By Bill Bryant
[ed: Note that this article, as it originally appeared in the May 2001 issue of American Randonneur, is out of date since the running of subsequent PBP events. Go to menu item PBP: Paris-Brest for the updated story.]
One hundred years ago, Charly Miller of Chicago was the first American to ride Paris-Brest-Paris. In the second edition of PBP, in 1901, he finished an excellent fifth place in 56 hours, 40 minutes. This was an outstanding achievement for an unsupported rider, especially when one considers the poor roads and bicycles of that bygone era. Though many of his opponents at PBP had elaborate teams of pacers and helpers along the route, Miller persevered alone for three days and two nights, non-stop. While other racers with better support threw in the towel, Charly Miller had to use all his resolve to overcome a disheartening amount of punctures and a broken bicycle in order to finish. Yet, even on a hastily borrowed replacement bike obtained 350 kilometers from the end, the 26-year-old still set the fastest speed over the timed final kilometer to the finish line in Paris! Not surprisingly, his heroic performance at PBP was very much appreciated by the French cycle-racing fans of the day. Moreover, Miller's hardy athleticism and never-say-die determination is still an excellent model for today's randonneurs to emulate no matter what pace they choose to undertake PBP or any other long randonnée. It wouldn't be until 1975 that another American finished PBP, and it took till 1979 for someone (the amazing Scott Dickson on his first PBP) to do it as swiftly as Charly Miller did.
To celebrate this cycling hero, below is a list of Americans who have equaled or surpassed Charly Miller's time at Paris-Brest-Paris and the year(s) they did it. It should be noted that the modern route used by the Audax Club Parisien since 1979 is definitely hillier than the one Miller rode along the N-12 in 1901. The new course, though entirely paved, also varies in length from year to year and is a little longer than the original 1196 kilometers of dirt and cobblestones that Miller cycled. On the other hand, today's randonneurs have vastly improved sports training knowledge and nutrition, not to mention far better equipment, lighting, and clothing. Indeed, their lightweight multi-speed bikes weigh half of what Miller's single-speed did, so any comparisons shouldn't be taken too seriously--if at all. With several exceptions, the riders below had personal support crews meeting them at the checkpoints, too. Nonetheless, anyone going under 56:40 at PBP richly deserves their membership in this esteemed fraternity of fast American randonneurs and randonneuses. Chapeau!
Note: (F) denotes women riders.
Solo Riders YEAR Michael Aeling 95 Rick Anderson 99 Rich Boettner 99 Tom Buckley 95 Dwight Callaway 87 Gerald Davis 95 Scott Dickson 126.96.36.199.95.99 Daryn Dodge 95.99 Bob Fourney 95.99 John Grunzke 99 Dennis Hearst 83.91.95 Kevin Hodge 95 Henry Kingman 99 Melinda Lyon (F) 99 Susan Notorangelo (F) 83 Brad Tanner 99 Keith Wells 95 Tandem Teams Lon Haldeman/Bob Breedlove 87 Bob Breedlove/Richard Fedrigon 91 Jodi Groesbeck (F)/Adrian Harris* 99 *Harris holds dual US/UK citizenship
Records used are the official finishing lists published following each Audax Club Parisien "Paris-Brest-Paris Randonneurs" 1975-1999. "La Société Charly Miller" records compiled and maintained by Bill Bryant.