Nick DeHaan with his support crew at the finish in Rambouillet, France

Paris-Brest-Paris 2023 results: Nick DeHaan breaks modern record

American DeHaan, a newcomer to the event, averaged 29.18kph for the 1,219km route

Clock09:45, Wednesday 23rd August 2023

Published August 22, 2023, updated: August 25, 2023

On Tuesday, August 22, American ultra-cyclist Nick DeHaan crossed the finish line of Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) 48 minutes ahead of his nearest rivals, completing the 1,219km course in just 41:46:30, a new record time. DeHaan posted the highest average speed ever seen at PBP, maintaining 29.18kph for the near two-day ride.

DeHaan rode with the lead group for the first half of the course, but with 600km to go, he struck out on his own. When, after 18 hours of riding, the leading group stopped for a slightly longer break at the Brest control point, DeHaan carried on. He gained almost half an hour on the group, and as the kilometres ticked by in their hundreds, managed to extend his lead further still.

It was a fast year on the course, with a number of top riders coming in quicker than they have done in the past. It seems likely that the recent revision to the rules allowing clip-on aero bars has some relevance to the generally higher speeds at this year's brevet.

Tech aside, it was impossible to ignore the sheer dominance of DeHaan's performance. At every control point from Brest to Rambouillet, the talk among spectators and volunteers was of 'the American'. Who was this PBP newcomer, and how was he riding so fast?

Read more: 10 best randonneur bikes from Paris-Brest-Paris

In the chasing group behind, Marko Baloh and Severin Zotter were in awe: "He's just so powerful", said Zotter as he refuelled at Villaines la Juhel, 200km from the finish. Paris-Brest-Paris is not a race; it's a brevet, so technically, there is no winner. In reality, though, the riders at the front of the event are racing, even if the organisers insist PBP is non-competitive.

There was little doubt that DeHaan left every ounce of himself out on the course. At the finish line in Rambouillet, he was hardly able to stand up. Supported by his brothers and his father, he struggled out of a chair and hobbled into the blazing sun for a photo at the finish. Propped up by his bike, he mustered a smile before keeling over and gently collapsing onto the floor.

Mark Baloh and Severin Zotter's Paris-Brest-Paris tactics

When DeHaan left the lead group behind at the halfway point, Marko Baloh and Severin Zotter were left scrambling. For hours, they chased, unaware quite how secure DeHaan's lead would turn out to be. They had no information on DeHaan's whereabouts besides the rough estimates given to them by spectators at controls every hundred kilometres or so: 'about 20 minutes' became 'about 30', became 'about an hour' – DeHaan was slipping away.

Zotter and Baloh had reason to press on though: they had deployed a tactic to lull their competition into a false sense of security. By electing to start in the second wave of riders, Baloh and Zotter had a time advantage of a few minutes over riders who began in the first wave – the stopwatch only starts when you cross the start line, after all. Baloh and Zotter were hoping to catch out riders in the first tranche by ingratiating themselves into the lead group and riding to the finish.

With DeHaan off the front, the plan was looking threadbare, but they still had hope: DeHaan would have to cross the line about 15 minutes ahead of them just to achieve an equal time.

The fact is, though, that Zotter and Baloh were struggling, telling GCN at around kilometre 865 that neither were feeling in particularly good shape. At each control, Zotter slid off his bike and onto the ground as Baloh sat, claiming a moment's respite. By contrast, De Haan hardly let his feet touch the ground at each control, dismounting his bike, hurrying to the control for his stamp, then remounting his bike and disappearing off into the night.

Simon Wüthrich snaps at their heels

With all their attention on the unknown force driving the front of the ride, it seemed as if Marko Baloh and Severin Zotter didn't even notice the bike that was parked next to theirs when they emerged from the checkpoint at Villaines la Juhel, over 1000km into the race. Through the night, Swiss rider Simon Wüthrich had been closing in on the pair, and now, at almost three in the morning, he'd caught them at a control.

Blinded by sleep deprivation, the pair emerged from the control having stamped their cards, rolled 100m down the road to a car park, and climbed into their support car for 15 minutes of blissful sleep.

When Simon Wüthrich stumbled out of the control point, his eyes glazed over, it seemed for a moment that he was going to put time into his rivals and push on into the darkness – Wüthrich had started in the second tranche of riders too, so there was no protective buffer for Baloh and Zotter.

Alas, Wüthrich made his way to the very same car park, where a support van was waiting. He too bedded down, lying on an inflatable mattress laid out by his support team, still wearing his helmet and cycling shoes.

When Baloh and Zotter woke up and began riding, Wüthrich didn't stir. The pair pushed on into the early hours of the morning, through dawn, and emerged hours later in Rambouillet. They crossed the line as a pair, and with little fanfare, before unclipping, steadying themselves, and raising their joined arms in celebration. They might not have been first, but both had completed the course in their fastest time – in a time that would have seen them win any other previous edition of Paris-Brest-Paris.

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