Three years ago a group of friends who had completed the three peaks challenge the year before suggested over a few beers that I join them on the London to Paris bike ride. A few beers later and it seemed like a good idea!
Most of that ride was completed on my very old mountain bike although that died en route and I had to finish it on the spare bike we had on the support vehicle (picture if you will Top Gears spare!)
We then all decided to continue our annual journey and both myself and several others invested in proper road bikes to make the future journeys slightly easier.
Year two comprised the onward ride from Paris to Dijon over 3 days (circa 280 miles) and this was duly completed by all 14 riders with no punctures.
This year’s challenge was by far our longest covering a total of 311.5 miles but spread over 4 days. We once again started from our previous finishing point (Dijon) this time taking 2 cars plus the support van – a total of 12 riders plus 2 support crew. As usual we start celebrating the night before we even start the ride with too much to eat and drink and a late night!
Day 1 – A gentle start leaving Dijon and heading through Beaune and on to Chalon-sur-Saone on minor back roads. It was however eventful with one of the riders having 3 punctures (equalling my record of year 1). A lovely day with a nice long lunch stop and covering a mere 52.2 miles.
Day 2 – Already beginning to regret the lack of sleep and after effects of French wine we have an early start leaving at circa 8.30 and travel through the beautiful countryside again mostly on back roads. Just prior to our “lunch” stop, we are adjacent to The Saone on a rough track which is incredibly hard work on a road bike. For those who have not done this sort of thing the lunches now consist of pasta pots crisps, cereal bars and jelly beans. This and the caffeine filled special drinks keep us going through Motmerle to our final destination of Lyon (a truly modern city) where we stay in a fantastic hotel. Total mileage today 91.2
Day 3 – We leave Lyon again early on another beautiful morning where we also have started to notice the increase in temperature as we head further south. It is interesting to note that as the days go by reactions and tiredness sneaks in and this is demonstrated at the first stop. One of the riders falls in front of me at a roundabout and following close behind I manage to just avoid joining Annette as she crashes hard to the ground, injuring her shoulder and hip and suffering the usual road rashes. Having had a severe crash in June whilst training I know just how much it hurts but after a patch up and a slightly longer than usual stop she is bravely back in the saddle. We continue now down into the valley following the river for most of the journey to Valence. It is evident Annette is really suffering having to be helped onto the bike but she battles through with group separating at times and there’s also another puncture for Chris. Total mileage for the day 83.
Day 4 – The final day with another early start and no surprise when Annette very sensibly confirms she cannot continue and will join the back up crew in the van. This is the final push to reach Avignon. Another hot day again mostly following the river using cycle paths (these are delightful and mostly smooth – why are they so bad in the uk?) and minor roads. Steve’s bike chain comes off and destroys his gear change cable. He struggles to the next stop where he swaps on to Annette’s bike once the pedals have been changed. We arrive at dusk to stop briefly on one of the main bridges into the city for a photo shoot and then finish at the hotel to be greeted by partners and wives. Total of 98.5 miles today.
None of the above could have taken place without excellent planning and support and therefore all our thanks go to Gary and Reece for organising and planning the route (a constantly changing route as we adapt to unforeseen circumstances) and supplying the van and organising food supplies. Also a special thanks to Bob and Richard for driving the support van and topping us up with food and drinks at the 4/5 stops everyday as well as ensuring we all kept our fuel and water intake which is essential and so easy to forget.
I am delighted to have raised £517 through the just giving page plus £255 direct sponsorship and I will via Ross & Co top this up to a nice round figure of £1,000 for St Wilfrids Hospice. A BIG THANKS TO ALL WHO HAVE DONATED AND IF YOU FORGOT YOU CAN STILL DO SO VIA THE JUST GIVING PAGE.
It is always a challenge and although we covered more miles than before and an extra day the training and the fact that it is overall downhill made it in my opinion the easiest of the three rides we have completed. Well done to all participants. It was great fun and now we have to decide whether we go east or west next year!
Riders – Gary Hamblyn, Reece Blackman, Harry Blackman, Rob & Annette Blackman, Jim & Ella Bruickshaw, Chris Jordan, Steve Wells, Steve & Simon Holt, Anton Bree.
Support Crew – Bob Hamblyn & Richard Finney