Well after numerous trips around the country, Si Barfoot and Daryol Laws have, as of yesterday, now completed the qualifying rides for the 2011 running of the Paris-Brest-Paris Audax.
For those who don’t know PBP is one of the earliest bikes ‘races’, first run in 1891, it is now run every 4 years and whilst no longer a race it is an arduous 1200km+ event that must be completed under 90hrs. To enter all participants must ride a Super Series consisting of 200km, 300km, 400km and 600km rides during set calendar dates.  This year given the increasing popularity of the ride numbers have been capped by country with the UK getting about 400 out of the 6000 total entries.  So despite finishing our rides we may not get a place if the event is oversubscribed.
A few bits on Audax riding:
1. Timing starts for the off and doesn’t stop even if you do, and you will need to stop as the route is staged via ‘controls’ were proof of passage must be obtained, either via a stamp in the brevet card, which you are issued with at the start, or using receipts if the control is a commercial entity such as all-night petrol stations.
2. The route is given as a series of turns, no marking on the road, so you must do the navigating.  GPS is allowed but beware most GPS devices will run out of battery well before the longer events finish!
3. It is self-sufficiency in terms of riding, no broom wagon, not many feed stops (this depends on the organisers capability and costings) and no spares or repairs facilities.
4. Audax is bare-bones, long distance cycling.
The rides we did:
Kennet Valley 200km:  A pleasant out and back style of ride from Reading, along the valley to Westbury and back.  Back roads mainly and boy did we get wet on the last 50km running down some very dodgy C roads, strewn with bits flints.  Luckily no punctures and a fast time of just under 9hrs if I recall.
Heart of England 300km:  Early morning start in Cirencester (6am) to run up to Nuneaton and then back via Daventry and Oxford-way.  A very sunny day and fast riding until Daryol de-hydrated on the run back to Daventry causing the rolling speed to drop off; however in tow with another rider we got back to the finish in a respectable 14+hrs.
Marlborough to Hay 400km:  An unusual event in that this was the middle 400km of a 600km event starting and finishing in Midhurst.  The organiser is a legend in Audax circles by the name of Dave ‘El Supremo’ Hudson, who provides catering at at least 2 points on the ride.  This includes freshly cooked toasties, beans, sausage rolls, sandwiches, and all manner of chocolate cakes, sweets etc etc etc; a veritable smorgasbord of delights and all for the princely sum of the entry fee of £10!!!!.  The route went from a lay-by east of Marlborough via Cirencester, Ross on wye and out to Hay on wye, before turning south to Newport Services.  Then came the night run back up the Welsh coast of the Severn Estuary to Gloucester to climb Birdlip Hill (ouch, Daryol got off and walked what turned out to be the last corner before realising he only had had 150m of climb left, bugger), then back through Cirencester to finish at Burbage.  this had a more sociable start of 10AM but we didn’t finish until 7AM the next day, mainly due to being absolutely soaked on the night ride around Cirencester, where Daryol ended up with uncontrollable shivering.  Thanks to Si’s headcap being used Daryol warmed up over the next 2hrs riding and we both finished in fine fettle.
Invicta 600km:  Just completed yesterday.  Run from Sevenoaks Weald, this ride goes west and back for 400+km and then loops around Kent for the remaining 200+ km.  Routes was start to Cranleigh then onto Overton then a big loop to Petersfield via Middle Winterslow, then Pyecombe (north of Brighton), then back to the start.  Couple of hours kip was had before starting out on the last loop, which went the North Kent coast through Sittingbourne, Herne Bay then down to Westerhanger Services and back north to Sevenoaks Weald. This ride was somewhat over distance at 638km which when sleep deprived messes with your head when you realise that you’ve completed the 600 and still have about 1.5-2hrs of riding left to do.  The weather was kind in that we finished just before the really heavy rain started.  Daryol now knows that when Si only has a couple of hours sleep he’s likely to roll over and fall asleep if not kicked out of his sleeping bag!!  Unfortunately most of the controls on this ride were commercial ones which led to a very interesting stand-off between our group of about 8 weary riders and the Pyecombe petrol station attendant who wouldn’t let us into the shop, insisited on using the night window, questioned everything we asked for and was slower than a glacier.  Victor Meldrew is alive and well and working in Pyecombe!!  This was a long ride, 6AM start on Saturday and we finished at 6:40PM Sunday, oh and then we had to drive back home, ouch, especially when we realised that Si had left his car window open, alarm going all day leading to a flattened battery, but with everything crossed and messages to higher powers being sent the car lurched into life and off went back along in the smae direction we’d been cycling 24 hrs previously!!
So with our qualifiers now complete we can register for PBP 2011, the big one,  3 1/2 days of epic non-stop cycling through Northern France, we will let you know whether we get in or not.
Daryol and Si