London to Paris 24 Hour Sportive – Stage Two, France

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.

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Riding off the ferry at Dieppe – Photo by Chris Winter

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…

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Rider briefing and quick snack in Dieppe – Photo by Chris Winter

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.

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Heading off into the French countryside – Photo by Chris Winter

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.

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Sunrise – Photo by Chris Winter

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.

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Breakfast in Buchy – Photo by Chris Winter

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.

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Team Tally Ho climbing up out of the mist after breakfast – Photo by Chris Winter

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!).

A quick selfie and tweet to update family and friends
A quick selfie and tweet to update family and friends

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.

Chateau Gaillard

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.

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Group photo on the banks of the Seine at Les Andelys – Photo by Chris Winter

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.

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Chris, Tom and Luke setting up for a shot of the Team Tally Ho train
London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
The Team Tally Ho train to Paris – Photo by Chris Winter
London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Snack stop 3 at La Roche Guyon – Photo by Chris Winter
London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Clea taking a Tally Ho group selfie – Photo by Chris Winter

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.

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Crossing the Seine and arriving at the Eiffel Tower
London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Champagne under the Eiffel Tower, Paris – Photo by Chris Winter

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

One Day I Will Not Be Able To Do This, Today Is Not That Day

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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

 

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

Garmin Ride Out – 2015

Garmin have held an annual Ride Out in the New Forest with their professional cycling team for at least the last four years.  The ride out is invitation only, after expressing an interest through links on Garmin’s social media channels, every year I have entered and every year I have been unsuccessful.  Its a very popular event and is always over subscribed, this year over 6000 riders applied for one of the 500 places.

This year the rider announcement date came and went with no notification, so I thought there’s always next year to try again.  Then out of the blue in early August I received this email from Garmin:-

Good news – we’ve been able to create additional places at this year’s Garmin Ride Out and you are invited to attend.

I was over the moon and couldn’t wait to sign up!

This year the ride out was on Friday 4th September, luckily I was already on leave from work so would be able to attend.  It was to be an early start to get to the New Forest from the Midlands so I had packed the car the night before.

The alarm went off at 04:55,  I made sure that I had everything I needed for the day, had a quick breakfast of porridge and a mug of freshly brewed coffee.  I was out the door and heading south for the motorway by 05:30 thinking I had plenty of time to get to registration at 08:00.

Turning onto the M5 I saw the dreaded “ROAD CLOSED” signs for overnight maintenance work, I quickly tried to workout a different route in my head to avoid the closure, ending up going down the M42 and A34.  As a result of the diversion and the normal queues in Lyndhurst I was one of the last to arrive at about 08:30, I parked up and headed straight to registration.

Having arrived late the majority of the other riders had already registered and were tucking into the free breakfast (bacon or sausage roll) and a hot drink, so it was quick and easy for me to sign in and collect my rider number, goodie bag and free jersey.

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Garmin Ride Out Jersey, supplied by Primal

The jersey is one of the best quality free jersey’s I’ve ever had as part of a give away at a sportive/ride and is now a regular sight around my local training routes.  It’s an Evo custom jersey from Primal and fitted me perfectly – looking around it appeared that everyone else had a perfect fit as well.

After getting my bike ready and having my second breakfast of the day, this time a bacon roll and coffee (5 hours after my first – so it’s not that bad) it was time to gather in the main marquee for the team presentation.

The morning was hosted by Daniel Lloyd and featured interviews with sponsors and the Madison Genesis and Cannonade-Garmin professional cycling teams who would be competing in the Tour of Britain that started on the Sunday.  I only had my phone and now wish I had taken a better camera with me.

Cannondale Garmin - Tour of Britain 2015 Team
Cannondale Garmin – Tour of Britain 2015 Team

After the interviews the raffle was drawn by Daniel Lloyd and Frances Benali (from Southampton FC).  The prizes were fantastic – Garmin Edge head unit, Cannonade Bike, Boardman frame, Southampton FC shirt signed by the entire 1st team to name but a few.  I had bought several tickets, but unfortunately didn’t win.

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Daniel Lloyd and Frances Benali draw the raffle

Now that the presentations and raffle draw were  complete it was time to take to the road.  With the increase of cycling popularity the New Forest has developed a cycling code to ensure the safety of not only the riders, but equally if not more importantly the wildlife and other users of the Forest.   The code does allow for large organised events of this type, but asks that riders set off in small groups rather than a mass start as seen at other types of sporting events.

Knowing that it would take a while to get all the riders off in small groups and rather than rush to the start, I took a look around the sponsors trade stands and got my bike ready.

At 11:30 I headed off into the Forest on the fully signed and marshalled 47.5 mile ride.  Unfortunately, being one of the last to set off I didn’t get to ride alongside any of the professionals (always next year!) but that didn’t spoil the day in any way.

As it was a Friday the New Forest roads were nice and quiet which made riding on them even more enjoyable.  The route took us to Brockenhurst, up the lovely Rhinefield Ornamental Drive and over the A35 to Bolderwood.

Video taken with my Garmin Virb (sorry I’m slow up hills!)

Crossing under the A31 we soon turned right onto the old RAF Stoney Cross runway, as we left the trees of the Bolderwood Aboretum behind us the breeze started to pick up, causing a headwind to cycle into, why do I never seem to get a tailwind?

Turning onto Roger Penny Way (every time I see that road name I think of the Beatles song Penny Lane – so much so that I’ve now got the tune going over and over in my head) I notice the clouds starting to build and I’m convinced I felt a drop of rain, looking down my Garmin Edge my thoughts are confirmed as I see little droplets of water on the screen.  Luckily, it was just that and the rain did hold off for the rest of the ride.

Garmin Rideout
Riders 353 and 394 on Roger Penny Way @ approx 20 miles (still taken from my Garmin Virb Elite)

From Roger Penny Way it was down through Godshill and on towards Blissford.  Having done several rides in the Forest I was expecting to have to climb the short but sharp 25% gradient of Blissford Hill, however today the ride took the easier route round and up to the feed station.

I decided not to stop and went straight past the feed station as I had an almost full water bottle, a pack of jelly babies and a couple of gels in my jersey pockets – I always end up carrying too much food, either that or I don’t eat and drink enough whilst riding – after the feed station it was a nice easy spin to Ringwood, Burley and then to the finish.

I was very pleased to roll over the finishing line in a time of 2 hours and 55 minutes, as with my current form I was expecting to be somewhere around the 3 hour 20 minute mark.  I had averaged just over 16mph over the 47.5 miles!

You can view the full route and my stats on Garmin Connect 

Overall an excellent day, extremely well organised and supported – I can’t wait to enter next year!

Shimano Neutral Support Car
Shimano Neutral Support Car

If you are interested in taking part in 2016 follow @GarminUK on Twitter and keep an eye out for the details (it’s usually around June) and good luck if you enter.