Transaid London to Paris Cycle Challenge - SEC Storage

Transaid London to Paris Cycle Challenge - The Review...

 

What can I say? Such an amazing experience! From the early start in Richmond on Friday to the peloton of 58 riders travelling through Paris and finishing at the Eiffel Tower, it was all fantastic. Gary, Steve and myself all completed the full 240 miles with no mechanicals, or accidents. The only casualty was our sore behinds and tired legs. And Gary’s cracked ribs that he sustained a week prior! Huge kudos to Gary for battling through and finishing.

 

 

Day 1 - Friday

Day 1 saw all 58 riders meet for the first time at Richmond Park. It was a very fresh and misty morning and everyone was being fuelled by bacon rolls and coffee, looking forward to the days riding and challenge ahead.

 

Following a safety briefing from Damon the event leader from Dream Challenges, we were off. The London to Paris had begun! The first challenge was to battle through the London morning rush hour. Keeping our wits about us we were soon out of London heading towards rest stop 1. Everyone agreed that they don't fancy having to do a cycle commute on a daily basis. Myself included! It was also at this point that everyone had one thing in common...cycling and getting to Paris, so the camaraderie was already there!

 

The first rest stop gave chance for riders to catch their breathe and regroup. And a chance to remove all the cold weather clothing, as the sun was shining and weather starting to heat up. So far so good. We all felt fit and healthy. Next stop would be at lunch some 36 miles in.

 

Dean, Gary, Steve at Rest Stop 1
Dean, Steve and Gary at rest stop 1


The riding following the first rest stop took us over the M25 and officially out of London. Little did we know traffic was the least of our worries! It was the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to challenge us next. This undulating countryside tested climbing stamina and descending prowess. But we all survived until the much needed lunch stop. Although we survived, there was still some moaning and it started separating our team based on differing fitness levels.

 

Following lunch was the legendary, and tough, Bexley Hill. This climb finishes with a 17% incline. Gary and Steve couldn’t quite make it to the top but I came 3rd in the special Dream Challenge London to Paris KOM (King of the Mountain) segment! Result! A really nice descent into Midhurst made us think we’d beaten all the climbs for the day. Next stop, Portsmouth, surely?

 

Little did we know we were actually in the South Downs National Park. Yet more climbing making Day 1 the toughest, when combining the mileage and challenging hills!

 

Bexley Hill Sign
The infamous Bexley Hill just 1 mile away...

 

The miles soon came down and following the afternoon rest stop Portsmouth was in our sights. One last climb which absolutely finished our legs off and were in Portsmouth. Some complaining more than others!

 

There was a good few hours until the ferry so we were resting at the Mountbatten Centre before catching the 22:45 ferry to Caen. Little did we know we had to cycle from the centre to the ferry port. And a new experience for all was the ‘cozy’ 4 berth cabins.

 

Day 1: 77 miles. And the hardest, done!

Mountbatten Centre - home until the ferry

Day 2 - Saturday

We were rudely awoken by the ferry tannoy system at 4:45am to get us all awake for breakfast before docking. We knew that the challenge would be just that, a challenge, but didn’t realise sleep deprivation would be part of it too!

 

We saw the sunrise in Caen and then it was a short 3 mile cycle to Pegasus Bridge which would be our official start point. Unfortunately I forgot to start Strava until Pegasus Bridge, so missed 3 miles for the days overall mileage!

 

Pegasus Bridge is the location of the first bridge and house to be liberated by Allied forces upon the invasion of Europe during World War II. The perfect backdrop for our first group photograph and the start of Day 2! I was concerned that the London to Paris Challenge would be a magical mystery tour of monuments and landmarks, but this was the only one. Time to cycle!

 

Transaid London to Paris Team Pegasus Bridge
Transaid London to Paris Team Pegasus Bridge

 

Leaving Caen we headed through rolling French countryside on to our first rest stop 20 miles in. This was a nice, flat gentle ride and a welcome relief from the hills of Day 1. My legs struggle to wake up however, feeling fairly fatigued. Morale was low for me considering what we still had to do!

 

After the rest stop, the next part of the ride was described as “lovely rolling countryside” by event leader Damon. Unfortunately what he meant by rolling countryside was hilly countryside. If you have ever driven the motorways in France, you could be led to believe northern France is flat. Quite the contrary actually! But the weather was on our side and everyone in good spirits despite the continuous hills and fatigued legs from Day 1.

 

Just before lunch was a 3 mile, slight gradient slog on a main road. We all suspected we were heading in the wrong direction and we really didn’t want any unnecessary mileage in the legs, but, we were greeted 44 miles in by the smiling faces of the Dream Challenges catering team in Thiberville.

 

It was a quaint French village with public toilets that also had the traditional French method, shall we say!

 

Lunch Stop Day 2
Lunch stop day 2 in Thiberville

 

At this point my legs were feeling ok but my behind was very sore from the time in the saddle; more chamois cream required!

 

After lunch we realised we had completed over 50% of the challenge, both in mileage and time. Spirits were lifted despite the tired legs and sore behinds. We pressed on for the afternoon with a nice gradual descent to Beaumont-le-Roger. At this point Gary, Steve and I split. It was a time when riding at your own pace had to be done in order to get the ride out of the way. Fatigue was really starting to kick in!

 

Beaumont-le-Roger is a beautiful town. Everyone was enjoying the superb sunshine and a much needed rest. And a beer or two. I refrained, knowing I wouldn't want to start riding again. Straight out of the town was the final climb of the day. After a total of 140 miles in the legs, this climb was tough, and again split our small team. It was then a very long, open countryside 18 mile ride to the end of Day 2. I managed to keep up with Gary. As he was feeling the strongest, I benefited from “drafting” to get some life back in the legs and opportunity to take on my first, and only energy gel of the challenge!

 

Gary maintained a good pace and I couldn’t keep up. I was therefore riding on my own on fairly busy, none picturesque roads with a serious headwind. This was a low point for me and probably the lowest on the challenge!

 

The end of Day 2 finished in Évreux and a short cycle through the town. We had the opportunity to see Cathédrale Notre-Dame d'Évreux (Évreux Cathedral) which had some amazing flying buttresses, akin to the cathedral in fictitious TV mini-series The Pillars of the Earth. Unfortunately exhaustion and the prospect of a hotel bed (note not a ferry cabin!) meant I didn’t consider taking a photograph!

 

Day 2: 84 miles. The longest day in the saddle, done!

Beaumont-le-Roger - afternoon rest stop Day 2

Day 3 - Sunday

After a lovely Italian meal Saturday night and a goods nights rest in a proper bed, we were ready for Day 3. Gary and I stayed in the Ibis and started Day 3 slightly earlier with a climb out of the town. Something Steve had done after the 84 miles on Day 2 taking his day’s mileage to about 87!


It was a good grind out of the town and a good warm up on what was the warmest and clearest start of the challenge so far; a beautiful morning!

 

I have to say the mornings ride to rest stop 1 was a highlight of the challenge for me. We saw the sun come up, on lovely roads (I muttered the words “lovely bit of tarmac”, something as a mountain biker I never thought I’d say and I nearly washed my mouth out with soap!). But riding with Gary, side-by-side on the road, we had a good chat about family and life, putting the world to rights. Before we knew it we had covered 18 miles!

 

La Couture-Boussey - Rest Stop Day 3
La Couture-Boussey...rest stop 1, Day 3

 

There was bit of a faux pas from the Dream Challenges team who missed rest stop 1 and headed straight to lunch. We were therefore treated to a pastry and coffee in La Couture-Boussey, before heading off to the lunch stop.

 

We realised we had very little mileage to cover when compared to what we had already achieved and spirits were high. The riding up to lunch was just stunning. Lovely, rolling countryside (not too hilly) and through some nice small villages. We all stayed together during this leg. Gary even got chatting to a local French gentleman who was on a bike riding to shooting; his Sunday morning hobby!

 

There was one killer hill though! This was out of Septeuil at 33 miles, and finished us off. Luckily it was just another 6 miles to the lunch stop in Thoiry.

 

Gary Dean Steve Septeuil climb
Gary, Dean and Steve at the top of the Septeuil climb

 

I have to say a special thanks goes out to the catering team of Dream Challenges. They made superb rolls and soups, along with homemade cakes and sweet things. The best food we had the whole challenge and a welcome sight every lunch time.

 

Following lunch the next stop was Versailles at 56 miles. We were now entering the suburbs around Paris. The riding got a lot more interesting with busy roads, traffic and lights to stop at. I made the comparison it was like riding through Milton Keynes. The French like their roundabouts too!

 

It would be just 16 miles until the finish line at the Eiffel Tower. I say just. This type of distance is not insignificant and would be an hours training ride pre-challenge. But having covered 200+ miles, the end was in sight. This positive feeling was further boosted by our first glimpse of the iconic Eiffel Tower about 10 miles away.

 

All of a sudden my legs felt fresh and the small shot of adrenaline would get me to the finish line!

 

The next challenge would be the notorious French traffic, but riding in groups we muscled our way to the final re-group stop at Le Café du Bois on Avenue de l'Hippodrome.

 

A few well deserved beers and celebrations meant we had a bit of Dutch French courage for the final ride around the Arc de Triomphe and down the Champs-Élysées, finishing at the Mur pour la Paix (Wall of Peace) with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

 

Beers at Le Café du Bois on Avenue de l'Hippodrome
Celebration eers at Le Café du Bois on Avenue de l'Hippodrome...we made it to Paris!

 

I have to say, and I knew it would be, but this was an absolute highlight and privilege. Riding through Paris with 58 other riders that had all finished the challenge, was a very proud, amazing and emotional experience.

 

We were greeted by the Dream Challenges team who swiftly put a medal around our necks and glass of champagne in our hands!

 

Day 3: 72 miles. We had done it!

 

Transaid London to Paris Team - Paris
We had made it...240 miles, 3 days. London to Paris!

Gary, Steve and Dean made it to Paris!

Special Thank You!

I’d like to pass on a special thanks to Steve and Gary for being excellent team mates. Without us all working together (and benefitting from a bit of drafting), we wouldn’t have made it!

 

But without doubt a huge thank you goes out to the Transaid (Harry, Florence, Caroline) and the Dream Challenges team that expertly organised the challenge. They kept us safe, watered and fed for the entire challenge. Thank you!

 

And of course, all of our corporate sponsors and personal donations that have helped us raise an amazing £6,221.00 to date! Thank you! The money will be spent on tremendous causes. If you haven't donated, and are inspired to do so by the challenge please visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sec-storage

 

Transaid London to Paris Cycle Challenge 2017. You. Were. Amazing!