TravelDoc - PBP

Response re 2013 Tour de Conquer

Steve, another medico cyclist, hails from Kurrajong which prides itself on a few good climbs, including an 8km Bellbird Hill, and the steeper but shorter Bowen Mountain which finishes with a 'killer' 840m up Warks Rd

TravelDoc gained his label many moons ago working on International Medical Retrievals when expats and tourists get sick offshore.

Together 38 other Australians, TravelDoc completed in August '05 the pinnacle of endurance cycling endeavours, the gruelling 1,250km Paris Brest Paris on a Optima Baron lowracer.   The recumbent, or Bent, is most popular in the US, but is gaining favour in OZ, not only for its comfort but its blistering speed due to less wind drag.

Below is Steve's snapshot of a surreal 2003 pilgrimage to Paris:

"PBP has been going longer than Le Tour.  Until the 1960s a professional road race it was originally held every 10 years because it was considered too damaging on riders health to be held more often.  As an amateur ride it started slowly but has now built up to a massive event held every 4 years.  Rider numbers are limited to just over 4000 and for the first time the 2003 event had more foreign riders than French. To help keep numbers manageable qualifying criteria are strictly enforced, including designated rides of 200, 300, 400 and 600km.  In Australia our qualifying rides were severely affected by public liability issues which added hassles to an already difficult task.

I had first heard of PBP in early '90s.  As my cycling fitness and experience accumulated I decided to participate 'one day'Then suddenly I was middle aged and on a downward slope!  So it was that I arrived at Paris during a terrible heat wave last August. Acclimatised for a few days before the start which was at 21:45.   Rode about 200 km to the first food stop; after that they were roughly 80 to 100km apart.  It was like a car rally with electronic timing and cut-off times for each controle.  Riders simply had to get to the controle before it closed and could not accept outside assistance; essentially there were no other rules. Any kind of bicycle is allowed and one Finnish guy successfully rode a Kickbike, a large-wheeled scooter.

I was on an Optima Baron lowracer (Same as Glenn Druery's) which was ideal for this event because of superior flatland speed and complete absence of any saddle-soreness.

First sleep at 01:00 on second night, 4 hours.  Got to Brest (half way) at 36 hours and felt pretty good. Some low points physically and mentally on the way back to Paris but slept for 5 hours on 3rd night at Tintineac and finished strongly before midnight on 4th night.  My time was under 74 hours and I'd spent about 50 hours on the bike.  I could have gone another 100-200 km easily and, in fact, we rode to Switzerland and Germany 2 days later, but at a more leisurely pace.

The ride certainly lived up to everything that I'd expected.  Thousands of cycling fanatics, mostly in my age group.  Hundreds of beautiful enthusiastic French citizens lining the course for hours on-end, clapping and cheering. Continuous shouts of encouragement "Bon Route" and "Bon Courage". Courteous and friendly motorists sharing the roads.  No bike paths.  Fantastic French countryside.  Good solid food. etcetera   It was cycling paradise.

Actually it is relatively straightforward to lie on a comfortable recumbent bike and churn away at the pedals for a few days.  Not much to it.  More of a challenge is the mental battle against boredom, fatigue, exhaustion and sleep deprivation.  After about 24 hours I noted periods of elation accompanied by a kind of "power surge".  I became unbeatable and spent a few fun hours chasing down and passing every rider I could find.  The official data shows that I was actually no faster at all but it sure felt like it. The same thing happened several times over the following days; I'm guessing it's something to do with endorphin release causing a kind of self-drugged state.

To anyone considering PBP in 2007 I'd say "DO IT".  It's well worth the (considerable) effort and once completed you are a PBP ancien for the rest of your life." 

Steve Cooper, Kurrajong

If you want to pump yourself to follow in Ian Humphrey's, Glenn Drury's and Steve's footsteps and train for the 2007 PBP, take a squiz of Steve's full account at Obligatory post-ride report, PBP 2003.

TravelDoc was in Northern India for 4 weeks during June/July '06 riding his custom-built Reynolds steel expedition touring bike.

Himachal Pradesh, the old Punjab, in Northern India, provides some of the tallest mountains, and highest roads on the planet.  Those peaks, or the passes thru 'em, are seriously steep.

Steve went on this epic adventure with his local buddy, Jean-Pierre.  The intrepid duos' cycling followed a typical 2 day repeating pattern:

      Get up at 6am.   Ride about 2,000m up a precipitous pass for about 6 hours. Take pics at the summit, and recover, for about 30 min.  Scoot down the other side about 1,500 to 1,800m until a good camping site was found.  Next day a leisurely ride to the base of the next big pass.  Camp again.  Repeat the above.

Most of us have cycled memorable mountains.  But this pic of TravelDoc amidst the base of the Himalayas, can't be beat.

Slowly but surely Steve and Jean-Pierre gained altitude in a far off wilderness.

The final pass was "Kardung La", the highest in the world at 5,600m.  To quote TravelDoc's fleeting SMS updates, "Man, the air was thin up there.  My fingers were blue.   I took a swing out of water bottle and sealed it.  When I got to the bottom that water bottle was crushed like one of Julius Sumner Miller's physics experiments."

Steve, who has completed a 1,250km PBP and has lived to recount escapades in the highest mountains in India, attests that his cycling batteries are charged for another challenge in far off places. 

Steve's counts his trusty (single front chain-ring) off-road custom-built Reynolds steel expedition touring bike at far off _ _ _ DOG PHARKA amongst his most dependable allies.  Not unsurprisingly, when you are out in the enema of the earth, your bike is a prized partner.  It might be a heck of an adrenaline thrill, but _ _ _ DOG PHARKA is short on creature comforts


Where the heck is PHARKA?  The joint is called KHARDOG PHARKA, with the pair of shorts thrown over to cover the pre DOG letters.  It is about 15km north of the Khardung La.  The above road sign points to a small village on the other side of a deep ravine.  Steve looked up a Ladahki dictionary subsequent to his visit and learnt that "pharka" literally means "the other side" and "dog" means "colour".

TravelDoc's next cycling "step over the edge" challenge is planned for Bolivia/Chile/Argentina around 2009.  Steve welcomes e-mails from fellow cyclists with the balls for itScribe is better than 50% chance of joining Steve's contingent, 'cause by 2009 any jolly Phil manages to conjure from endless banking bullshit will have dissipated, and the far off mountains of Sth America will be like candy to a kidGolly Gosh the above pic of Steve at the base of a panorama of the foyer of the Himalayas is priceless.  TravelDoc wouldn't trade it for squillions, his visit to far off lands that can't be properly described unless you are there amongst 'em.  So if you come across Steve, or is wilderness buddy, Jean Pierre, suss 'em out on joining the El Tour de Sth America in a couple of years.