Documentary: Paris-Brest-Paris, what it takes to survive the oldest cycling event in the world

Can our four riders complete this historic 1,200km non-stop beast of a ride across north-west France?

Clock13:28, Tuesday 28th November 2023

Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) is a 1,200km non-stop brevet through western France. It's widely regarded as the oldest cycling event still in existence, with the inaugural edition taking place in 1891.

PBP is the Olympics of audaxing; it runs once every four years and is the most important event on the calendar. Just to get on the start line, every rider must ride a 200km, 300km, 400km and 600km event.

It's not a race. Instead, PBP is a ride, known as a brevet, audax or randonnée, depending on which part of the world you come from. The goal is to get to the finish line within the time limit of 90 hours, although the fastest riders are racing tooth-and-nail to finish first.

PBP is an event steeped in tradition. The route is largely unchanged from the initial route the riders took 132 years ago, and even the bikes that many riders choose to use look straight out of the history books.

On the roadside, in tiny French villages, families set up stands for the riders, giving out food, drink and support to weary cyclists as they pass. Paris-Brest-Paris is a celebration of camaraderie, heritage and cycling, as much about the country of France as the riders who pass through it.

In a GCN+ documentary filmed at PBP 2023, we follow four riders, each with very different goals.

Loïc Lamouller

For Loïc Lamouller, ex-professional cyclist, the goal is to win. He's from a family of diehard PBP riders, and although he'd never ridden PBP before, he's confident that with the support of his uncle and cousin, both of whom were event veterans, he'll make it to the finish in record time.

Dominique Lamouller

Loïc's father, Dominique, has been riding Paris-Brest-Paris since 1975. He will be lining up at the race for the 13th time. If he makes it to the finish, he'll match the current record for the most successful attempts.

Amy Hudson

Amy Hudson is a newcomer to cycling, having found the sport during the pandemic. Cycling helped her out of a difficult period of her life, and within a few years she's gone from a complete newbie to an influencer extraordinaire. With her boyfriend alongside her, she's hoping to prove that you don't need experience to 'go ultra'.

Jack Thurston

Jack Thurston, author of the Lost Lanes books and presenter of our Slow Cycling GCN+ series, is riding the event for the first time too. Years ago, he covered the event for a cycling magazine, but now he's going to line up on the start line and experience it first-hand.

To see how our riders get on, and to experience PBP in all its splendour, be sure to watch this GCN+ documentary, which is available now.

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