Paris-Brest-Paris has a credible claim to being the greatest cycling event in the world. If this is true, it’s not because the route is the most beautiful or the most challenging (though it has its fair share of both), but because of the sheer number of people participating. Over 6,000 riders attempt the 1200 km course, and the drama, triumph, and despair of each individual ride is on full display to onlookers.
No ride report can accurately recreate the experience of the ride, so rather than a play-by-play account, I’ll instead tell a series of vignettes about my sensory experiences — the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and aches of my 88 hours on the bike. It’s a terribly incomplete picture, but telling the full story is an impossible task. Paris-Brest-Paris is something you have to ride to truly understand.