“It’s a very large organization managed only by volunteers [so] we can’t ask them to do the event every year—four years is okay for the riders and organizers.”— Jean-Gualbert Faburel

PELOTON / Michele Donnet

Paris–Brest–Paris (PBP) is one of the longest, oldest and most challenging endurance cycling events in the world. The event originally started as a 1,200-kilometer race for professionals from Paris to Brest and, you guessed it, back to Paris. Charles Terront of France won the first edition in 1891 and Maurice Diot won the final edition in 1951. Since then, the event has turned into a randonnée run every four years. The most recent edition of PBP was held August 16–20, 2015. The goal of all the participants seems simple enough—make it back to Paris within 90 hours—but it is anything but simple.

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Riders head west from Paris for the port town of Brest, cutting through the Parc Naturel Régional de Normandie- Maine and more beautiful and constantly undulating terrain through the Normandy and Brittany regions of France. The riders are frequently devastated by strong winds as we’ve seen in recent editions of the Tour de France. Once in Brest, randonneurs turn around and head back to the City of Light.

Jean-Gualbert Faburel, the vice-president of the Audax Club Parisien, which puts on the event every four years, explained some of the changes that have happened over the years: “The main change on the PBP course was done after 1975. Before 1979, PBP was run mainly on main roads (the Route Nationale 12 specifically). Tragically, two riders were killed in 1975, so the organization decided to modify dramatically the course to use smaller roads.”

Route adjustments can be made for the enjoyment of the randonneurs as well, he said. “We also modified some routes for scenery reasons. For instance, the PBP riders couldn’t see the Château de Fougères (a castle in the commune of Fougères on the Brittany-Normandy border) before the 2011 edition.”

Held every 10 years until 1951, the demand for the event pushed the cycle to five and starting in 1971 eventually to where we are today—the challenge of Paris-Brest-Paris is only available (after qualification rides we might add) to the most experienced endurance riders every four years.

Expect to see the roads of western France full of PBP hopefuls come August 2019 for the 23rd edition; the exact dates are to be determined, but you can count on it selling out once they are announced.
Next running is August 2019; paris-brest-paris.org