Paris-Brest-Paris - The Race You Cannot Win!

Cycle it you must!

Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) is a long distance cycling event on every road cyclist's bucket list.

The PBP currently comprises two different sub events, the first is the randonnée or brevet where the cyclists ride full-on lone wolf, with no support team to help them. They must buy food when they are hungry and fix their own mechanical problems. The randonnée is held every four years. The second type is the audax where cyclists ride in packs. The audax is held every five years.

In order to qualify for this epic test of cycling endurance, the rider must have completed a number of other randonneuring events within the 12 months preceeding the PBP event. This sounds easy until you realise that the events are 200 km, 300 km, 400 km and 600 km.

Fun facts about Paris-Brest-Paris

1. The contestants have a maximum of 90 hours to complete the 1200 km course and must check in at all of the checkpoints along the way.

2. The first race was organised by the "Petit Journal" newspaper way back in 1891. The newspaper's owner Pierre Giffard was keen to show as many people as possible how awesome the bicycle was. Although the large majority of the over 200 entrants rode bicycles, there were actually 10 tricycles and two tandems! The winner of the first race rode without sleeping for 71 hours 22 minutes.

3. Between 1891 and 1951, the PBP was run as a race.

4. The latest 2019 PBP will host over 6000 riders from every corner of the cycling world.

5. The first woman to complete the PDP race was Mlle Vassard in 1931.

6. The event is older than the Tour de France!

7. Many of the villages along the route are decorated and provide food and drinks for the riders.

8. The fastest amateur time of 42 hours 26 minutes was ridden by Björn Lenhard of Germany in 2015.

9. The fastest pro time of 38 hours 55 minutes belongs to the Frenchman Maurice Diot in 1951.

10. All cyclists love cake and sure enough a cake was made in 1891 called the Paris-Brest. A round choux pastry filled with praline favoured cream. Tasty and looks like a cycle wheel, kind of. :)

However magnificent they looked, cycling clothes really have come a long way.

We love it that men and women can ride together in the Paris-Brest-Paris - this is perhaps something that other large cycle events could be inspired by ;)

Find out more about applying for the PBP here.

All photos were actually taken during the Paris-Brest-Paris races during the early years of the 20th century and are shown here courtesy of Europeana.

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