By Bill Bryant
We recently received a letter from our friend Jean-Philippe Battu of Grenoble. Jean-Philippe is familiar to many American randonneurs from his years of helpful and interesting posts on the Randon chat list, and, to a smaller group of us, for his unselfish efforts during Paris-Brest-Paris to keep other riders in the event. Jean-Philippe finished the 2003 event toward the end of the 90-hour time limit, but he surely would have been hours faster had he not stopped so many times to help other riders, including some of our Americans. Jean-Philippe's a great guy, and one of the stars of our sport. In his letter he wrote about his summer vacation in the area around Brest, and on the roads of France:
"We spent three weeks in Brittany this summer with our families, just one year after PBP. The weather was good in the beginning of August, but it turned bad. There was much rain and flooding. If PBP had taken place this year, it would have been a disaster! We stayed indoors, no cycling at all during one week…
"This year I rode three Diagonales de France. [These are challenging point-to-point rides with time limits that traverse France, rather like a RUSA free-route permanent. Doing one per season is quite an accomplishment; three is really impressive—Ed.] The first was from Hendaye to Strasbourg at the end of June, 15 days later I went from Strasbourg to Perpignan, and 15 days later I did Strasbourg to Brest, using the PBP route on the last day. This ride didn't start so well. The first day a friend rode with me and suddenly he crashed because the bolt between the saddle and seat post broke. I was just behind him and crashed too. He broke his elbow, mine was a little injured and I broke my digital camera. [A heavy blow when you know how much Jean-Philippe loves to take photos when he cycles!] He went to the hospital and I visited the doctor. Two hours later I continued the ride and managed to complete it. I arrived in Brest, only one hour inside the time limit. It was amazing to cycle the PBP road without any other riders. I was wearing the PBP jersey and when I stopped to eat or get a store stamp for a control, people were asking me, "Oh, did you ride PBP last year?" or "I was here last year to watch the riders during two days." Another souvenir: Around Corlay, the ditches were empty—no sleeping riders to be seen anywhere and temperatures at dawn were as low as last year.
"Two weeks ago Isabelle and I went to the meeting of the organization whose members ride the Diagonales de France. We usually ride the Diagonales alone or in a small group of less than six, so it is interesting to meet everyone every two years. We were in the middle of France for the meeting, close to Bourges. Most of us rode PBP last year and I loaned my RUSA PBP Yearbook to a friend who speaks English. This book is very interesting because in France we hear nothing about PBP the year after the event. To many people, PBP is a race and that's all. Your stories and souvenirs are interesting because they are about the typical rider. As you wrote, PBP is not just a 1200 km ride, it is much more! The RUSA Yearbook is very interesting to read because these articles don't exist in France. Merci!"
Thank you, Jean-Philippe—Bonne Route!
For a lot of interesting reading and photos about French randonneuring in both French and English, visit Jean-Philippe's terrific web site at: http://www.geocities.com/jeanpba.