Tortour & PBP 'all in one'

When the season 2015 approached, I was faced with the dillema how to make Tortour as well as PBP happen. The problem? Tortour started on Friday, August 14th and PBP on Sunday, August 16th. First one 1.030km and second 1.230km long.


As most of you know PBP only happens every fourth year and I surely didn't want to miss my third one. On the other hand I am probably one of the very few people who have done all six Tortours until this year. So, I wanted to keep this streak going. The problem wouldn't be so big, if I wanted to ride PBP just to finish. But with the first one racing and having 3 punctures exclude me from the first group (46,5h) and the second one doing as an easy outing with some friends (72h), I was ready to go for a fast one again. That also excluded me from starting PBP on Monday morning (which would give me more rest) as virtually all the fast guys start on Sunday afternoon. Some route checking and calculating ater, I decided it was possible to do both. As far I saw it, the lack of sleep was going to be the biggest issue in being succesful at both.

The friends from Laureus Team were kind enough to have me in their team again, altough it was going to be a 4 person event this year. Thank you Dani, Philippe and Luka for having me along for the ride! It was fun  as always. The prologue on Thursday afternoon was a bit different in a way that it was not the 4th rider's time that counted, but the average of times of all of us. With PBP in the back of my mind, I didn't really go full out, that is until Dani came flying by on the steepest part of the climb. I had to dig real deep to catch back up to him before the finish line. Great job Dani!

With the race starting at 4AM, we only got a partial sleep until 2.45, than breakfast and it was time to ride to the startline. The first TS was a Team Time Trial, the first one of three (another in the middle of the race and the last TS) and I was rider A, so I had the 2nd stage to do on my own.  So, 105km followed with quite a long rest, a stage from Grimsel Pass, the 2nd TTT, another climbing stage and the last two stages of around 120km. In all I had to race 399km, I did it pretty fast as it was expected of me. The weather was not very nice to us with rain and a pretty cold night from Friday to Saturday. The sleep in the follow car was not perfect, bubt I got a couple of winks here and there. We finished with another dose of rain, cold but happy around 4.30PM Saturday. It was time to pack for Irma and me, have some dinner and we were of to Paris with good wishes from all the team.

We arrived to Paris at 4AM, so not much of sleep in three nights leading to PBP, which will make you understand my later problems at the race better. In fact I shouldn't say a race, because it is really a brevet. The guys are supposed to ride together, share the burden, work together for the common goal of finishing as fast as humanly possible. You know me, I like racing too, but it just doesn't make a sense to keep attacking the group in the brevet? There were only around 20 of us in the group, so why not share our work and enjoy the ride together? I don't like to complain and it was by no means associated with me losing time on the second night, but it felt seriously wrong at the time.

On race day it all went smoothly, but not much time to do anything anyway. Had to get my bike from friend Miran, who was kind enough to do a bike inspection for me on Saturday. Getting the bike ready, the food&hydration for the first couple of stations, than off to lunch and meeting other Slovenian riders for a photo shooting before the start. In fact it was a bit too hectic for my liking, but you've got to do with what you have.

I started in the second wave at 16.15, so the plan was to try to catch the first group of the first wave as fast as possible. Of course I counted on having some like minded guys in my group who didn't mind taking their turn in front. It is always a question, is it  a race or not? Well, officially it is not a race but brevet. Just try to tell that to a guy that starts in the middle of a pack and wants to reach the first positions. In the group moving 40+ km/h through the outskirts of Paris? Well, I managed nonetheless and we were moving nicely outside of Paris towards Atlantic. So nicely in fact that we overtook the majority of first wave in a couple of hours. Some short hills after, before first control point we had them. The first Control means only taking in the needed food & drinks for the next 80km. Of course Irma was there at the right spot, so I just slowed down a bit and I was on the way with fresh two bottles. By the way, our average for the first 140km with 1000m of climbing was close to 38km/h. Not a race? ;)

"Only" 70-80 riders in a group meant a lot less shoving & shouting at the second CP, but there was still a sprint in and out of the Control. And running towards the point where you get the card stamped. Yes, you've heard me right - running. In cycling shoes. Enough said... 

During the night there was some fast riding, even some attacking, which in my opinion has nothing to do with randonneuring. But what can you do? While in the game you try play like the others do. So I didn't attack myself, but I did cover some moves when they seemed dangerous enough to stay stuck behind. In all, yes the group did thin down before dawn and yes, I could feel the lack of sleep creeping down on me way to early. So, I had all day to think about how much dangerous do I want to make it for myself and the others by doing the second night without a sleep break? 

I was a bit late leaving the last control before Brest and as I've learned there, one of the guys attacked and went solo while I was chasing the group. He made a good job of it and made it alone all the way to the finish. Unsupported! Awesome job for Byorn!

We had an enjoyable ride in a perfect sunny weather. After two rainy PBPs and a rainy Tortour a day before it did feel good riding in the sun again. After some more attacking late in the afternoon and remembering how cold last night was, I decided to stop for a couple of minutes on a CP to put on warm clothing for the night. I felt confident I can do a similar tempo as the group myself, but with more even pace which should be a nice break from all the fast/slow/fast again changes. To my surprise after some half an hour I saw some red lights in front of me. Yes, a couple of minutes more and I was back in my group. Surprised? Not really. Relieved? I don't know, I kind of liked riding my own tempo. Surely it showed that my legs are still in great shape, so it felt good. 

Than midnight came and my sleepiness came back. It felt really scary on some of the descent, riding 60km/h and realizing I lost my consciousness for a couple of seconds here and there. Of course I stayed at the back of the group trying to keep all others safe. But really, this is a brevet and even if you consider it a race, which race would be worth more than your own health? The question with an easy answer for me this time - I did stop for a 1,5h sleep break in Mortagne au Perche. It was goodbye front group for this time, but it got me back in order and I could enjoy the last two stages by riding myself again. It was a bit cold getting out of the car, so the whole break lasted some 2h 05min. A beautiful sunny morning was waiting for me and nice last kilometers to Paris. I did pass another PBP rider that morning, butI guess he was too tired to take my offer and join me riding in.

I did enjoy those last kilometers and soaking in the sun. Yes, there was some headwind for sure, but here I was finishing my third PBP, finishing strong and bettering my best time for more than an hour. Including a nice refreshing sleep break! I did enjoy the PBP very much, it is one of THE challenges for ultra-cyclists. I did miss the camaraderie of riding a slow race with friends like I did in 2011. And I did miss some more cohesion (and less attacking) in the front group. Maybe some food for thought for other participants in this group? How fast could we be with riding more clever, sharing the work, lowering pace up climbs and picking it up on flats? It is a brevet after all, and riding, even if it is fast, should be enjoyable. Especially WHEN it is fast!

If you are drawn to PBP, it is on your bucket list and you think you can learn from someone experienced, contact me. I can help you prepare the best you can and have a blast riding in France in August 2019. And why not, even have me ride with you and Irma supporting us during the ride the only way she can - the best! We'll take requests on the first come first served basis, so don' t wait too long...

Disclaimer: you have to be at least RAAM finisher to try to do this yourself (PBP a day after finishing Tortour).

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