KOCHI: Imagine cycling for 90 hours straight to cover 1,220 km without proper rest or food. That’s Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) for you. The oldest long-distance ultra-endurance cycling event held in France once in four years was started in 1891. And for the very first time, the recently concluded edition which was held between August 18 to 22 saw a Kerala presence with 13 cyclists from the state belonging to Cochin Bikers Club taking part. Organised by Audax Club Parisien, the criteria for participation requires willing cyclists to complete a series of stipulated long-distance rides of 200, 300, 400 and 600 km before being eligible for the registration.
But the actual event is a completely different ballgame as the participants have to persevere through difficult terrain and adverse weather conditions. “More than anything else, it’s a mind game. You also need to have very good stamina. We practised on the international container terminal road but the course at the event had many uphill rides which proved difficult,” said John Ralph, one of the participants who had to drop out because of muscle tear injury. Of the 13, only three could finish within the specified time frame. While four others finished the course in a little more than 90 hours.
Leju K D, a hotelier from Paravur, made the best time among the Indian team by finishing the course in 83 hours and 12 minutes. Galin Abraham, an independent rider, and Felix Augustine had a little less than five and two hours to spare respectively. “The only woman participant, Priyadarshini Pawar, could also complete the course but she crossed the time limit. The cyclists can take as many breaks as they want but they have to manage their time. The event hosted participants from around 70 countries and over 6,000 entries. Two members from the support staff accompanied the participants,” said Abraham Clancy Ross, vice-president of Cochin Bikers Club.
A gruelling training schedule for three months before the ride is what took Felix Augustine to accomplish the feat of finishing. “I was prepared for an uneven and difficult course but what I encountered was extremely long uphill terrain that at some stretches went on for 10-12 km straight. The weather also was harsher than expected. It ranged between 5-degrees celcius to 31-degrees. I took 88 hours in total, out of which my riding time would be around 60 hours.
The total sleep I got in four days was five hours at the max. I took power naps of 15 mins each once in 3-4 hours to recoup. My diet mostly consisted of chicken and pasta which was available at all 13 checkpoints put up by the organisers. Because the event is so popular, locals would come to see the cyclists pass through and offer coffee and snacks. To sum up, it was an exhilarating experience to whiz through the beautiful French countryside and to cross the finish line in time,” said Felix, a Kochi based business consultant who will receive a medal and a certificate in January for his feat.