Paris to Brest to Paris on a Bike with deadline

Paris to Brest to Paris on a Bike with deadline

Author Cory Fagan


By Reid Cummings

Aug 20-24, 2023
Demons at Carhaix

Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) is one of the oldest cycling events and inspired the creation of the Tour de France.  The route runs every four years and passes through the French regions of Brittany and Iles de France.  It covers 1200km, 12,000m of vertical and must be completed in less than 4 days.  This year’s edition welcomed 6,800 riders from around the world with only 75% finishing.

Unlike other races, your placing is determined based on total elapsed time.  This requires you to be efficient on and off the bike.  There are various start waves to register for - mostly it comes down to whether you want to start with a sunrise or a sunset.

I finished with an elapsed time of 65:45 and placed 466 / 6,749 putting me in the top 7%. Given the challenges I needed to overcome around km 700, my inexperience, not to mention the time I took to meet many wonderful people through Brittany (I was NOT efficient off the bike) and the many new friends I met on the bike, I’m very happy with how it ended.

The Plan

Hard work, solid coaching from TCR, and support from my family was paramount.  Without that, you can’t do this type of event.

After putting in that work and leading up to PBP, I had three game plans:

  • Plan A - Conservative: 62-64 hours elapsed.  Most realistic given my limited experience, a desire to have some good experiences, and wanting to get some sleep along the way.
  • Plan B - More Aggressive: if feeling good, then target 55 hours elapsed … or faster.
  • Plan C - Just Finish: my “break glass in case of” option if things went really wrong. My group’s cut-off time was 84 hours, so with my Monday 5:00am start, I just needed to finish before on 5:00pm Thursday.


Day one was great but I was in uncharted territory. The longest one-day ride I had done prior to this event was 411km. Here I was past midnight of day one, sitting at 515km and still raring to go. My first mistake was not believing I could carry on which had ramifications: a messed-up sleep and a sub-par breakfast. That set day two into motion and where the demons showed up.  Realizing I was having issues coming back through Carhaix-Plouguer filled me with self-doubt and caused me to consider Plan C. Serious contemplation on the bike, leaning on my mental strength, and some quick math got me back on track for a Plan A.

This gave me more tools on how to lean into my own mental toughness.  Everyone has their own tricks, and to do any distance event or just deal with life, you need to figure out what works for you, and what does not.  Big or small, there is always something you will learn about yourself that will pay forward. Ultimately, I learned I’m tougher than I thought, so I’ll put that in the bank and use it next time.

Next up?  Something tougher? To be continued …

Post a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published