His name will be entered in Le Grande Livre, an enduring chronicle of one of the world’s oldest and most grueling of sporting events.
That was the simple goal for Jeremy Shlachter, neighbor, longtime friend and custom bike builder, when he began training for PBP 2011, this year’s edition of the Paris-Brest-Paris bicycling event, an endurance ride of 1,200 kilometers from Paris to the Atlantic Coast and back to Paris. The ride — equivalent to more than 745 miles, nearly the distance between Chicago and New York — had to be finished in 90 hours.
“Paris Brest Paris time 78 hours and 31 minutes,” Jeremy posted today on Facebook from Paris after his finish, more than 11 hours before the deadline. “Whole new kinds of hurt mixed in with some old ones.”
In a later Facebook post in response to congratulations from well-wishers, Jeremy wrote: “thanks everybody. it was so hard. nearly all hills. 3.5 hours sleep total. rode through a thunder storm. but the scenery and experience was beautiful. glasgow bound tomorrow, london on the 7th, texas on the 10th. and yes i did have a paris brest pastry and it was delicious.”
Riders in the PBP are an elite breed of cyclists called randonneurs, French for “ramblers.” They train their bodies to ride ridiculous distances of hundreds of miles during a single weekend.
This year’s Paris-Brest-Paris event, held every four years in August, began on Sunday and ended today after 90 hours had elapsed.
All participants in PBP had to qualify by doing a “super randonneur” series of “brevets,” or rides, of 200, 300, 400 and 600 kilometers in the year of the event and complete the series by mid-June.
The qualifying rides are overseen by the governing body of randonneuring in each participant’s country. The governing body for the United States is RUSA, or Randonneurs USA. The club for North Texas, which organizes and monitors randonneuring events, is Lone Star Randonneurs.
During a randonneuring event, the clock runs continuously. Participants ride through the night, sleeping as little as possible, sometimes catching a brief catnap beside the road before continuing.
On one weekend in the spring, the last of his qualifying brevets, Jeremy rode 600 kilometers (375 miles) in 27 hours and 6 minutes on a course mapped out around Italy, Texas, south of Dallas.
In his last major weekend ride before PBP — not needed for qualification but to keep his physical edge — Jeremy rode 800 kilometers (497 miles), broken down into two separate brevets of 600 kilometers on June 11-12 and 200 kilomters on June 13. From then until shortly before leaving for France, he rode shorter routes in the heat of this beastly Texas summer.
In a post on his blog today, Jeremy wrote of the Paris-Brest-Paris ride: “This will definitely go down as one of my greatest sporting accomplishments and most sensastional experiences. I don’t think I would want to even know what is a harder event then PBP.”
But then he put things into perspective:
“I have been extremely quiet about this in the public realm of my business, but now I feel it is necessary to share. Though this was a tough experience it does not compare to the pain and suffering my mother has been experiencing for well over a year now fighting brain cancer. My grand randoneé is completely dedicated to her. It would not have been possible without her love, support, and guidance. She has approached her situation with the same class, dignity, and compassion that has always defined her as a person. Her perseverance has been the greatest influence on my success and determination.”
Jeremy’s parents and brother had hoped to travel to France for his epic ride. But Amrita Shlachter’s illness made that impossible.
Well ridden, Jeremy, and well said!