Well, after 5 months and 3000 miles of training, the task has been completed, 306 miles in 4 days, 14000 ft of climbing, many bottles of water, litres of energy drinks, 3 tonnes of cake and energy bars and enough coffee to keep me awake until October!!!!
The first day going over the North Downs was a tough one, 90 miles in all, we waited 3 hours for the ferry, were herded off like animals, kept in a waiting pen until all the cars and lorries came off and didn’t arrive at the hotel until 11.00pm!
With keys to rooms, luggage and your room mates sorted, the first question I asked Jonathan was ‘do you snore?’ ‘Of course’ was the reply ‘doesn’t all cyclists?’
So with ear plugs in, eventually hitting the pillow at 12.30am, I fell into a deep sleep, until Jonathans bike lights turned themselves on and like a 70’s disco and flashed for 10 minutes. ‘sorry mate, I was having problems with them and thought I’d turned them off’.
Back to sleep, not for long though, John Travolta’s stage lit up again…… this could be a long night with a potential murder in a sleepy Calais hotel!!!
Every day started the same, breakfast was served between 6.30 and 7.30am, bags were to be packed and placed on the Lorry by 7.00am, the briefing and Grand Depart was at 7.30am.
Day 2 (75 miles) saw us ride to Arras, another lumpy day, legs were a bit sore but nothing to complain about as no one would listen anyway! Met just outside the town and was given a map with directions to the hotel, ‘just a mile, 5 minutes, that’s all’!
By this point I had made some good friends, John, Edd, Tim and Jez who I rode the remainder of the days with, apart from speaking in their own local dialect, their other problem was they couldn’t read maps and certainly couldn’t speak the language! Ed making us fall about for 10 minutes after he asked the guy where the station was in Italian.
Day 3 (79 miles) was spent riding through the Somme area with all the Great War Cemeteries (over 1000), museums and memorials, Jez having a family reason for the ride as his Grand Father and Great Grand Father both lost their lives in this region. The downside to this was he spent 3 hours telling me the story, not even coming up for breath on the hills! The next day would be someone else’s turn to listen! I apologise as I now know what I put you lot through!!
Day 4 was a bit of a breeze, only 63 miles, we rolled into Paris, met up with the other groups and were then led to the Eiffel Tower with a rolling road closure, very moving and exciting as well!!
This was a great ride, well organized by Action Medical Research (thanks to Grant Ellis, their representative, who had to listen to me daily and my recommendations for personal masseurs/butlers/mechanics etc), good accommodation, plenty of food and drink along the way with Doctors and mechanical support in tow (and on the ride!). You meet some great people, all with a story and it leaves a real memory! If you get an opportunity, have a go!
I’d also like to thank all the Tiptree Velo gang for turning up on Saturday mornings, Sunday mornings and whenever I sent an email out requesting a training partner, your help was greatly appreciated!!