A French documentary about the grueling Paris-Brest-Paris bicycle race is delightfully quirky in its production, shifting abruptly, for example, from interviews with participants to snippets from such classic bicycling films as Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and the “Bicycle Repairman” sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
The interviews, most of them in French with subtitles in fractured English with creative spelling, provide a look at some of the more eccentric cyclists who take part in this now-quadrennial event — a bike ride from just southwest of Paris to Brest on France’s Atlantic Coast and back to Paris, a total of just over 1,200 kilometers that has to be completed in 90 hours.
Just over a minute later in the film, Jeremy shows off the stainless steel bike he built especially for his participation in the Paris-Best-Paris event, which began on Aug. 21. (See Aug. 21 blog post, “An epic ride dedicated to Mom.”)
The course is equivalent to more than 745 miles, nearly the distance between Chicago and New York. Jeremy finished in 78 hours and 31 minutes, well within the 90-hour time frame, and got his name listed in Le Grande Livre (“The Great Book”), an enduring chronicle of all those who have completed the ride within the required time since the first P-B-P event in 1891.
Another interview in the 46-minute film, which comes shortly after the interview with Jeremy, is with an Englishman togged out in vintage bicycling garb and goggles. He shows off his steed for the ride, a 1900 Peugeot bike that he found in a barn in Brittany. Then he displays a copy of the bill of sale for the bike and says he tracked down the great-great-great granddaughter of the original owner.
“I always ride stupid bikes,” the mustachioed Brit tells the interviewer as he is about to embark on his sixth Paris-Brest-Paris ride.
I reckon it helps to be a bit crazy to participate in this event.