L2P24

London to Paris 24 Hour Sportive – Stage One, England

What did you do for the Bank Holiday weekend? I joined 49 other cyclists for the adventure of a lifetime by cycling from London to Paris in just 24 hours, just over five years to the day after my heart attack and raising funds for the Pumping Marvellous foundation. I had entered the London to Paris 24 hour sportive organised by Sophie Radcliffe and the team at Cycling Friendly.

The adventure began at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park. I had arrived an hour early, having cycled there from a local hotel that I had stayed at the night before. I wasn’t expecting the view from the start, as I reached a statue at the end of a tree lined avenue the view opened up to a one hundred and eighty degree panorama of the park and London beyond, topped off with the skyscrapers of Central London and Canary Wharf on the horizon – I’d only just arrived and the views were fantastic!

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London and Canary Wharf Skyline from the Royal Observatory, Greenwich

Other riders started to arrive and soon a small group had started to form around the benches opposite a van selling coffee. I was a little worried as I entered by myself and therefore would not know anyone, I needn’t have worried as everyone was extremely friendly. Introductions were being made along with the normal questions in this type of scenario, such as have you travelled far to get here etc?

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Riders arriving in Greenwich – Photo by Chris Winter

The record distance travelled goes to Milton, he had flown into London the day before from Brisbane, Australia just for this ride and another rider had come from America. It was turning out to be a truly international event before a pedal had even been turned. With the introductions, registration and rider briefing complete it was time for the official group photo in front of the iconic Canary Wharf skyline before heading off on stage one and the ferry at Newhaven.

Rider briefing at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, London
Rider briefing at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich
London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Riders of the 2016 London to Paris 24hr Sportive – Photo by Chris Winter

Stage 1 – London to Newhaven (58 miles / 93 km)

With the riders all assembled we set off for Paris, I started my Garmin at 3:29 pm (UK time) making the goal for the Eiffel Tower 4:29pm (French Time).

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Starting the adventure of a lifetime, Greenwich Park. Photo by Chris Winter

The busy streets of London were soon replaced with quiet country lanes as we made our way out of the capital towards Orpington, by chance the route passed my sister-in-law’s mother’s house and they had very kindly made a banner for me, encouraging me up the first main climb of the day.

Val and Ken's Banner
Val and Ken’s Banner
London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Hawley’s Corner before the descent into Westerham – Photo by Chris Winter

After Westerham, the route climbed up onto the High Weald skirting Five Hundred Acre Wood, the scenery and views across East Sussex were stunning.

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Riding with Sophie over the High Weald in East Sussex. Photo by Sophie Radcliffe

I had hired a small GPS tracker for the ride from Open Tracking, this was sending my current position to a website every ninety seconds and displaying it on a map of the route for family and friends to track my progress. For UK based events Open Tracking use the detailed 1:25000 Ordnance Survey mapping, however as my event left the UK I had to use an alternative mapping partner.

Pumping Marvellous, the heart charity I was cycling in aid of, had also tweeted the tracking link to it’s followers before the start and was tweeting updates along the way, each one was appearing as a notification on my bar mounted Garmin. This was providing me with an excellent source of encouragement, knowing that others were following and supporting me along the way.

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By this stage I had been cycling with a group of seven other similar paced riders and we were making steady progress towards our final stop of the evening. The sun was getting low in the sky, as it dipped behind the clouds and the horizon to leave us for the night we were rewarded with a fantastic sunset, unfortunately the photo below does not do it justice.

The setting sun on the approach to Newhaven
Sunset in Newhaven

We arrived in Newhaven at 8:11pm, having covered the 58 miles at an average speed of 13.5 mph with 3,570 feet of climbing, to be rewarded with a two course meal and the opportunity for drinks in a local hotel before riding to the ferry at 9:30pm. Whilst waiting to board the ferry I got talking to a couple of French cyclists who were on their return leg having cycled from Paris to London, on mountain bikes and mainly off road by the sounds of it – Chapeau!

Continued on the side of the channel in the next post

 

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Celebrating Life – MI +5

If you have read my blog before you will know that, at the age of 38, I suffered a myocardial infarction (MI, better known as a heart attack).  It was caused by a combination of bad habits – a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, smoking and a general lack of exercise.  That was five years ago and I have come along way since that hospital bed in Scotland, completely turning my life around by taking up cycling and running.

I don’t want anybody to have to go through what I did on the fateful day in April 2011.  Through my involvement with the Ordnance Survey #GetOutside Campaign, I’ve been sharing my story to encourage others to become active, whilst offering hope and inspiration to other heart failure patients that there is a future after such life changing events.

To mark the 5th anniversary of my MI and raise awareness of Heart Failure I’ve set myself a few challenges for April and May: –

#ChampionsWearOrange

I’ll be in my bright orange OS GetOutside kit for all four rides, do please say hello if you see me!

The main event is London to Paris, I leave Greenwich at 4pm on Saturday 30th and need to arrive at the Eiffel Tower before 4pm on the Sunday (70 miles to Newhaven for the four hour night ferry crossing to Dieppe and then 120 miles to Paris).

Paris

Whilst awareness of Heart Disease/Failure and getting people more active is my main driving force, I would like to raise much needed funds for Pumping Marvellous, a heart charity that represents the needs of nearly one million heart failure patients and just as importantly the patients families, at the same time.

If you would like to help the fight against heart failure – 20% of the adult population in the UK will be touched by heart failure and heart disease at sometime in their life – please donate to Pumping Marvellous by visiting my Just Giving page www.justgiving.com/coeurcycliste

Ordnance Survey #GetOutside Champion

I am excited, proud and amazed to be able to announce that I’ve been chosen as an Ordnance Survey #GetOutside Champion and have this fantastic opportunity to be able to inspire others to get outside and become fit and active.

OS Trig PointA new day, endless possibilities…

… let’s make 2016 a year to remember by getting outside and active.

You can start by making a pledge on the OS website, mine is: –

To mark the 5th year since my Heart Attack, I pledge to cycle to Paris from London in under 24 hours and to run at least a mile every day for the next 366 days – (Dan Grant – 31st October 2015)

 

 

 

Remain active over the winter, get outside and enjoy yourself.

With the temperature starting to drop, the evenings getting darker and the sportive season drawing to a close many people will be thinking of packing the bike and cycling kit away for the winter.  If this is you, please think again, you can easily continue to ride throughout the winter, you just need to plan ahead.

The change in conditions means that you aren’t likely to get a personal best or be hitting your highest average speeds. So enjoy the slower pace, grab a map, a camera and go out exploring, turn down that road you always pass, find new routes and the enjoy the views and ride.

I came across this lovely little lane, with it’s tunnel effect of trees and leaf covered verges, completely by accident one day whilst out cycling.

Autumn Lane

Another day, I got to enjoy a frosty morning with the mist slowly being burnt away by the rising sun, casting long shadows as I cycled through this avenue of oak trees.

Autumn Morning

The low evening sun with it’s golden light illuminating the landscape, gives you that added incentive to climb up through the valley to find the highest vantage point.

The Meon Valley from Harvesting Lane, Butser Hill

“There is no such thing as the wrong type of weather,  just the wrong choice in clothing” – I can’t remember who said it or where I first heard it, but it is so true.

Plan ahead, check the weather forecast and dress accordingly. You may need to invest in some winter specific bike clothing, but it’s money well spent. I would say at a minimum you should have a windstopper jacket, lightweight showerproof jacket (that you can pack away into a jersey pocket), a pair of roubaix lined bib tights, overshoes, full finger gloves, neck warmer/buff and a windproof skull cap.   If you’re looking for a skull cap I would recommend the Pearl Izumi Barrier Skull Cap, it’s the best for keeping your head and more importantly your ears warm!

Talking about the wind, its generally going to be stronger during the autumn and winter months. Plan your route accordingly and head out into the wind, that way you will have a tailwind for the return leg making the second half of your ride easier. If you want a quick and easy way of checking the general wind direction and speed, take a look at Earth it’s a virtualisation of global weather conditions that is updated every three hours.

Earth: A Global Map of Weather Condtions

If you have the right clothing you can just about tackle any weather conditions, the only time I won’t ride is if it is icy.  Wear what you think is appropriate for the conditions, but think layers.  It’s easy to take off a layer if you get too hot.

I’ve even cycled to the top of Butser Hill (the highest hill in the South Downs) in the snow.

Selfie at the top of a snowy Butser Hill

Again, think layers, here I’m wearing bib tights, a thermal long sleeve base layer, a normal cycling jersey, windstopper jacket, lightweight showerproof jacket, buff and skull cap.  If anything I was probably too warm climbing, but remember it’s colder on the descent.

The top of Harvesting Lane, Butser Hill
The top of Harvesting Lane, Butser Hill

The last item to consider is your bike.  You can ride any bike over the winter, but think about the effect the water and salt will have on the components over time.  I rode my normal road bike over the first winter, but ended up having to replace the headset and a wheel (quick release skewer seized in the hub) so I generally do pack it away and use my old mountain bike over the winter unless it’s dry and sunny. The most important thing is to clean and lubricate the bike after every winter ride if you want to keep it running smoothly and maintain the components.

Harvesting Lane, Butser Hill in the Snow

With my London to Paris ride coming up in April next year I’m going to need to put the training miles in over the winter so ideally I need a road bike for the winter.  I could have gone out a bought a winter road bike, but over my time cycling I have gained a nice collection of spares as certain parts have been upgraded.

I went out I bought a second hand frameset, a cheap set of bars, a stem and a saddle for approx £95 and built up my own winter trainer bike, the only item left for me to do now is add some mudguards and maybe look for a good set of winter tyres.

My Winter Trainer
My Winter Trainer

If you haven’t got a collection of spares, look at the second hand market, there’s some great deals to be had.  Just check the frame is in good condition, look for any dings and dents, rust etc, ask the seller if it’s had any crashes and check the frame/serial number of any potential purchase against a database of stolen bikes, such as Check That Bike and Bike Register

Remember it doesn’t need to cost a fortune, it’s a bike for all those days when the conditions aren’t suitable for your best bike.

The main point is to remain active over the winter, get outside and enjoy yourself.