Trinity Primary School:  Henley to Paris 2017

Trinity Primary School:  Henley to Paris 2017

However much you look forward to your London to Paris cycle challenge – 1 of the true monuments of cycling challenges – there is a dark shadow that hangs over every aspect. From training in the depths of winter, the beastings in the spin studio through to packing your kit the night before the Grand Depart.

The Newhaven to Dieppe 2300 ferry night crossing. It can’t be trained for.

Imagine then your departure point is Henley Upon Thames. Adding a draining 50km to the parcours. With the dreaded night on the floor getting ever closer with every pedal stroke. The triumph of reaching Newhaven is muted. Even the bonus shower in Newhaven’s finest hotel (Premier Inn) and a feast at Newhaven’s finest eatery (Brewers Fayre) can’t wash away the foreboding that prior knowledge of inevitable sleepless night brings. Just ask any parent.

The day’s ride (a damn good one) quickly falls into the distant past as you watch, confused, as apparently more knowing cyclists perform strange stretching exercises whilst balancing their backsides on strange shaped rubber balls, as you struggle to keep your eyes open first in the plastic seats (nearly as uncomfortable as a saddle) in the DFDS holding bay – I mean the passenger ferry terminal, before finally your transported on the DFDS cattle truck (sorry bus) onboard the ferry. Finally.

It’s a shame. Any route that cuts through Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Surrey and both the Sussex-es can’t be bad. True there was ‘Death Valley’ (aka the road to Twyford) to be survived, the TTT along Drift road to be endured and multiple stretch-hummers (on the way to Royal Ascot) to be avoided but on the whole Day 1 was not far off the Best of British. Even Crocknorth was met with a smile – or was that a grimace?

Then it happens. It’s as bad as you think it’s going to be. You’d been promised cabin. Or as good as. It’s the floor then. ‘Why did I sign up to this.’ you ask as your eyes don’t close as soon as your head hits your inflated pillow. At least your head is awash with images from the send off, your kids looking up at you proudly. The send off was unforgettable. That’s why you signed up.

Then the French bit of the ride happens.

Dieppe is quiet at dawn. Its race course deserted. The 30-odd strong peloton rolls through town. En masse. As one. For approximately 10 minutes before the selection. The Mountain Bike in 1 group, everyone else in the other. 

Even that collective didn’t last. There were soon lots of groups. Whether separated by metres or miles they are all joined in their awe of the traffic free roads (it was only 6am after all), the radiant sunrise and the super smooth tarmac. All the fuss about the ferry had hidden the fact that ride between Dieppe and Paris is one of the best. 24 hour challenge or not, it should be ridden by everyone. It’s got everything, climbs that hurt more than enough, descents that excite just enough, cutting through scenery that makes you feel good to be alive.

Everything you need, except somewhere to buy a coffee and croissant. It wasn’t until 50km in that rural France shook of its sleep. Buchy represented the first sign of life, a bustling market where you could buy an eclectic mix of vintage bikes, ski boots, agricultural equipment, fireplaces. You just wanted coffee. You gulped it down quickly in its flimsy plastic cup if you wanted to get back on the road and drive on for Gisors (to watch the 1st Lions Test). You took your time in the morning sunshine if you just wanted a second coffee.

If Henley to Paris isn’t the normal London to Paris, neither is racing on to Gisors to watch Rugby. The Lions versus All Blacks 1st Test. But you did. You probably also had pizza and a couple of pints before the final run into Paris from Poissy whilst the rest of the Peloton caught up in time to join your second pint.

Then it was just Paris or bust. 30 riders snaking through the Parisian traffic, with tiredness, heat, hunger, excitement taking grip of your senses. Of course there was a puncture less than a kilometre from the finish line. That just preceded the crash at the finish line.

With all riders accounted for (“never leave anyone behind”), you’ve created a new monument in more ways than 1 way: A prayer at send off, a police escort, lucrative jersey sponsorship, a BMC 24-hour distance record, a fixie and a mountain bike with Tri-bars, homecoming in the Reading FC team bus, leaving bikes in the ‘Hands of God’.   

It’s hard to know how to follow that. Where to next? Bring it on. (Just not on the Newhaven to Dieppe Ferry).

And here’s proper report: https://www.henleyherald.com/2017/06/29/trinity-fundraisers-conquer-24-hour-cycle-paris/

Advertisements

the other cycling year so far

the other cycling year so far

cycling can take you to some cool places. Not just on the road or trail. Whilst trundling into the office I reflected on my cycling year to date. Not the 3000 km I’ve already chalked up, a different type of cycling journey – our newly incorporated cycle-touring venture: thebicyclemoaningcollective.com

  • My fellow cyclo-dreamers and I, stopped talking about starting a cycle company, agreed to work together and incorporated a limited company…
  • …and a British Cycling affiliated cycling club.
  • That’s secured us places in the Prudential 100 and we’ve got a team entered this year…
  • …who will be riding in our new, totally bespoke, pretty-damn cool (if I may say so myself) team cycling kit
  • We’ve also designed a club logo, we think it captures our ethos: serious about cycling, not serious cyclists
  • The team jersey is from a new cycle clothing manufacturer that we’ve teamed up with, HUEZ, we’ve already sold over 50 club jerseys, when I say sold I mean ‘provided at cost’ to our growing team.
  • We’ve also worked with some other cool cycling and sports companies ridefullgas.com (went halves on 140 team water bottles), pearsoncycles.co.uk – the oldest bike shop (in the world, maybe), and Payasugym.com (who publish some of my articles and gave us some voucher codes on gym passes).
  • We’re on Social Media – Instagram, Facebook, we have a website, some great photos and film footage of our cycling adventures (plus a fledgling cycling blog)
  • Not forgetting the boring stuff like sorting out limited company incorporation, insurance, opening bank accounts.
  • The East Sheen Primary School London to Paris in 24 horrs (or ESPS L2P24 for short) was something special. We backed ourselves to deliver a great event and we did that and then some. If we did nothing else – the kids response, the money raised and the ‘life changing’ experiences the Hero Dad’s told us about were amazing.
  • But we will do more. Next time it will be easier, that was our pilot. We now have templates, actual costs, ridden routes, neat tricks (like showers in a pub) and lessons learned.
  • Plus, we’ve got feedback from real clients that give us real insight in. So we can make the challenge even better.
  • Not forgetting the annual club 300 miles in 3 days, or for some 400 miles in 4 days – we’re getting more ambitious already. We’ve been running these since 2009 and this year’s tour was seamless (except for the guy who forgot his passport!)
  • And on the next trips we have a great mechanic and physiotherapy support lined up, which will make the experience even better still.

I know July’s Chasing the Tour trip is officially in the 2nd half of the year but it’s all organised, wrapped up and ready to go. That’s not bad for just half a year’s work!

hero dads

hero dads

It didn’t start as the children gathered in the school playground on a warm May Friday afternoon. Nor when they started singing (in French). Not even when the Dad’s did a lap of honour of the playground – high-fiving with the cheering kids whilst trying not to fall off their bikes before exiting through the gates and turning left for Paris.

No it started in back in the winter when Dad’s started congregating outside the local bike shop early on Sunday mornings to train for a London to Paris in 24 hours sponsored cycle ride. This was Dad Cycling at its best, up out of bed early, 3 hours on the road and back in time to referee breakfast at the family kitchen table (OK – sometimes we don’t get back when we say we would).

Those early starts, the terrible weather we’re all worth it when on the starting line, in the school playground you made eye contact with your child/children and just for a moment you felt like a hero. More than a few Dads admitted to hiding a tear behind their dark glasses.

Even when you’re a Hero-Dad you can’t just jump on your bike and ride to Paris, you need some, or preferably all of the following:

Some good mates:

I knew 2 or 3 Dad’s from my daughter’s school. I now know 27! Not just from the ride but from training together, exchanging advice and some really funny cycling related banter (honestly) on WhatsApp. This meant that by the time of the big day we knew each others’ cycling style, cruising speed and mood on the bike which meant we could encourage and motivate each other far better than a group of strangers. Of course we now have a fantastic shared experience which will keep us bantering and riding together long after our Facebook posts have faded on our timelines.

Some know how:

We didn’t just train our bodies, we trained our minds. OK, we didn’t boost our collective IQs but we learnt through our training: Group riding skills, what it’s like to hit the wall if you don’t eat properly on the bike and how expensive it is if you don’t maintain your bike (both in taxi fares home & repairs). Look after your bike and it will look after you!

Some motivation:

Ride for a good cause – we were riding to raise money for our children’s school, £15,000 had been pledged for a new toilet block – what more motivation do you need? A good cause can make you battle through those mental lows and physical pains that are urging you to get in the broom wagon.

Friendly competition – when the day of the ride seems a long way off and it’s cold, wet, dark outside the motivation to get out and train can be running at zero. Not if you are in a http://www.strava.com league with your fellow riders and want to break into the top 10 (some weeks 200km didn’t even get you a top 10 place!)

Some great support:

To mis-quote Robert Louis Stevenson (because most people do!) “it is often better to travel than to arrive” – we followed a fantastic route from Dieppe in the early hours to the centre of Paris in bright sunshine, charted by http://www.thebicyclemoaningcollective.com who also provided support riders, support drivers, lots of food and a super quick puncture-fixing service.

We were also supported by http://www.pearsoncycles.co.uk who provided bike-fitting and bike servicing, http://www.payasugym.com who kick-started out training with deals on gym passes to get us into spinning classes. Finally, Chestertons in East Sheen funded our all important tour cycle jersey!

So did we do it? We cut it fine. Very fine. We raced, all 31 of us, to reach the finish line under the Eiffel Tower…. with just 2 minutes to spare!
If you are a school, club or charity who would like help in organising your own London to Paris sponsored cycle ride please contact thebicyclemoaningcollective@gmail.com

payasugym.com article