Question: I want to attempt a brevet series (rides of 200, 300, 400 and 600 km) in the spring to qualify for the 2003 Paris-Brest-Paris. I can do 25 miles pretty comfortably right now, averaging 15 mph, 2-4 times weekly. How important is it for me to do rides of 3-6 hours? — Bill P.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: I consulted with some veteran brevet riders (randonneurs) on this one.
It sounds as if you may be fairly new to cycling, Bill. PBP and its qualifiers (brevets) comprise a huge undertaking of time, energy, dedication and money. To be frank, anyone who is at the 25-miles-per-ride level is far from having the cycling background necessary to qualify for and complete PBP.
Remember, PBP is 750 miles long and must be completed in less than 90 hours. It’s a tough event even for seasoned long-distance riders. The longest, 600K brevet (375 miles) is only equal to reaching Brest. You still have to U-turn and ride 600K back to Paris. That’s a lot to handle just nine months from now by anyone whose long rides are 90 minutes.
This isn’t to say it would be impossible for you, but you need to begin training for it now even though PBP isn’t till August. Lots of what you need to do is spelled out in the Endurance Training and Riding 3-Article Bundle by Coach John Hughes, who still holds records in some well-known brevets. First, use a training program for doing 100-mile rides. Then progress to 200-mile training. You’ll need to know and use the advice about nutrition, inclement weather, night riding and injury care.
If you are not yet a member of Randonneurs USA, the U.S. affiliate of the PBP organization, you need to join and get its information for members. It has lots of expert info about riding the brevets and PBP itself. Another excellent source of information about endurance cycling is the Ultramarathon Cycling Association.
Good luck if you try for PBP this year. But it might be wiser to build up to centuries, doubles, brevets and other long-distance events in the next several years, then go for the next PBP four years down the road.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred's full bio.