getting dark she managed to tag onto a tandem and another rider. “They were travelling very fast but it was so easy sitting in the wheels that I concentrated very hard so as not to lose the wheel in front of me.”

After a good tow to the last control at Dreux, which was reached at just after 10.00pm, 40 miles remained. She had a quick meal of plain pasta and some cheese and set off.

She said, “Again I managed to get with a group, which was good as it is safer in the dark than being on your own. Eventually we could see the orange glow of the lights of Paris. The last 20km were very hilly with several killer climbs but we were so close and the pedals kept turning. Eventually I was counting down the remaining 10 kilometres of the ride. At last there was the National Velodrome.”

“The only downside to finishing in the middle of the night was that there weren’t many people to cheer us in but I didn’t care as I was very pleased to finish with a time of 79 hours and 32 minutes.”Screenshot_3


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