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Tsawassen, B.C. cyclist prepares for Paris-Brest-Paris

The Paris-Brest-Paris ride -- more than 1,000 total km through French countryside -- must be finished in 90 hours. B.C.'s Ron Stewart hopes to do it in 88.

The ride follows a route from Paris to Brest, France on the French coast and back again. (Image: Google Maps)
The ride follows a route from Paris to Brest, France on the French coast and back again. (Image: Google Maps)

Paris-Brest-Paris most certainly isn’t your average bike trip. A sprawling 1,230 km route, the ride must be finished in less than ninety hours, tops, in order for participants to qualify for bragging rights.

Tsawassen, B.C.’s Ron Stewart, the Delta Optimist reports, hopes to do it in 88.

The Paris-Brest-Paris ride is the one of the most famous brevet-style tours, or randonneurs, in the world, comprised of fifteen stages through the French countryside from Paris to Brest, France and back again. En route, there are twelve checkpoints where riders can receive support, but other than that, they’re on their own. It’s a time-limited endurance test, not a competititon, but the limits involved lend it a gruelling intensity all the same. All that considered, the Paris-Brest-Paris ride’s fame borders on infamy.

Riders roll out in waves of about 300, with Stewart’s leaving Paris at 5:45 pm on Sunday. With that window, the 52-year-old cyclist, who described his fitness level to the Optimist in less-than-glowing terms, will need to complete the ride by 11:45 am on Thursday. It’s a demanding prospect, but with other long hauls under the British Columbian’s rubber, Stewart is confident heading into the ride. 88 hours is his goal, but he’ll nonetheless be “ecstatic,” he told the Optimist, if he can pull it off in 90.

However modest, his confidence appears warranted. The first of those hauls was a 200 kilometre ride; more recent rides for the Tsawassen rider have amounted to 600 kilometres. It’s an impressive record for a cyclist who’s only been seriously riding since 2012, a sport whose “inclusiveness,” as he put it, got him into it for the first place. That his increasingly ambitious rides should bring him to tackle one of the most legendary long-haul rides on earth, it seems, is fitting.

That inclusiveness, too, is what keeps him riding, Stewart said.

“The club welcomes people of radically different skills,” Stewart told the Optimist. “It’s up to the rider to decide what’s success and what’s failure. It really is a sport anyone can pick up.”

The Paris-Brest-Paris ride rolls out on Sunday, August 16.