An adventure on two wheels
Eaglesham dentists Irene and Roddy Black took on the London to Paris cycling challenge recently. Here, Irene describes how it all went...
I can’t believe it’s all over. It was more than a year ago when, in a moment of weakness, we signed up with Dream Challenges to undertake a London to Paris cycle ride for charity. Little did we know that this would have the potential to take over our lives.
After nine months of gruelling spin classes, cycling throughout our less than glorious Scottish summer, punctuated only by some essential purchasing including lovely new bikes and a plethora of gadgets and accessories, we were good to go.
Over the roar of the traffic, fortunately no one can hear you scream
We set off on our adventure on Wednesday 2nd Sept with more than a little anxiety and trepidation. The train journey to London went smoothly and the plan to get our cycles and luggage the two miles across central London to our accommodation was surprisingly uneventful. Our accommodation in Kings College was certainly well situated. Suffice to say I am a bit too old for student living. We would probably have slept better in a tent, trackside at Brands Hatch due to the traffic noise and a mattress stuffed with stones. I hadn’t realised that sleep deprivation was part of the challenge.
At 8.30am on Thursday 3 September, all 122 participants set off into rush hour London traffic. I took my brave pill and, sticking to the group leaders like glue, we negotiated buses, lorries, exhaust fumes and all the abuse central London could throw at us. To be honest, that section was all a bit of a blur. It was only when the traffic thinned out and we headed into rural suburbia did I start to relax and enjoy the ride.
The weather was kind and we had three scheduled food stops where the Dream Challenge team provided ample fuel to keep us going. We cycled through some idyllic Surrey villages and tamed some challenging hill climbs in the South Downs before we headed into Portsmouth. After our 87-mile journey, a cold shower (a bit of a low point for me!) and an evening meal, we attached our lights and reflectors for the late night cycle to embark on the overnight ferry to Caen. By the time we got settled into our, somewhat compact cabin for four adults, the bad news was we had to be packed, ready for breakfast and disembarkation by 5.30 am. After about 4 hours sleep, to say this was a bit frantic would be putting it mildly.
Friday 4 September started just as it was getting light in the port of Caen. It was bit dull and drizzly as we left and the rain worsened as we sped on through the Normandy countryside. To survive this leg of the ride, my passing interest in infection control had to be suspended due to the toilet facilities available for the ladies of the group. Suffice to say a pop up tent was a first for me. The indoor French version was even worse. So far I have survived.
We reached Evreux just in time for rush hour which was quite exciting. For some unknown reason they managed to site our hotel at the top of the only steep hill in the town. Not the best plan for tired legs after 86 miles. After a hot shower (luxury), dinner, a wee glass of wine and an early night we managed to catch up a bit on our sleep.
Saturday morning was dry and sunny and we all set off with renewed spirit and confident that we would make the last shorter ride into Paris. This was my favourite day. Rolling hills, fantastic road surfaces and some charming riders to draft along with.
As we approached Paris the plan was for all 122 of us to congregate at the Bois du Boulogne and ride in one group through central Paris to the finishing point at the Eiffel Tower. As it was Saturday, the group leaders assured us that the Parisian drivers would all be fairly relaxed. They had lied before to keep us cheery…
The massive group snaked its way from the north towards our entry point at the Arc du Triumph. Yes, there are 12 approach roads and we had to get off at the fourth exit onto the Champs Elyses. A dawdle. Over the roar of the traffic, fortunately no one can hear you scream. I have been to Paris before but I didn’t ever envisage myself riding down the main shopping thoroughfare in the middle of a Saturday afternoon. Neither did the poor unsuspecting pedestrians unable to cross the road until 122 overexcited cyclists had passed by.
As we got closer there were some spectators and the team to cheer us in. I will admit that was quite an emotional moment that I won’t forget.
Out total mileage was 245 miles and our riding time was 16 hours 57 minutes. Not too bad for a couple of veterans.
At the end of the day, the purpose was to raise funds for charity and each and every participant on the journey had their own story and cause to support. For us, the support and generosity of our friends, family and colleagues drove us on and enabled us to raise £4,340 for the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice Brick by Brick appeal which was an amazing result.
Sincere thanks to all of you who supported us through our event or our just giving page which is still open for the next few weeks.
To donate click here.