A Lap of the Poly de Chanteloup

A Lap of the Poly de Chanteloup

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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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).
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.
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.

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Comments (29)

  • sisyphus

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

    August 22, 2015 at 2:40 pm
  • duncancycles

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

    August 22, 2015 at 7:23 pm
  • bob

    what hapenned to your maes parallel?

    August 23, 2015 at 2:43 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      You are referring to the handlebars on my bike… For PBP, I wanted to try prototypes of new Compass handlebars that I like even better than the Maes Parallel bars…

      August 23, 2015 at 3:49 am
      • Michael

        Are those the Maes French bend from GB?

        August 24, 2015 at 3:55 pm
  • Greg

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

    August 23, 2015 at 10:28 am
  • Michael

    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?

    August 23, 2015 at 10:22 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      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…

      August 23, 2015 at 11:05 pm
  • Alexander

    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?

    August 24, 2015 at 1:35 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      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…

      August 24, 2015 at 1:45 am
      • B123

        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.

        August 24, 2015 at 5:22 am
      • Gert

        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.

        August 24, 2015 at 8:06 am
      • Jens Glad Balchen

        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.
        Jens (C055)

        August 25, 2015 at 12:13 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          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.

          August 25, 2015 at 1:20 pm
  • Christophe

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

    August 24, 2015 at 7:14 am
  • Michael

    Has anyone beaten Demilly’s record time?

    August 24, 2015 at 10:01 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Yes, there have been a number of faster rides since then, notably by Scott Dickson in the 1980s. This year, another record of 42 hours and some was set…

      August 25, 2015 at 12:32 am
      • Michael

        Wow! That’s like RAAM riding at that speed.

        August 25, 2015 at 3:26 pm
  • Giovanni Calcagno

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

    August 25, 2015 at 4:52 am
  • Tom Howard

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

    August 25, 2015 at 5:56 am
  • David Pearce

    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.

    August 25, 2015 at 8:38 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      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.

      August 25, 2015 at 10:09 pm
  • David Pearce

    Lyli is SUCH a wonderful, inspiring & lovely person!

    August 25, 2015 at 8:44 pm
  • Ed

    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

    August 26, 2015 at 1:37 pm
  • Michael

    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?

    August 28, 2015 at 10:30 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      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.

      August 28, 2015 at 11:27 pm

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