A Lap of the Poly de Chanteloup

demilly_theo

After Paris-Brest-Paris, Theo and I rode out to Chanteloup in the hills west of Paris. After every PBP, we organize a small reunion of the Pilotes de René Herse (the riders on René Herse’s team) at the restaurant where the team used to eat after the Poly de Chanteloup hillclimb race. During recent reunions, some of the pilotes brought their bikes, and we rode around the course of the Poly.

pilotes_herse

Due to a relatively short notice, only six people participated, but it was a fun event nonetheless. Left to right: Theo, Lyli Herse, Jan, Jean-Marie Comte, Max Audouin (current-day randonneur and friend) and Robert Demilly.

Readers of the René Herse book will know Comte as one of the four riders who were a formidable presence in the randonneuring competitions that were popular at the time, including the Poly hillclimb races. However, they also were capitaines de route who guided the group rides of the Audax brevets… Being able to ride fast was an asset when trying to keep these groups together.

HerseCH1200

Robert Demilly, the other pilote at the reunion, came first in the 1966 Paris-Brest-Paris, together with Maurice Macaudière. They set a record of 44:21 hours in the process. The photo above shows Demilly leading Macaudière on the approach to Paris during the final stages of this amazing ride. (Their story was published in Bicycle Quarterly 21.)

We all enjoyed an excellent dinner, then Robert Demilly changed into his cycling clothes and led us during a lap around the course of the Poly de Chanteloup. On our way to the restaurant, we already had climbed the famous 14% hill that the randonneurs ascended 11 times during their 100+ km event.

descente_maurecourt

We started our ride on the forested plateau of Hautil, then launched into the descent toward Maurecourt. The road is very steep and bumpy, but Monsieur Demilly handled his Look racing bike with aplomb. Max and Lyli followed in the car – Lyli wanted to relive her many tandem exploits in the Poly, but we couldn’t find a tandem to fit her. Two years ago, to celebrate her 85th birthday, I had the honor to pilot her around the course on an Herse “Chanteloup” tandem (with curved seat tube for better performance up- and downhill)!

In Maurecourt, we had to detour due to construction, but soon we found ourselves on the original course again.

cote_andresy

After a short ride along the Seine, we turned up the hill of Andrésy. It’s not the main hill, but it’s steep and long. I had admired Monsieur Demilly’s pedal stroke on the flats, but now I could see that he also had plenty of power. Especially impressive for a 75 year-old!

demilly_chanteloup

We rolled along a false flat, then we turned a corner and found ourselves right in front of the beautiful church of Chanteloup. I couldn’t take a photo, since I was too busy shifting to the small chainring. Now the famous climb began in earnest. I sprinted ahead to take the photo above, and then had a hard time catching up to Theo and Monsieur Demilly. Part of it was the 1200 km of PBP that still were in my legs, but those two really climbed well (see also photo at the top of the post).

groupe_monument

The hill was long, and it was hot. When we finally reached the top, we stopped at the monument for a professional racer who died in his 20s. Monsieur Demilly, who used to work as a mechanic for the French national team, filled us in on the details of this racer and his untimely death.

Then we went to Lyli Herse’s house for refreshments and more reminiscences. We talked until late in the evening, and the sun was setting when Theo and I set out to return to Paris.

seine

We rode along the Seine, then crossed the Pont d’Asnières, passed near the Alex Singer shop in Levallois-Perret, before launching into Paris traffic on the way back to our hotel. As we jostled with taxicabs for position on the cobblestone roundabout of the Place de la Bastille, we shouted at each other: “What a fun day!”

Correction 8/24: The original post listed the square with the cobblestones as Place de la Nation. We traversed both, but only the Place de la Bastille has cobblestones.

About Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

I love cycling and bicycles, especially those that take us off the beaten path. I edit Bicycle Quarterly magazine, and occasionally write for other publications. Bicycle Quarterly's sister company, Compass Bicycles Ltd., turns the results of our research into high-quality bicycle components for real-world riders.
This entry was posted in People who inspired us, Rides. Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to A Lap of the Poly de Chanteloup

  1. sisyphus says:

    Great post, Jan. Thank you for writing, and congratulations on your PBP ride.

  2. duncancycles says:

    Wow. Demilly still shows a ton of class on the bike. He looks great. Amazing!

  3. bob says:

    what hapenned to your maes parallel?

  4. Greg says:

    Wonderful. Bravo! What great images. It is a real treat to view them.

  5. Michael says:

    Interested to know more about Demilley’s current choice of bike in the top photo, as I get the impression he has a history of riding hand built French bikes.
    Did he comment about this?

    • His bike actually is a handbuilt French bicycle. It’s a Look prototype he got when he worked as a mechanic for the French national team. Perhaps it’s easiest to understand if you consider that these riders always had the most up-to-date equipment. In 1966, that was a René Herse with steel frame and racing tubulars. In 2015, that is a carbon racing bike…

  6. Alexander says:

    Great. Thanks for sharing. Will you write about this years PBP in general. In spite of great conditions there seem to be quite a lot of scratches. Any ideas why?

    • PBP is a tough ride, and there always are a good number of DNFs. I came close, and only having a generous margin with respect to the time limit allowed me to continue. I plan to write an article for the Winter Bicycle Quarterly about my ride…

      • B123 says:

        I saw you there, but for some reason didn’t come to say hello. Would have been interesting.

        I’d say the conditions were indeed close to perfect, apart from the rain for those who were on the road on thursday. It’s still a great challenge, which is one of the great things about it. Many started with such a fast pace, it might have led to exhaustion.

        For me this was my first PBP, and it was inspiring with all the people riding and cheering, seeing and hearing how the anciens do it. Will be interesting to hear about your ride. My ride went well and I ended up being pretty fast too, under sixty hours on a single speed.

      • Gert says:

        I look forward to your story. Afterwards I looked at the times of friends and also peeked at yours and could see that there must be a story. From the results I have seen it looks like more than 20% DNS/DNF/HD. I had apparently forgotten how tough it is, but managed OK
        There are many indiviual stories behind the DNF, but starting last among the 90 hour groups, I think many riders spent to much time at the controls and then ran out of time to sleep.

      • Hi Jan.

        I’m happy to see you recovered well enough to do this ride immediately after PBP. I am still nursing saddle sores and an inflamed knee.

        We rode together and chatted for a time in the C group while the pace was high, discussing amongst others hub dynamos, and when my friend and I let the group go at Mortagne, I was certain you would stay with them. I see now that we managed to cross paths again somewhere without noticing. It’d be interesting to know what happened after we let go of the lead group.

        Cheers,

        Jens (C055)

      • It was nice riding with you. I ran into some difficulties in Loudéac on the way back and took 14 hours off the bike. Then I continued the ride at a cyclotouring pace and really enjoyed the rest of PBP.

  7. Christophe says:

    Jan, there are no cobblestones on Place de la Nation. Maybe you were on Place de la Bastille ?

  8. Michael says:

    Has anyone beaten Demilly’s record time?

  9. Giovanni Calcagno says:

    You rode the course of the Poly after eating dinner?
    Pretty sure it was not only excellent but especially light and wine free!!!

  10. Tom Howard says:

    This is an excellent post. I’m so glad you paid a visit to these cycling legends. A great follow-up to the PBP.

  11. David Pearce says:

    Will there be no post about the PBP and your and other riders’ experiences on this one? Like what happened on that route beginning the last third of the race, where your speed went down so precipitously, and others did not record any times at all?

    I tried to understand the French explanation for the glitch, but I couldn’t make out the details.

    • I am working on a Bicycle Quarterly article about my PBP experience. Average speeds drop mostly when you stop. I spent 14 hours off the bike, so my average speed for that leg went down to 4.5 km/h…

      The lack of times altogether was due to problems with a) the pickup for the computer chips riders wore, which weren’t recorded at some places, and b) due to problems with the Internet connection, which didn’t transmit some of the recorded entries in the controls even when the chip worked. Fortunately, every rider carries a control card that they must have stamped at the controls, so they don’t have any issue with checking whether the riders rode the entire course or not.

  12. David Pearce says:

    Lyli is SUCH a wonderful, inspiring & lovely person!

  13. Ed says:

    The “mature” French rides are amazing. I rode with a 70+ year old man briefly into Brest and had an hour chat in French. He was from the St. Malo area. We arrived in 23 hours. He told me his goal was to break 60 hours but thought 65 hours was likely at his age. I can’t remember his exact age but I think it was 73. I’m only 56 years old but this gentleman’s pedal stroke, suppless, and courage at the age of 73 was humbling to say the least. He was pure butter on the pedals.

    Ed RUSA 560

  14. Michael says:

    Did Demilly’s give you his take on helmets? Wondering if he gave his thoughts about that.
    Also, I saw a pic of a PBP rider this year without a helmet.
    Do they disqualify/penalize in PBPfor not wearing a helmet?

    • There is no rule requiring helmets in PBP. Helmets are an interesting issue. Many of the older riders rode for decades without helmets and never experienced any head injuries, either of their own or others. Some have adopted helmets lately, others don’t see any reason to change how they ride. This post has my take on helmets.

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