From: "Ian Hennessey"

To: "Randon" <randon@ cycling. org>*

*[Randon is now at]

Subject: Paris-Brest

Date: Mon, 30 Aug 1999 15:16:37 +0100

I arrived home yesterday after around 1850kms on fixed - 3X more than I've attempted before. 35yr old Claud Butler stood up well, though I think I've destroyed the headset. The back wheel I built the day before leaving also survived - no truing needed. I kept the luggage to a minimum. 2 sets of cycle clothing (wear one, wash one); shirt and shorts + sandals for off the bike; camera; maps; toothbrush and travel-towel; 2 light capes (1 waterproof - not used); and essential tools. The off-bike wear I left at the hotel during the event. Managed, with the aid of an accomplice, to get to the head of the 90hr queue. Joined in the 'road-race' as we set off- thinking "This is stupid/I shall suffer for this/I should have more sense." etc. Passed the courageous fellow on hand-cranks - shame he didn't finish. Caught and passed most of the 'silly' machines, before finally losing contact (thank goodness) with the last of the fast groups.

As forecast, I suffered all of Tuesday morning. The heat didn't help. Lots of liquid and a steady pace helped the recovery. At Loudeac I had a rather public shower, though by wresting control of the hose from Monsieur-in-charge I managed to be a little more discreet than that American. The long descent towards Brest was painful. I was determined not to use the brakes, so cadence approached 200. I was irritated by people coming past then freewheeling and slowing, so that they impeded my progress.

The climb back up was less severe than I'd expected - kept a good steady pace. At Carhaix, another shower and clean clothes.I had been taking the odd half to one hour naps since about the500km mark, mostly by the roadside where I could lie down to ease my back. At one point I heard, but didn't feel, a couple of heavy showers pass - They fell in the field across the road. I had another bad patch between Mortagne and Nogent and had to stop a few times.Caught a large group near the finish and, finding my legs again,went past them to finish with another Brit (embarrassing - I forget his name) with cheers from the crowds on the roundabout.

A 'leisurely' (Sheila Simpson's word) 82hrs. 6 UK fixers finished:Steve Abraham; Dave 'Dr Box' Pilbeam; Mike Friday; Me; Alan 'Pedals' Pedliham; and Ian Jackson - though he finished on a borrowed, geared machine, having torn the flange out of his rear hub. There was also rumoured to be a Frenchman on fixed - did he finish?Food and service at the controls was generally excellent. A couple were so crowded that I by-passed them and used local bars or pattisseries (These were good intermediate stops anyhow). I also stopped at a couple of the roadside services that local people hadset up - they were obviously enjoying the event tremendously.

One thing which was irritating was the number of support vehicles clogging the approaches to controls, and even, once, one cutting me up in its hurry to get past. It doesn't say much for some people's independent randonneur spirit that they can't leave their infernal combustion engines behind even when they're cycling. Bengt Sandborgh wrote: "..noisy Americans.." Several people commented similarly; and also about the disciplined Danes, and the beer-swilling French. I'll leave it to others to criticise the British.

Upstaging everyone, even Pete and Noel on 'le grand lit', was Drew Buck on his 1904 Pederson, with a 1904 3 speed which sounded like a clockwork motor on descents; no toe-clips, and a straw hat.Congratulations to all who finished; and commiserations to those who didn't (there's another in 4 years).

Ian Hennessey, Exeter Wheelers CC.