My London to Paris adventure continued from my previous post …
Stage 2 – Dieppe to Paris
Having taken advantage of a late offer of a berth in a cabin I managed to get some sleep, although I’d been asleep for what felt like a few minutes before the ferry’s PA system was announcing that we would shortly be docking in Dieppe – in reality I probably got about four hours sleep.
For some reason the ferry had docked an hour late into Dieppe, so we were behind schedule, unperturbed by the delay we disembarked and left the port to meet up for a quick snack and a rider briefing.
I had checked the weather forecast for Sunday before I left Greenwich, at that point it was saying 6 degrees for Dieppe at 5am and the late teens early twenties for Paris in the afternoon, so I had already decided on shorts. However, the clear skies overnight had made the temperature plummet and my Garmin was reading zero degrees celsius as I rode off the ferry – guess who couldn’t find his long fingered gloves…
After a quick banana and a handful of Haribo, we were a rolling peloton of fifty riders. I restarted my Garmin at 5:38am (French Time) and a long line of flashing white and red lights started to string out illuminating the sleeping port of Dieppe.
Next stop breakfast at Buchy in 30 miles.
There was something magical about cycling through the night and the villages of northern France. The boulangeries and pâtisseries were the only buildings lit up, each spilling out a welcoming glow of warmth onto the roadside, the smells of their wares and freshly baking bread wafting out over the road enticing me to stop… as alluring and seductive as it was I stayed faithful to the road and didn’t stop, instead the smells urged me onwards towards the town of Buchy for our planned breakfast stop. However, I must one day return to try a freshly baked croissants and perhaps un Pain et Baguette Normande.
With each revolution of the pedals the black starry night sky slowly gave way to the first signs of dawn as the sun rejoined us for our epic adventure to Paris. The sun and its warmth were very much welcomed and it wasn’t long before my fingers started to thaw and the feeling returned to my fingertips, I might have been freezing cold but I was loving it. The cold temperatures had resulted in a fine mist rising off the rivers and lakes along the roadsides adding to the magic.
Breakfast in Buchy was a generous spread of items including ham and cheese baguettes, porridge, pastries, orange juice, tea and coffee. The only sun in Buchy at that time of the morning was a strip down the middle of the road, as a result a large number of us where gathered around the traffic island getting strange looks from the locals as they pulled up at the junction.
Suitably thawed, fed and refreshed it was time to make a move and continue onto Paris. Just as I was about to set off, Matt (one of the group of seven other riders from Saturday evening) came over and said he was getting the band back together and we should head out together as a group of eight. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was at that point Team Tally Ho formed up and that we would stay together all the way to Paris.
The early morning mist had been burnt away by the sun and with the temperature rising additional layers of clothing were being removed and stored away in jersey pockets.
Riding in the group was making the miles fly by, I managed to get a quick selfie and tweeted it to update family and friends back home of my progress (and to mention how nice the weather was!).
Shortly after we rode into the town of Les Andelys and standing high on the chalk cliffs at the far end of the town was the impressive Château Gaillard, the ruins of Richard the Lionheart’s castle that he built in the late 12th century. I’ve had an interest in castles since I was a child so yet another reason for a more leisurely return to the area.
The town of Les Andelys is on the banks of the river Seine and it was here that we stopped for a snack with the chance to offload the now unneeded layers of clothing into our bags and another group photo, this time in our excellent L2P24 jerseys.
What you can’t see in the photo above is the blood running down my left leg, as I arrived at the stop my cleat got caught in the pedal (my excuse and I’m sticking to it as I am sure that I unclipped), with both feet clipped to the pedals and no forward motion theres only one direction left to go… yes I met the ground coming up on my lefthand side, my knee took the brunt of the fall. Now usually the blood of a small cut and graze will clot quite quickly. However, with my heart medication my blood doesn’t clot very easily (and I don’t want it too either) so it was it time to test the first aid supplies and ask for a plaster.
With my knee patched up we left Les Andelys behind us following the meandering river Seine towards Vernon and ultimately Paris. With the quiet country roads we were riding two abreast for most of the way, the traffic was starting to build as we passed through Vernon so we took to a single file train taking turns at the front. I took the opportunity to record a short video of us as I dropped back from my turn at the front.
We stayed in the train all the way to the next snack stop, along the way Chris, Tom and Luke (the event photographers) passed us in the car. A couple of miles down the road I spotted the car parked on the roadside and they had setup on both sides of the road to take photos and video footage. I must say a big thank you to them all for the brilliant photos and memories.
The section between snack stop 3 and lunch, whilst only 21 miles, had the two largest climbs of the day at Sailly and L’Hautil (almost 1200 feet in little under 12 miles), whilst climbing L’Hautil my Garmin clicked over onto 100 miles. By this time I could feel the previous 158 miles in my legs but I made it up both to be rewarded with lunch at Chanteloup Les Vignes.
Clea had completed the last part of the climb and into the lunch stop pedalling with just one leg as her lefthand crank had fallen off, fortunately the event mechanics weren’t far behind us and it wasn’t long until the crank had been reattached. We were on a way for the leg and the run into Paris.
We were getting close to the 24 hours and the traffic lights of the suburbs of Paris were not playing, each one seemed to turn red just as we approached. We crossed the Seine for the final time as a group and cycled under the Eiffel Tower, stopping my Garmin at 4:57pm (French time) – Total time 24 hours 28 minutes and if you allow for the ferry delay it would have been 23 hours 28 minutes.
Whilst my goal was to cycle under 24 hours, I do not see it as a failure in a way, but a fantastic achievement for someone who has previously suffered a heart attack and couldn’t walk for more than 5 minutes without getting out of breath. If you would have said to me five years ago, as I was lying on my hospital bed on the day of my heart attack, that I would ride to Paris in 24 and a half hours I wouldn’t have believed you. It just goes to show what you can achieve, start off with small steps and see where it takes you, the most important thing is that you start.
So you’ve read about my experience, I hope you enjoyed it and that I’ve inspired you to want to do the same. If so sign up here for the ride of a lifetime and achieve something extraordinary.
It would be great if you could visit my Just Giving page and perhaps give a donation to Pumping Marvellous as we need to raise awareness about Heart Failure and help other heart patients that are not as fortunate as me.
I’ll be on the start line again in Greenwich on Saturday 29th April 2017 – I’ve still got that magic 24 hours to beat 🙂
Hopefully I will see you there and as Sophie says