After an uneventful trip across the channel, and drive down to the Start at Rambouillet – south West of Paris, we found our spot among the other camper vans in the grounds of the Bergierie Nationale. This pitch is basic, but we are sheltered under the trees, and it’s just a short walk into the small town, and also up to where the bike checks are.
Waking up on Saturday morning, we were able to watch all the bikes riding past us on their way to the bike checks.
My bike check was nice and early at 9am, and this paid off, as the queues were short, and we were through and all checked in around 30 minutes.
The process is quite simple. First you queue with your bike to have it checked over. It’s pretty quick if your bike is in good condition. They check to make sure you have lights that work and are legal (no flashing rear lights allowed in France). They make sure that nothing is going to fall off, and a quick check to make sure you haven’t broken any rules relating to bike standards. Then you are given a sticker for your bike, so that you can rack it safely for the next part of the process.
Once your bike has been checked, you move to the registrations area. They split it roughly into nationalities, so that you can go to a desk where someone might speak your language. It’s easy if you speak French, English, German and Spanish, but with such an array of riders from around the world, it’s helpful to find someone who can speak, or at least understand what you are saying.
Everyone’s bag is held in rider order number, so it’s quick to get hold of. The bag contains your rider number badges for bike and helmet with the frame badge containing the timing chip. Also there’s the all important Brevet card which needs to be stamped at each control. Without this, you cannot complete the event. Finally there is the official PBP high viz gilet. This is a requirement, as in France in poor visibility, and at night it’s a legal requirement for cyclists to wear high viz. Of course it also makes the riders on the event very easy to spot. If you have purchase an event jersey, or a pre-ride meal ticket, then these will also be in the bag.
Once registered you are all done. Grab your bike from the rack, pass the security check (to make sure its your bike) and you’re ready to go.
Once registered, we wandered into town for some breakfast, just as the rain that was to last all day, started to settle in. Rambouillet is a small town, not many hotels, and a limited number of eating establishments. This was a shame, as I remember back in 2015, the previous host town was absolutely buzzing on registration day. Cyclists were everywhere, nationalities sought each other out in the various bars and restaurants around town and the atmosphere was electric. However, Rambouillet was more subdued. The rain certainly had an effect. As the majority of riders were not actually staying in the town, but further afield, there wasn’t really much reason to hang around. There were small groups of riders in the bars & cafes, but generally if felt like the start location of a much smaller event. This was maybe just as well, since the town was really not geared up for an event of this size. If felt that this was such a shame, since the Castle area is so pretty, but there is not really much on offer if the weather is inclement.
I did manage to meeting up with pretty much every one I knew at one point or another – in a small town you are bound to bump into everyone eventually.
Later in the afternoon, I made the final adjustments to my bike, added my frame badges, and then we settled down to chill out.
After lots of walking about during the day, and a great Indian meal in the evening, I was ready for bed. Nerves haven’t hit me yet, and I slept for a straight 8 hours – which is just as well, since my start time is at 6pm this evening, and we will ride straight through the first night.
The weather isn’t great this morning, but it is forecast to improve by later this afternoon. After that, it’s looking like the conditions for the ride will be pleasant – not too hot, not too wet. Perfect weather for a Brit, although some of those from warmer climates may find it a bit of a challenge. I expect to see Thai’s and Indians all wrapped up for winter on the ride itself.
For today, I intend to stay chilled out, get the van totally organised for the event itself, eat lots of food, and hopefully get a couple of hours sleep at some point.
I am also planning to meet up with a group of women riders that I’ve been communicating with later on. There was a drive by British Audaxer Peta McSharry to get more women riding this years event. Whilst we don’t know whether she reached her goal of 2019 female riders, there has been a great community group where we’ve all been supporting each other through the journey to get here. I’m really looking forward to actually meeting many of them in person now.
You can track me on the following link – I am rider I001 in the 90 hour group.