L2P – Day 4, Compiègne – Paris (5th July 2014)

Our final day’s cycling took us south west initially through small villages and woodland before heading towards the Parisian suburbs.Todays parcour would be more gentle than the previous days in the saddle but the weather would turn it’s hand against us again today with sudden downpours making the roads treacherous. At least it wasn’t as hot as previous days and the run in to Paris flew by.

On entering the outskirts of Paris the traffic increases, but the finish is now close by. The sun had decided to come out as we hit the suburban streets and it is in these parts where you see the real Paris. It is after all a busy, over populated city with it’s own social problems, much like anywhere else but this was an eye opener, with piles of rubbish left out on the roads. 

Our first rendezvous was a small park in the centre of Paris for the riders to regroup. Cycling through the centre of Paris in small groups is a challenge in itself but cyclists do seem to be given plenty of room and respect on the roads. For some of us we had a little while to wait for everyone on the road to catch up before we continue our journey though the Parisian streets.

Once all together we left the park en-masse, all 141 cyclists together, along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to cheers from the public, around the Arc de Triumph to our finish beneath the  Eiffel Tower. On the approach to our finish we could see a few that had made the journey to greet us but as the road opened out we were welcomed by a huge number of friends, family and those who were just passing by.

A celebratory drink and photo shoot follows before we navigate the streets again to find our hotel. Another 10km on to the route for the day (as we got lost) before our well deserved celebration dinner.

Approx Cycling Distance: 100km due to a few too many wrong turns!

A fantastic achievement, truly memorable ride, with many new found friends. Everyone on the ride had a reason to be there, to give their time to try and help Macmillan Cancer Support. Reaching the finish line was an emotional experience and one I want to repeat next year. Yes I will be signing up to ride L2P 2015, a great event and all for such a worthy cause.

Me and an Eiffel

L2P 2014 Day 3, Arras – Compiègne

After a couple of hard days in the saddle, my legs were certainly feeling a little weary as we headed South once more.

We would travel through villages and along quiet French roads to the more forested region around the attractive town of Compiègne. On our way, we would pass through the Somme, part of the Picardy region of France. This truly was to be a sobering day on and off the bike.

During the First World War, the Somme became the site of many battles. The line between forces settled around the town of Thiepval and remained there until July 1916, when the Battle of the Somme was fought on and around the same ground.

Our morning water stop came at the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, a major war memorial to 72,195 missing British and South African men who died in the Battles of the Somme of the First World War between 1915 and 1918 with no known graves. The whole region is dotted with war graves and a day spent cycling through this countryside really brought home the gravity of war.

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the SommeThiepval inscriptions

Moving further south we encountered wind farm after wind farm. It didn’t take us long to find out why this region is littered with them as we cycled for mile after mile into a strong headwind. This really was a brutal day on the bike, described as cycling in treacle, turning the pedals over but going not more than 6mph.

After nearly 7 hours cycling we made it to Compiègne, which is nestled on the banks of the River Oise.The hotel bar was calling, just in time for football too!
Approx Cycling Distance: 140km

L2P Day 2, Calais – Arras

After a hearty breakfast in Calais we head south. Starting off fairly flat, our ride continues as we peddle through beautiful rural landscapes and quiet back roads.

The ride gets more “undulating” (yes, that word again) as the day continues until we reach Arras. By now we had all learnt that “undulating” meant there would be some testing climbs along the way, with today’s climbs of a more steady gradient but longer and equally as challenging. Whoever it was that told me before leaving, that northern France is flat was lying!

As I write this post, the 6th stage of this year’s Tour de France leaves Arras and heads towards Reims, where the pro peloton will cover 194km. My approximate cycling distance when heading into Arras was put at 135km but it could be more as we became completely lost in the town and no doubt put an extra 10km into our heavy legs.

I had cycled my way through the first 2 days at an average of around 20km an hour. I had spent 6 – 7 hours on the bike for both days and yet the pro’s would cover this type of distance in around 4 hours. I had even encountered a few cobbles along the way although I would face more of them later on.

I was left with a Cat. 5 tattoo (cyclists slang for the grease mark left on the calf from an inexperienced racer (or spaced veteran) leaning up against the chainring).

Our hotel was in the centre of town. It was then that we found out that the Main Square Festival, a music festival featuring acts from rock, indie, electronica, and pop would be playing that night, so off to sleep to the sound of Iron Maiden thumping away until the early hours ..

Day 3 would follow – Arras – Compiègne, taking us through the location of one of humanity’s bloodiest battles.

Hidden treasure

 

London to Dover – day 1 of L2P 2014

4 days of cycling from London to Paris, nearly 500km cycled, up and down hills, through the sun, wind and rain, climbing over 14,000 feet along the way and getting lost once or twice, but all 141 of the cyclists, riding to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support, before finishing under the Eiffel Tower.

Having left in bright sunshine on Wednesday, out through the busy rush hour streets of London towards the garden of England, I was under no illusion as to the challenge ahead of us. I was cycling so well that I rode straight past the first water stop and on to lunch in good time (as we had to be in Dover by 5pm, or face the ignominy of being picked up in the van). But then the hills of Kent really do bite.

We had been warned that the parcour for the day was “undulating”, but that included some hills with a gradient of up to 20%. These hills tease you along the way, heading up to a false flat, you think that’s as far as it goes but turn a corner and the road continues upwards, turn the next corner and carry on upwards, one after the other with no time to rest in between hills during the 2nd half of the day. But onto the white cliffs in good time, having ridden 128km.

Across the channel by ferry before cycling the final 10km to our hotel for the evening, eventually making it to bed around midnight, this made for one long day, that hardest day on the bike I have had, up to that point anyway!

White cliffs