Information shamelessly taken from YACF forum and collated.
Note: John Barkman’s 48:51:10 makes him the fastest Brit PBP so far, being 9 minutes faster than Gethin Butler’s 2003 time.
Solo unsupported winner 1200km in 42-hours 26-minutes by Bjorn Lenhard Unofficial Results what is remarkable from his account is that he rode solo unsupported for a 600km+ breakaway. Holding off a chasing pack. Maybe this guy should try the Transcontinental.
Some video in which he appears to riding effortlessly. Checking his Strava upload is pretty staggering. He was moving for all but 88 minutes of that time at an average speed of 18.7 mph, serious power there.
His own very humble and honest ride account:
I’m the fastest PBP rider 2015. Because there are a lot of questions to my ride, I got my report translated. Many, many thanks to Jessica Müke, who did this for me !!! So please enjoy the report and if there still questions, feel free to ask. I will try to answer them.
The first time I heard about PBP was in 2011. I had started cycling and wanted to get fit for „Fichkona“. A friend of mine told me about brevets, which he would like to do in preparation. So I went to Bennewitz and rode 200 and 400k. 2011 was a year, in which the PBP took place and things went crazy. For me the 600k of Fichkona were exciting and challenging as well. I couldn’t imagine doing 1200k from Paris to the Atlantic coast and back.
How could someone spend so many hours on the bike? What about eating and drinking? Sleeping? A lot of questions. Though I was fascinated from the very beginning, because I have heard a lot about PBP and I got hooked.
Because of PBP just takes place every forth year, I had plenty of time for training. Everything turned out well last year, I did a lot of brevets (one 1000k brevet, so I had the chance to sign in for PBP at the beginning). I really wanted to start in block A in the front, to save time at the check points on my way home. With my experiences of riding 1000 and 600k I started to make a plan. A very simple one.
I thought it might be possible to go for an average speed of 30km/h, a max. of 15 minutes of break at the check points and no sleep at all. In total that would be 44 h and 15 min. Faster would be great, but at least to finish in less than 48 h.
Of course I thought about the things I should take with me. There are 11000 m of altitude – all the things I would carry with me, would cause an effect during the ride.
The weather forecast was amazing, no rain, 10 up to 23°C, a breeze blowing from Northeast. What else could I ask for?
I decided not to take the waterproof jacket with me and no changing clothes. Actually I didn´t want to take the windstopper jacket, but I carried it, though I had never needed this jacket. But I took the safety vest.
There was a lot of space in my front bag (for food) and in my jersey.
The things I took with me in the front bag: air pump, Chamois creme, mobile phone, isotonic adds for the water bottles, salted cashews and a baguette with Nutella.
I placed two batteries for the light and my Garmin on the stem.
Before we started at 4 pm I put the safety vest on because soon it would be dark and I didn´t want to loose any time. Still some space left in my jersey, next to the jacket, stamp card and some money, so I carried another bottle. It wasn´t too hot, so I thought I´d make it until the first check point in Villaines la Juhel (220k), leaving the first catering service behind (140k).
We arrived 30min in advance in the Velodrome and we were at the back of block A (approx. 250 people). I wasn´t that happy about being far behind, but I didn’t want to queue for getting the best position hours before we started. We had enough excitement without fighting for the best position. So time for going to the loo and to pump up the tyre. 10 min before we started we rode to the official starting point. I lost Martin and Olaf for the first time. After a short speech we started at 4pm. If I think of my former brevets, the start has been always relaxed. First there is the starting signal and then the peloton moves on. Without pressure, without fighting for the best positions. Mostly I was out front in the wind and later on just together with a few people or on my own.
But what was going on in here? Felt like a race. Wrangling and battles for positions – this was not what I wanted. And I don´t think that this suits a brevet. The first 20 k has been a stressful right behind the leading car. I just didn´t want to crash (there were a lot of traffic islands), everything else would be ok. The peloton got more relaxed when we left Paris and the suburbs. But we were too fast. All the time people tried to go in front and to put some pressure on. Nothing to do with what I usually experience when cycling with others. I needed to be very carefull. I decided to ride in the front (against my plans) of the peloton. Didn´t take a lot of time until I was first. Hard work not to fall behind again. From time to time increasing speed during the first kilometers. My heart rate went way too often behind 180 bpm. But my legs were still fresh and I was feeling pretty good.
Right before we reached Mortagne (must have been at kilometer 100) I saw some cyclists from block B (they had started 15min later) for the first time reaching the peloton. Wow, until then I had an average speed of 35 km/h. What´s going on with these guys?
That was going to be fun. Marko Baloh – he finished five times the Race across America (RAAM) – was also with us. Robert told me: „Try to find him and stick to his rear wheel.“ I never expected me to find him in the crowd. We talked for a little while until we reaches the catering point in Mortagne. People went crazy there, because everybody wanted to get the best position to get some food quickly. I started again slowly and Martin could reach me.I was pleased to see him, I was worried if he had fallen behind. He had a third bottle as well, so we skipped the next catering point. Soon the peloton got faster again. More than just once I was out front in the wind. Easy for me, my legs were still strong. Me and Mickael, a French guy, who rode for the first time PBP, did the job at the front. His English and German was quite good, so we could talk to each other. On my way to the first check point I was running out of water . Lucky me, Martin still had some water left. He gave me his third bottle – that helped a lot. We reached the first check point after 220 k at Villaines la Juhel. I was shocked by the fact that nearly everybody seemed to have an own team of companions. When the cyclists reached the check point the companions almost snatched the bikes out of their hands. Then they sprinted in their cycling shoes to the check point to get a stamp. Other companions put them some food in the jerseys. When they came out, the bikes were ready to go, of course with refilled water bottles. Except my bike. I was on my own, „no support“.
No chance for me not to stop, I just quickly refilled my bottles. As I came back, only my bike was left. Quite lonesome on the street. Doesn´t matter, I was about 1 hour faster than I had planned. There were a lot of signs on the road, my navigation and light was running well, the weather was also perfect. No need to worry. I kept telling me, that I could do it on my own. I was back on the bike and was happy to ride „my own“ pace. After a short time I reached more and more cyclists. You could say, I was sort of a sweep bus behind the peloton. After another 15 k, I could see the red lights of the peloton.
Motivation was high and so I could reach them. I didn´t expect that.
I tried to relax at the back of the peloton, but I was getting bored because the pace was too slow. I met Mickael again and told him about my experiences at the check point. He told me that the peloton agreed to stop in Fourgeres to have a break of 5 min. Quite nice, so I had the chance to leave together with the other cyclists. Again, people ran on their „high heels“ to get the next stamp. Same procedure as last time. No baguette left, just gels – I needed some food. I reached the catering point and bought four croissant – the people there were quite surprised. I was way too fast for a guy with no support. Must have been ages, until I got what I wanted. I carried the croissants in my jersey, refilled the bottles and left quickly. Again, I was the only one who was left. Well, you did it once, you can do it a twice. I was really angry. I didn´t want to be the sweep bus again. I was rushing through the night. I passed 5 people, who had no chance to keep up with me. Good fun for me! When I reached the peloton again, I enjoyed the slipstream until the next stop in Tinteniac (kilometer 363).
I was more relaxed now. It´s pretty stupid to rush too much and leave a lot of things behind as I can´t be as fast as some others.
I got the next stamp and bought some food. Again, a lot of surprised people, who didn´t expect me. Even people from outside started to pay attention – there is a guy without support. A companion from Belgium told me to wait for his cyclist to ride together. Sorry, but I don´t need anyone who just want me to do the dirty job and enjoy cycling in the slipstream. People applauded as I left and chased the peloton. Once again I made it to the front. I was involved in doing the leadership job again. My legs were still doing what they should do, so why not increasing the pace? In Quedillac, after 389k there was a hidden check point. Went inside to get the stamp and quickly continued riding. Because I was first inside and out again, I thought about leaving on my own. More than once it happened that nobody wanted to do the leadership job in front when I wanted to relax or the pace was getting too slow. Still a lot of kilometers to go, so I decided to wait. Until the check point in Loudenac there were a few runaways, but we always catched them. 10 k before Loudenac there was a last runaway. Two people were quite far in front of us. The peloton noticed that and put on some pressure. There was a Belgium circle and when I was out front nobody could keep up. I had so much energy/speed left over that I just left everyone behind. I thought about what to do. Getting back in the peloton or trying to catch the two people in front of me. I decided to catch them.
I did a few kilometers on my own, until Marko Baloh and two others reached me. Great, what took you so long joining me? We (4 guys) went on and on. My heart rate increased. There it was, the feeling of racing. We finally catched the runaways in Loudenac. The peloton followed 1 or 2 minutes later. Maybe futile efforts, but it was so much fun!
In Loudenac same procedure as always. Everyone was ready and gone. Except me. Once again I followed them. I was lucky, because only after a few kilometers, the peloton stopped for a short break. I was in such a hurry to reach the peloton – now I had to wait. I thought about leaving on my own again, because nobody ever waited for me. Why should I wait? But I did so. Too much respect of what was still left to ride. We went to Carhaix (kilometer 526. Again and again I was out front in the wind. Still everything was good and I was happy. But you could see the pain of others. Our fast pace was not that easy for everyone. In Carhaix I just needed to collect the stamp and refill my bottles, I still had some food left. Very nice not to ride behind!
We were back on the street – must be 20 or 30 people left. Me in front. People who know me, could tell that it´s quite hard for me to find my pace again after a break. Same here. I couldn´t be that fast. We went through some villages, quite steep streets, no traffic lights or other traffic signs to respect or a railway level to stop at. After a few minutes I turned around and nobody was there! What happened? Are they done or was there an accident? I couldn´t hear anything. I decided to go on. From my point of view that was just what I suspected. Is this the sign? I was alone on my way to Brest. You could see a beautiful scenery. Then a long way down from the only real „hill“ (well, 300 m high). I kept turning around, but nobody was there. The leading car was in front and I followed. Before Brest there were people from a TV station, who filmed me until I arrived at the next check point. A lot of drivers and people on the streets waved and cheered me. It was a great feeling being the first. No matter how the way back home would be like, that had been the most wicked 600 k I´ve ever ridden.
I planned to arrive in Brest at 1:43pm. In fact I reached Brest at 11:34am. More than 2 hours earlier and an average speed of 32 km/h.
I could not fail to finish in 44h – that was what I originally planned. At the check point in Brest same business as usual: People full of amazement because of me – a cyclist without support. The catering point was quite far away, so I ran. From now on the clock was running against me. But what should I do? I needed some food. I took some croissants, bananas and coke and placed it on the bike. TV was filming me. People around were amazed. When I was leaving, the peloton reached the check point. That was the last time I saw the others. Only in Paris I should see some of the cyclists again.
I kept going, leaving Brest on another road. After a few minutes I was back on the same road I took on my way to Brest. Now I experienced oncoming traffic. I met about approx. 6000 cyclists during the day. Practically I´ve seen everybody, the second and the last late at night. There were a lot of different kind of bikes: 20 “ folding bikes, 26“ MTB, randonneurs, road bikes, tandems, recumbent bikes, cigarrs (recumbent bikes with three wheels and fully covered) and some bikes, which were more like a stepper on two wheels. Everything from new to old, including the clothes. Almost everyone said Hi, waved or put their thumbs up. That was a good motivation. Of course I said hello too, as often as I could. But to be honest, at some point it was pretty annoying, if you imagine there were 6000 people to say Hi to. I was happy about cycling in the dark again, so I didn´t need to say Hello to everyone. Shortly after the two roads met I saw Martin in front of a crowd cycling towards me. We both tried to shout a few words, but we couldn´t understand a thing. But I was happy to see him in time. If he could keep up, he would be able to finish in 50 h. After a few minutes I met Olaf. „Are you first?“, he asked me. I was screaming a „yeeeees“ back. Now time was rushing. The leading car still in front. From time to time some motorbikes passed and asked me if everything was ok. One of them stopped the time to the peloton behind me. During the whole day I always had 18 up to 22 min lead. Now the check points were much more crowded. A lot of cyclists, who were still on their way to Brest. Some were just sitting down, sleeping, eating or having a break. This was the time when the people from the check points really expected cyclists. I was lucky that I had some people who escorted me to the check and catering points, so no need for me to queue. I hope that I wasn´t too rude. Except from one German cyclist, who was not amused, everybody was understanding. If there is someone, who was upset re my behavior, I would like to say sorry!
Now a lot of people helped me to refill my bottles or just took care of the bike for a second. I was in the middle of a crowd. People were asking questions, had a look on my bike and were taking photos No matter where I stopped, people couldn´t trust their eyes. I would have loved to stay longer, but the clock was still running. All the time I tried to figure out, where I was etc and of course where this would end up. I couldn´t go as fast as I was on my way to Brest. The last 400k were pretty exhausting, including a headwind from Northeast. Not a very strong one, but still enough to recognize.
The end was rushing by. I had some great adventures at the check points. A lot of people were standing on the side walks, cheering me on. The villages were decorated with all kind of bicycles, big and small ones. There you could see, that French people have a totally different relationship to cycling/their bikes. We just took small roads, but I never experienced rude drivers, though they needed a lot of patience. Later that day, it seemed that the oncoming cyclist were getting slower and slower. You could see exhaustion in their faced and even how they moved the pedals didn´t look very easy. I saw people, who had started just one hour after me – and now they were still on their way to Brest. I tried to calculate when they would finish. It was a struggle for me, but to cycle as twice as long as me? All I can say: Well done!
I arrived at the check point in Fougeres by night. It was quiet re to the oncoming cyclist. But people seemed to get more and more interested in me like my reputation preceded me.
Lucky, that this was the only check point where I could buy a sandwich. I was lost in my thoughts, so I just bought one – after so much time I couldn´t imagine eating more croissants and bananas. Some sort of fatal, because at the next check point there was no food left. But I got through! I still had some gels, a dry biscuit and a coke left.
No problems to stay awake for another night. I never experienced microsleep or inattention. No chance to drink some Red Bull like I did during the last 1000k brevet – simply because there was no Red Bull! Just had my gels left, with a little shot of caffeine. I don´t know, if they had a special impact on me and I will never know. Just to be extra careful, I drove all night in the middle of the street. The surface of the road was much better and just in case I would get a bit sleepy, I would have some more meters left before I`d fall into the ditch. I guess there was way too much adrenalin in my body, to get really tired. There were no motorbikes, just the car in front of me, so nobody could tell me about my lead. I turned around, more than just once, to check if I could see any lights. But there were none.
The day dawned many kilometers before I reached Dreux – the last check point. It was pretty cold (about 8°C) and this was the only moment, where I thought about putting on my windstopper jacket. But I wanted to save time, so I didn´t. Couldn´t take a lot of time, until the sun would come out. I tried to ignore the cold and thought about reaching the Velodrome and to be first. I thought about if before, but I couldn´t imagine to do it on my very own. Again I turned around, anxious that there could be someone right behind me. And I saw some cyclists! Hallucinations. Never experienced such a thing before. I saw two white cyclists, 10 secs later there was only one green cyclist left. Must have been traffic signs. The whole hallucination period lasted until I reached the finish line. I still needed to stop for a few times to go to the loo – then I had a profound look on the road. No cyclists at all, I calmed down. I picked up the stamp at Dreux and two croissants, even though I was sick of it. People were cheering me on, usually the check point would have opened two hours later! Back on the bike, there were only 64 k to go. A pretty flat part, passing the suburbs of Paris. The car was still in front of me and helped me to pass. My energy was back, it was warm and I enjoyed the road. Again and again a lot of people, who couldn´t believe their eyes.
Then I thought about what could go wrong. „Hopefully no breakdown, just try to keep up.“ And finally I could see the sign, telling me, that there were just 10 k left. I passed the last traffic lights and roundabouts. After that I needed to pass a sport park.
And then: There it is, the Velodrome! The finish line in front was quite small. But a huge amount of people, TV, photographers. Everybody was cheering. I stopped and the first thing I did, was taking off my shoes. A few people congratulated me and some took pictures. Now I needed to go into the Velodrome to get the last stamp. I moved in – a bit lonely inside compared to the days before. Just a few volunteers who were happy to see me. I sat down, doing nothing than just eating. First time after 42h and 26 minutes! Now I had time, no need to rush. That was an amazing feeling. A man from the UK sat down next to me. We talked for a little while, while I was eating pasta with chicken. Delicious as hell. As I finished eating, a few more cyclists arrived. I talked to them. Again taking pictures, shaking hands, people who were just full of admiration. They asked me how I could do this on my own and if there was some sort of hidden support.
I walked to the camping site with burning hands, feet and bum. 12 k, but it took me about 45 min. My plan was to have a shower, something to eat and then to check my mobile phone for messages. But after 56 h with no sleep, my body needed some rest. I ended up in my sleeping bag – happy but I fell asleep soon.
Paris-Brest-Paris, what an amazing event. Well organized, no negligence. If you were taking the wrong entrance, there were people who would guide you to the right one. The route was full of signs, up and down all the time – this is what I love. Thank you very much!!!
To answer the question about my upcoming plans and what I want to do next: Yes, I have something in mind. An event, which is far longer than PBP and had always been a dream to me. Now I think, I could do it. Just need to think about the funds:
I would like to take part in the Race across America (RAAM) in 3-5 years. 4800k on my own, straight through the USA from West to East. To prepare, I would like to do similar events in Europe up to 3000k.