The day had finally arrived. Everything (in terms of my bike, kit, food and drink) was fairly well organised. I wasn't particularly nervous or daunted as there was little I could do at this stage to improve my chances. What would be would be. Also, I was fairly sure we had a few stronger riders in the group I could hide behind if I had to along the route if things got tough:)
Fortunately London transport got me to the start in good time, and after a few pics at Marble Arch we were successfully underway by 8:30pm. The ride out of London down to Dover was steady and, aside from a few inconsiderate UK drivers, was uneventful ... no punctures, no mechanical issues and no crashes!!! I was getting noticeably more and more tired (mentally rather than physically) from about midnight onwards and was looking forward to my hour's sleep on the boat.
Sadly, the boat ride was a bit short ... I could have done with 7 rather than just 1 hour's sleep!!! But I guess that was all part of the challenge. Although we had some wonderful dawn weather for our first hour's riding in France, I felt totally drained mentally ... not much fun at all. It was only after some coffee at our first pitstop that I began feeling human again - fortunately our support team had brought a large flask for the journey!!!
Another hour or so later and we had our first proper cafe stop ... fresh real coffee with sugar ... what a difference caffeine makes:) The ride thereafter was a joy:)
In spite of a variety of knee and leg injuries being carried by others in the group, our team of ten riders stuck together well on the road. With a decent bunch of lads the mood was great for the entire ride, despite the lack of sleep.
There's no question that we were extremely fortunate - in addition to having no punctures, mechanical issues or crashes the entire way, we also had either a cross wind or tail wind for most of the journey and the temperature was cool, with only a few drizzly bits.
This made for as pleasant cycling conditions as one could reasonably hope for.Once we'd got 50 miles or so into the ride and I'd had some coffee, my focus switched from getting myself on an even keel to figuring how best to help ensure the whole group would make it to Paris within the 24 hour time limit. As it turned out, everyone was in decent shape, so this only really involved helping to keep any stops reasonably short until we got nearer to Paris.
The entire ride went very smoothly and we enjoyed some great scenery along the way. This was the first time I'd ridden in northern France and I was pleasantly surprised by how good the cycling terrain was. The fact that most of the roads were very smooth and pothole free also helped a bit:) And the drivers seemed far more considered than back in the UK!!!
One particular highlight involved a ten minute spell working in chain with John and Andy to catch-up with the rest of the group following a brief stop, averaging about 30mph, just slightly downhill ... that was quite a buzz!!!
It was a great feeling arriving in Paris with a full team, and with time to spare. And finishing with a jaunt up the Champs Elysees two weeks ahead of the Tour de France was a real treat.
In the end, it all proved much easier than anticipated ... partly because of the weather and good fortune ... but more because of the fantastic organisation and preparation before and during the ride, and the excellent support we had every pedal stroke of the way. This ensured our entire focus remained on the cycling.
All in all a fantastic experience, but not one to repeat;)
The Riders >