Paul Galéà, the Perpignan biker who pedals until the end of the night and in all weathers

You have to imagine hours and hours in the saddle, in all weathers, whether it's hot, cold, windy, rainy, stormy.

Paul Galéà, the Perpignan biker who pedals until the end of the night and in all weathers

You have to imagine hours and hours in the saddle, in all weathers, whether it's hot, cold, windy, rainy, stormy... The "ultra" enthusiasts on bikes push the limits, far, very far. A lifelong cyclist, Paul Galéa practiced mountain biking until now, he is one of those today, since he discovered the discipline at the dawn of his forties, in 2015.

“When I was old enough, I asked my parents to buy me a moped. They then offered me a bike and, since then, they have been biting their fingers about it,” he smiles. He knows precisely how to date the shift in this other world which sees him line up for races in total autonomy over several hundreds or thousands of kilometres. “It was for my 40th birthday, I wanted to line up at the start of the Paris-Brest-Paris, a 1,230 kilometer event. That's where it clicked. »

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Before being able to commit, he had to pass the successive distance patents, 200, 300, 600 kilometers. “It was during the 600 kilometers that it happened, when night fell and I continued. » Click confirmed during the Paris-Brest-Paris… « It is a perfect race to start, it is fully marked out and there is a supply point every 80 or 100 kilometres, this allows you to start light and in complete confidence. »

A comfort that does not exist on the events that Paul Galéà has since accumulated, the Born to Ride across France, the Gravel Tro Breizh, a 1,200 km tour of Brittany between roads and paths, the 1,000 from the South to through the Alps and the great passes, or trips at a more "quiet" pace in autonomy with friends, from Soulac...

Something to accumulate memories. This Gravel Tro Breizh in the storm, six runners at the finish out of 115 at the start, he was one of them. Like this ascent of the terrible Mont Ventoux in the middle of the night. There are also these meetings and the generosity, when he is staying with the locals on the side of the road because the conditions are very difficult, cold or rain. Or this amazement when, in 2018, during the BTR between Le Verdon and Saint-Sébastien, he did not sleep three nights in a row.

"I didn't think it was possible. But that is what surprises me the most, the adaptability of our organisms. At first, when I rode at night, I sometimes had hallucinations, for lack of sleep. Once I finished a race closing one eye because I was seeing everything double, but that doesn't happen to me anymore. »

"I'm lucky that my wife supports me and also to have time despite my work" Paul Galéa

The world is changing and the discipline is starting to gain media coverage, a few sponsors are arriving. “There are no professionals in the discipline yet but it is clear that today those who are on the podiums do not work on the side”, he regrets. A railwayman by profession, he rides within the Cyclosportissimo association team. And he knows that the three eights to which he is forced by his work are also a strength in managing fatigue.

His most bitter failure, which still haunts him, was on the Transcontinental, an event of about 4,000 kilometers through Europe. “It was the mind that let go, I was stressed,” he recalls. Stressed by fear, the unknown, the distance, the prospect of crossing truly foreign lands. “I had even forgotten my credit card at home, it was a sign. Aligned at the start, he finally gave up after a thousand kilometres. He has reached his limit.

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“In this type of race, it is not the other competitors who are your opponents, it is yourself. What suits me well are the shorter events, a thousand kilometres, it's a bit like the sprint format of the discipline. Back from the Italy Divide, a course of 1,200 kilometers and 22,000 meters of elevation from Pompeii to Lake Garda, which he completed in fifth place, he is already thinking about the next meetings. “I am lucky that my wife supports me in these adventures, and also to have time for it despite my work. So this year, he will take part in a great classic, Bordeaux-Paris, "but in fixed gear because it's flat", then in Race across France, between Megève and Cannes. Among others.