La Société Charly Miller

By Bill Bryant

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
       Carl       Anderson                       15
       Rick       Anderson                       99
       Richard    Avallone                       95.99
       Edward     Bernasky                       15
       Rich       Boettner                       99
       Timothy    Bol                            07
       Bob        Brudvik                        11
       Tom        Buckley                        95
       Dwight     Callaway                       87
       Greg       Cox                            11
       Gerald     Davis                          95
       Scott      Dickson              
       Daryn      Dodge                          95.99
       Bill       Dussler                        11
       Billy      Edwards                        11
       Bob        Fourney                        95.99
       Ryan       Franz                          11
       Michael    Fulton                         03
       Chris      Grealish                       03
       John       Grunzke                        99.03
       Dennis     Hearst                         83.91.95
       Jan        Heine                          07.11
       Kevin      Hodge                          95
       John       Jurczynski                     03
       Bryan      Kilgore                        15
       Henry      Kingman                        99
       Tom        Knoblauch                      11
       Melinda    Lyon         (F)               99.03.07
       James      McKee                          11
       Alexander  Meade                          07
       Susan      Notorangelo  (F)               83
       Dale       Perzanowski                    07
       Robin      Pieper                         11
       Christopher Pile                          11
       Massimiliano Poletto                      15
       Chris      Ragsdale                       11
       Brad       Tanner               
       Mark       Thomas                         15
       Steve      Thorne                         11
       Bryce      Walsh                          11
       Keith      Wells                          95
       Ben        Whiddon                        11
       Todd       Williams                       03.15

Tandem Teams
       Lon Haldeman/Bob Breedlove                87
       Bob Breedlove/Richard Fedrigon            91
       Jodi Groesbeck (F)/Adrian Harris*         99
       Jan Heine/Female Canadian Stoker          03
       John Jurczynski &  Ann Rasmussen (Female) 15

*Harris holds dual US/UK citizenship

Records used are the official finishing lists published following each Audax Club Parisien "Paris-Brest-Paris Randonneurs" 1975-2003. "La Société Charly Miller" records compiled and maintained by Bill Bryant.