Team RID 3211 at a Paris cycling event

Paris–Brest–Paris (PBP) is a gruelling 1,200km self-supported ride from Paris to Brest in Brittany, and back, and is the most famous and oldest amateur cycling event in the world. It began in 1891 and is held every four years. The most recent edition of PBP was held in August 2023. The Audax Club of Paris is the organiser of the event, and the challenge is to complete 1,219km, with an elevation of 12,000m, in 90 hours. Cyclists from affiliated clubs of Audax, who have completed 200, 300, 400 and 600km are qualified to participate in this event.

From L: Jose Kuruvilla, Jittu Sebastian, Kiran Kurian and Mebin Abraham in front of the Eiffel Tower, Paris.
From L: Jose Kuruvilla, Jittu Sebastian, Kiran Kurian and Mebin Abraham in front of the Eiffel Tower, Paris.

Around 6,800 cyclists from 71 countries participated this year including four Rotarians from RID 3211 — Jittu Sebastian and Mebin Abraham from RC Kottayam Southern, Dr Jose Kuruvilla, president, RC Pala, and Kiran C Kurian from RC Kottayam North.

Here is an excerpt from a conversation with Jittu Sebastian.

It was the ride of my life. The climate, the rough terrain, the high elevations and the unfamiliar food, tested us beyond measure.

How did you take up cycling as a sport?

Our team of friends started cycling as an aerobic exercise to improve our fitness and health. Soon we were motivated to do long-distance endurance cycling rides and took part in many amateur rides organised in southern India.

 

Tell us about your experience at this premier event.

In one sentence, it was the ride of my life. I have never faced such challenges in any of my previous rides. The unaccustomed climate, the rough terrain, the high elevations which we had to negotiate and the unfamiliar food, tested us beyond measure. Roads were rolling from one hill to another. We had to wait in long queues for food at reporting points; and very hot days followed by extremely cold nights, and turbulent headwind while cycling, were exhausting and slowed our progress.

Jittu Sebastian with his medal after completing the race.
Jittu Sebastian with his medal after completing the race.

After about a day and a half, I realised I was lagging by around 90 minutes from reporting time, so I decided to forgo both food and sleep. I survived on soft drinks and fruits provided by thoughtful villagers along the way. But sleepless nights and gnawing hunger made me weak both in body and spirit. I felt disturbed and avoided phone calls and messages, but in hindsight this actually saved my time. It was the inner voice that goaded me to go on, it gave me the power to fight back and overcome the tiredness deep in my bones. In the final 10 hours, by the grace of god, I was able to recover my normal pace and with almost half-an-hour to spare I finished the race. Sadly, my fellow rider, Kiran Kurian who too should have completed the race met with an accident a few hundred kilometres prior to the finish and was unable to continue.

 

How were you able to showcase Rotary at the event?

It was mandatory to wear the affiliation t-shirt for the race but prior to the race we got the opportunity to wear our Rotary t-shirts with the PBP Race logo. Many cyclists were intrigued and we explained that we were Rotarians from South India.

 

The author is the DGN of RID 3211

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