Hugues Chabanis wants to challenge limits in both his career and personal life, driven by his mindset. This led him to recently compete in the demanding Paris-Brest-Paris bike race, a renowned test of endurance.
Every fourth year, thousands of amateur and professional bike riders gather for the audacious adventure known as Paris-Brest-Paris. This challenging race covers 1,219 kilometers and includes a demanding total 11,750-meter height climb, which needs to be completed in less than 90 hours.
One of the 6.673 people at the starting line in this year was Hugues Chabanis. Since Chabanis first embarked on long-distance biking, he has gradually reached milestones of 200, 300, 400 and even 600 kilometers. Yet, there was appetite for more.
“My motivation for participating in these races is all about pushing my limits,” Chabanis says.
“Even after riding 600 kilometers, I hadn’t found my limit yet. It's a puzzle in my mind that keeps me motivated to explore the depth of my own boundaries,” Chabanis says.
While many of the participants in 21st edition of Paris-Brest-Paris have dedicated decades to cycling, Hugues Chabanis sets himself apart from the average rider.
On the surface, he may appear to fit the mold of an average participant - a male in his forties from France. However, what makes him stand out is the fact that he purchased his first professional bike just a few years ago.
This contrast becomes even more pronounced when seasoned riders engage in discussions about the technicalities of their bikes, citing specific measurements, while Chabanis has no idea what to answer to questions such as the size of his bike’s bracket.
As an individual, Chabanis possesses an unwavering drive to challenge boundaries, whether it involves leveraging technology to pioneer innovative solutions for investment managers or establishing ambitious personal objectives.
We embrace a moonshot mindset, believing that we can push the technological boundaries. The phrase 'Sky is the limit' is something we often emphasize within our teams.
Head of Investments, SimCorp
Professionally, Hugues Chabanis works in product management as VP of Investment at SimCorp. In this role, he is responsible for spearheading the development of products and services in the industry's rapidly growing areas. This includes developing solutions for the effective management of front office and the total portfolio or tools aiming to make it easier for large asset owners to report on an ever-growing list of sustainability indicators to comply with new regulations.
"We embrace a moonshot mindset, believing that we can push the technological boundaries. The phrase 'Sky is the limit' is something we often emphasize within our teams,” Chabanis explains.
“When I'm on my bike during these long-distance races, there are moments when I'm pushed to the brink emotionally. The psychological impact during the race is truly profound. While preparation is all about relentless biking, during the race it is all in the brain” Chabanis says.
Five left Paris, three made it back
Chabanis left the starting line alongside four companions, but the quintet would turn into a trio before reaching the halfway mark in Brest.
“I was the youngest in my group. We came off strongly and probably started too fast, and we lost two team members after roughly 350 kilometers and 450 kilometers, respectively,” Chabanis recalls.
The loss of two team members defined the race’s development. The importance of the team became evident many times throughout the French roads. Numerous times during the race, doubts inevitably crept in in, and Chabanis started to question why he even showed up.
“When it becomes most difficult, the brain has a tendency towards being lazy. It's in these moments that the mutual dependency within the team shines through. Everyone has ups and downs throughout the different phases of the race, and factors like the need for nutrition, hydration and rest will fluctuate,” Chabanis says.
“This dynamic closely mirrors the challenges faced in the professional world. Some team members encounter tough stretches that mimic the ebb and flow of the race itself, the collective strength of the team enables individuals to perform at their best, as well as messages from followers, supporters on the roads, you need every bit of it” Chabanis continues.
“My special weapon? My daughter is making me a bracelet before every big race, I cannot fail being her hero.”
Statistics from the race
- Bike: Trek Domane SL7
- Calory consumption: 30,000 calories
- Number of punctures: 0
- Average speed: 23.7km/h
- Sleep: I barely slept, there was a dortoir in Brest, but could not sleep, too much smell and snoring, so nap in a random field and on a sidewalk in a town, cannot even say where it was.
Chabanis felt in good shape upon arriving in Brest at the halfway point, while his two companions were struggling a bit more. Staying alongside his teammates and witnessing their determination was truly inspiring. One of his fellow riders suffered a serious fall with 400 kilometers still to go.
“Anyone who saw the condition of his leg would have advised him to stop. He is a 62-year-old and was sitting on the side of his saddle. I took a video to remind him of his incredible determination. In that moment, I was determined not to let him down and make sure that he made it back to Paris,” Chabanis says.
75 hours after leaving the starting line, the trio crossed the finish line together. They jointly expressed gratitude for getting through and keeping each other on their toes. Chabanis estimates they spent roughly 55 hours on their bikes and managed to get only a couple of hours of sleep in total.
“You have many ups and downs throughout the race, and you must divide it into smaller components and often calculate the small and incremental improvements, because your brain is lazy and wants you to quit when you are on brink of collapse. In every race before it is the last 10 percent that were the longest, here it was different, psychologically, the 1200 mark was the end, but the last 20 kilometers were so long. Chabanis says.
“At SimCorp, we engage in some very long-term product development phases. To successfully navigate, it is crucial to break them down into smaller, manageable components. This approach was an integral part of my strategy during the race, and I experimented with various percentages and fractions, all aimed at hacking my brain in what was left to achieve. I was getting closer and closer to the finish line,” he says.
During the race, thoughts about technical issues, body meltdown and terrible weather conditions crossed Chabanis’ mind several times, but everything worked out fine.
We are always afraid of the worst-case scenario that can happen, but taking risks is necessary, and we sometimes overthink negative outcomes. However, after making it to the finish line, my first feeling is that it was not that bad. The next day though, I could barely open my eyes or speak, and two months later, my hands and feet are still suffering constant numbness” he says.
Chabanis’ inspiration for long-distance biking began with a family trip to the Alps, where he and his family were witness to a remarkable sight. As they drove through the scenic mountain landscape, reminiscent from the Tour de France, Chabanis could not help but notice these determined individuals cycling their way to the mountain’s summit.
“They appeared utterly exhausted, yet their determination was unwavering. It was a sight I had never seen. I was filled with curiosity, even though I was not particularly sporty by nature. It was the arrival of the famous Marmotte Grand Fondo race. I made an impulsive decision to attempt the Alpe d’Huez climb, and it took me more than two hours to conquer it. It started there and one year later I was riding the Marmotte,” Chabanis says.
"It's impressive what the body can pull. I was scared about many things during the race such as technical or body issues, but everything worked out fine,” he says.
The question that remains unanswered is about his limits. While Chabanis is in no doubt that he wants to participate again in four years to improve the time it took him to reach the finish line. Hoping for a full recovery soon, he has not planned anything yet for 2024, His next big biking challenge planned so far will be in 2025, as he in November 2023 signed up for London-Edinburgh-London.
Starting in England’s capital city London in August 2025, bikers must race to Scotland’s capital city Edinburgh and back to London in five days – a route of 1,600 kilometers.
Hugues Chabanis has years of experience in the Asset Software industry; starting from the buy-side as a business analyst, he moved to the vendor side and evolved in different job positions including consulting, project management, sales, presales management and finally product management.
- 2023- current: VP Investment at SimCorp
- 2022-2023: Vice president Strategic initiative at SimCorp
- 2021 – 2022 Vice President innovation at SimCorp
- 2019 – 2020: Alternative Investments Product Portfolio Manager at SimCorp
- 2015 – 2019: Alternative Investments Product Manager at SimCorp
- 2010 – 2015: Vice President Pre-sales North America at eFront
- 2006 – 2010: Pre-Sales Manager Continental Europe, North America & Africa at eFront
- 2006 – 2006: Project Manager at eFront
- 2004 – 2006: Analyst at Ardian
- 2023- Board Advisor Amalthea FS
- 2022-2023: Vice president Strategic initiative at SimCorp
- 2019 – 2022: Board Member at SimCorp
- 2004 – 2005: Master’s degree, Business Intelligence at CY Tech
- 2002 – 2004: Bachelor’s degree, Computer Science at CY Cergy Paris Université
- 2000 – 2002: Bachelor’s degree, Mathematics & Computer Science at Université Côte d'Azur
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