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Supporting "The ride of his life"

Paris - Brest - Paris 2003

By Jutta Geisler

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The details of the ride itself you can read in Reinhard’s report from PBP. I just want you to provide some impression of PBP from the view of the support team.


Planning PBP

The first time when my friend Barbara and I talked about supporting my husband on his PBP ride, we thought about spending a couple of vacation days, planned some sightseeing, talked about the French cuisine, small cafés, ice cream and freshly baked croissants. Because we had never done something similar before, we didn’t really know how to prepare and what to expect. We hadn’t heard at all about PBP and couldn’t believe that people would ride their bikes 1200 km just for fun.


Packing the car

It was also the first time for my husband to participate on PBP. Therefore, he decided to take everything that came to mind. The van we rented in Germany was fully packed but well organized. 10 boxes with spare parts, batteries, bike clothes, Bag Palm, medicine against everything, an extra box with spare wheels, the bike, two computers, the American and the German Flag, two GPS,  a small bag for Barbara and me.


Day before the start

One day before the ride started we went to the starting area. First of all we realized that there were thousands of people who wanted to ride 1200 km. More exciting was that you could see all kinds of bikes: old and new, singles, tandems and triplets, high wheels and bikes you have never seen before. We could feel the excitement and the suspense in the air and it felt like an electrostatic charge. Everyone got his bike inspected and was ready to go. There were only a couple more hours to the start.


Day of the start

The morning of the Prologue we stayed at the hotel preparing for the next day and studying the route we had to drive. We didn’t get to watch the Prologue because of the light rain, and we felt sorry about that after we heard Reinhard’s report.


The start

The start itself was very impressive. After we found a parking lot we searched for Reinhard, Dan and Barb and finally found them in all the crowds. We walked with them and thousands of other people into the velodrome where we saw all those riders who were ready to go and take the challenge for being a part of PBP 2003. We wished good luck and abandoned them to their fate. Barbara and I went down on the street and waited for the first group to start. We got a good spot and then tried to figure out, in which group they were in. We just saw thousands of lights which looked from the distance like lightning bugs. Only when the riders were pretty close you could see their faces. After waiting for a long time we eventually saw them passing us with smiles on their faces. This was the moment they had waited for after training several months.


Start of the support team

When we started at 5:00 am the next morning we missed the exit on the interstate and decided to take the next exit which led us to the main gate of castle Versailles which was closed that time in the morning. This was only the first time we get lost. Several other similar situations followed. With a GPS and a computer in the car, we always found our way back quickly. I soon learned to love the many roundabouts you can find in France. Barbara always told me the exit which I had to take like reading a watch: 3:00 o’clock meant right turn, 9:00 o’clock left turn, 12:00 o’clock straight ahead. When she told me 6:00 o’clock, I always knew we were lost.If she needed a little bit more time to figure out the route, I kept circling. What a wonderful development those roundabouts are.


The control points

The control points were not clearly marked at the route sheet, but we realized soon that it was easy to find them. Even when we were not usually allowed to go the same route as the riders, we could do that within the small towns. We followed the riders or mostly some of the RV’s. One time a group of ten cars followed one RV which led us to a dead end. We were all in a good mood and laughed at ourselves. The control points were crowded all the time. Reinhard called us over the cell phone and told us what he wanted. We stayed in line to get the food or went shopping to buy the food he liked to eat. Sometimes you had to stay in line for at least 30 minutes or more. The riders also had to stay in line for restrooms. We couldn’t help with that.


What to do and what to see on the tour

We also experienced that there was not much time for sightseeing. Mostly we were busy with driving, buying food, standing in line to get food at the control points, shopping for the special needs and waiting at the control points. It wasn’t that bad because we had a lot of fun at the control points watching all the riders with their different bikes and listening to the support groups that sometimes sang traditional songs when their riders came in. All this and talking to different people made it worth while to give up our first thoughts of sightseeing and vacation. Over all we were mostly busy with support duties, but sometimes we found one of those little cafés, set down, and watched the riders coming in while having a cup of coffee and a croissant. We enjoyed how the French decorated their towns with flowers for this occasion.


Motel Van

The worst thing was missing sleep. The route for the supporting cars led us through scenic areas. The bad thing about that was slow driving, many miles and nothing other than country side. Sometimes it was hard to find a place to have lunch. The hotels were mostly several miles beyond the route and the control points. One night we had to decide between dinner or sleep. We decided to sleep, but that was only 1 hour. We had to get up again, drive to the control point and meet Reinhard who needed the van to sleep in and recharged batteries for his light. While Reinhard slept in the van, Barbara and I stayed in the front seats and tried to get some sleep, too. It wasn’t that easy. Two or three hours later, Reinhard stood up and got ready to leave again. After we helped him find everything he needed, got him some food, and waited until he went out again, we drove back to the hotel and slept for another 2 hours or so. One time during the day I had to find a parking lot to get 30 minutes sleep because I couldn’t drive anymore. The last night we decided to cancel the hotel because it was too far away from the control point, and it didn’t make sense to do all that driving without much sleep.

One night we couldn’t find a parking lot close to the control point. We parked one 1 mile away on the top of a hill. Then we walked down to the control point, and we decided it wouldn’t work. When Reinhard came in tired and cold, he would not want to climb the hill. At that moment Barbara spotted an empty parking lot. While I was walking back to the car, Barbara blocked the parking lot for the van, ready to fight if necessary. Now we were directly near the control point. We were satisfied with our job.


The finish

The finish was nothing spectacular. We saw about 4000 riders and several hundreds of visitors at the start. At the finish we saw about 3 or 5 riders every minute and maybe 100 people who watched the finish. The riders got their last stamp and that was the end. Of course in the velodrome were many riders who talked together, some of them were just sleeping on the grass after they came in. Reinhard was so excited, that he didn’t feel sleepy at all and stayed at the velodrome for about two hours. Then we went back to the hotel, took a shower and got ready for bed at 8:00 pm. We all needed a twelve-hour sleep.


Would we do it again?

I believe that the support team had the same feelings as the riders. Most of them said “No” directly after the finish. A day later it didn’t look that bad. It was hard and we were tired, but we also had a lot of fun, too. The next time we could do things better now that we know what to expect, and maybe it would be easier. We don’t know yet, but we have time: next PBP is 2007.



Up PBP 2003 PBP Support Summary 2003 600k Brevet Brevets 2003


top Last updated by Ridehard -     03 Dec 2004