The road to Paris

Sixteen weeks ago, almost on a whim, I signed up for the London to Paris cycle challenge. Since then, I’ve rode over 1000 miles to get ready for today. Today is the day that we ride into Paris.

Having not slept very well for the last three nights, I’m shattered before I start. Breakfast is a bit of a daze and I decide to set off on my own rather than join the group of guys that I’ve been riding with for most of the journey. I’m not too sure why I did that. Subconsciously I knew that I was whacked and didn’t want to hold them back. I also think that I needed a little time on my own to contemplate what we were all about to achieve.

The ride from Beauvais to Paris was not too long – around 60 miles in total, broken down into a long first leg, including a 1 mile uphill section (absolutely killed me) and a few more inclines that needed that extra bit of motivation to get up. This was followed by a 19 mile section through to lunch and then the final group ride into the centre of Paris.

During the first session, I have to admit I was getting quite emotional – the challenge had certainly been that and it had pushed me to the limit. I was simply spent. Lots of thoughts went through my mind, some positive, many negative as I looked back over decisions that I’d taken over the years. Why I started to think these thoughts I’ve no idea, I’m assuming that it was because I had drained myself completely and was running virtually on empty.

Anyway, I made it to the first stop and joined up with the rest of the group – ahead of us was one last real push, as lunch was being held on the banks of the Seine. I decided to simply enjoy it – not worry about how long it took, take in the scenery and the French culture. So on the way, a couple of us stopped off for a cafe au lait in one of the village cafes and then joined in with another group who were riding down listening to a variety of music – some good and some – well the guy was brave admitting that he had the songs on his iPhone to be honest!

The final few miles into the outskirts of Paris was fun – lots of banter and even a few group sing-a-longs.

Lunch was again superb and we were all set for the last ten or so miles along the Seine towards the holding point 2 miles from the Eiffel Tower. What a ride. 116 cyclists decked in blue riding through the streets of Paris. The memory of riding up towards the Arc de Triomphe will stay with me for many years. Riding through red lights as a group, the Parisiens and tourists stopping to take pictures – simply amazing.

And then, a couple of turns and we’d made it. Right in front of us was the Eiffel Tower – 300 miles after leaving Crystal Palace, 20+ hours in the saddle and each and every one of us had made it. What a feeling!

It was very emotional as we completed a victory lap around the Tower and caused the Parisien traffic to stop. Lots of my fellow cyclists had friends and family meeting up with them at the finish and it’s safe to assume that the sheer enormity of what we had achieved overflowed.

Wow!

Back to the hotel, celebration dinner and off to a local bar for the party! Unbelievable to think what those party animals had just completed.

An amazing experience and the running total of donations across the group as at the celebration dinner was a staggering £477,000. UNBELIEVABLE.

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Roxanne and I hit Beauvais…

I’m pleased to say that Roxanne and I have rocked up in Beauvais – day three of the London to Paris bike ride completed.

Who’s Roxanne you may ask.

Roxanne is my trusty steed for this event – my little bubble bee of a bike – all yellow and black. Why Roxanne? Well, therein lies a story. Today has been hard. Although shorter in length than the two previous days, I think that I under estimated the impact on my energy levels, and this combined with the heat ( 32 degrees at 11:00) and cross winds, the journey was tough.

We left Abbeville at around 8:30 and immediately entered some lovely countryside, picturesque villages and amazing views. After a few decent (hard) climbs, one of which, I had a small altercation with a fellow rider,(sorry!) we settled into mile after mile of rolling countryside, which if I’m honest got a little boring. I now understand why the farmers are so powerful in France – they must represent the majority of the population!

After a quick water stop, we drove ( I mean rode) on and saw more fields. Lunch was in a very nice hamlet on the green and again the Skyline team put on a feast, topped off by lemon cake – yum yum.

The afternoon got harder still for me and with about 5 miles to go, I hit a block – I was shattered and I was sat on a long road with a strong cross wind which meant that there was no respite. Getting into Beauvais was a relief but then I had to find the hotel. I tried my French, the locals understood me perfectly and then directed me into Centre Ville – I wasn’t too sure and checked google maps. The hotel was in the opposite direction – bloody French!!

Eventually, I arrived and got the key to the room, which although small – best not turn over too quickly or my room mate will feel my breathing on his neck – Roberts a lovely guy but I only met him two days ago so I’ve never been one for kisses on the first date!! – a least it’s got air con.

Anyway, why Roxanne?

Well to pass the time along the never ending fields, I started to think about what I should call the bike – god knows why, but honestly, there was nothing else to do. Anyway, the old Police song came into my head – you know, Roxanne, you don’t have to put on the red light…

Obviously Sting was talking about the local whore (well I hope he was, otherwise the name doesn’t work), and I suddenly had a spark of inspiration. Just like a whore’s knickers, my bike is great and very fast, going down but ever so slow going up! Probably wasn’t worth the wait, but the important stuff is coming.

Tomorrow, I, along with 115 other cyclists will complete our goal to not only cycle from London to Paris but to raise a shed load of money for charity. I suspect close onto a quarter of a million will have been raised.

I’m hoping to contribute £2k to this, so please do help by going to http://www.doitforcharity.com/tonylockwood and make a small donation. The North West Air Ambulance charity relies on donation/ fundraising completely in order to provide what is an essential life saving service, so please dig deep.

See you in Gay Paris – better keep quiet about that or Robert may get a little unsettled.

The road to Abbeville…

The road to Abbeville – wasn’t that a song?

Maybe not, but that’s the road we took this morning. After collapsing in a heap into bed last night, I was convinced that I would be asleep before the head hit the pillow. However, for some reason, that wasn’t the case and I didn’t have the good night sleep that I really needed.

The alarm at 6 wasn’t music to the ears! However, onwards and upwards so after a quick breakfast, we loaded up the van, donned our kit and set off for a mere 73 miler today.

The route took us through some beautiful scenery and we had the opportunity to chill and enjoy the ride more than yesterday. Fortunately, I’ve tagged onto a group of guys who know what they’re doing and they’re great at giving me the support that I need to get me up the hills. And today there was a fair few of them as we meandered through northern France from Calais to Abbeville.

A pretty quick 26 miles took us to the first drink point, followed by another 23 miles to lunch, which had been set up on the banks of a large fishing pond, or as the local tourist information centre would have you believe, a small lake! Lunch was lovely – it’s amazing what you can do when you set your mind to it.

The afternoon flew by, taking in some cracking views and finishing with a great downhill run into Abbeville. Got to the hotel around 3:20, showered and went down to chill with the lads, cheering as each group of the enlarged team arrived back.

Shattered now, ready for bed but looking forward to a 61 miler tomorrow to Beauvais.

Well that was tough….

Well, today was the day. Day 1 of the London to Paris cycle challenge.

It started early, 4:45 alarm, snoozed at least twice before getting up, quick shower and out fully kitted up for the short, uphill ride to Crystal Palace, the official start. And what a sight awaited us, 115 other riders in glorious techno colour – all supporting different charities. By all accounts, the combined total of funds raised as at this morning was £177,000. An amazing effort.

After offloading the rucksack – that was heaven – we all received a briefing from the Skyline team about what to expect. And then we were off.

I was going to say that the day flew by and to some extents it did – some great riding in the morning, a few wrong turns and great camaraderie on show. A quick stop at 26 miles and then lunch at 58 miles – perfectly timed as I was starting to flag.

After lunch, I latched on to 7/8 other guys who knew what they were doing and basically copied them. The first 20 or so miles flew by, we were averaging 20mph +, and then the organisers thought that it would be funny to throw in some serious hills – the first of which went on and on and on and nearly killed me! Thankfully the team held back and provided the encouragement that I needed to get me through to the end.

So, we arrived in Dover in good time, in great spirits, the ferry crossing went well and after another 40 minutes in the saddle, we arrived at the hotel. Quick shower and into bed – no drinking for this boy tonight, absolutely shattered but feel great to know that I’ve completed day 1 – 100 miles.

More tomorrow….

Well that was interesting….

I’m glad to say that the first stage of the London to Paris ride has been completed. No I haven’t started ahead of everyone else, what I’m talking about is that I have now arrived at the hotel, eventually.

What an eventful journey. Probably within 2 miles of leaving home, I felt that the rear tyre was losing air, but it was only a slow puncture so I carried on – I’d sort it out at he station I thought.

Unfortunately, when I arrived at the station, the tyre was flat and probably knackered – what do I do now – the ride starts in 13 hours I thought.

Well thanks to the guys at Cycle Clinic on Pentonville Road in London, I’m back on the road with a new tyre and spare inner tubes.

So onto the next challenge – getting from Euston to the hotel at Crystal Palace. Well that was an experience – started off well, enjoyed riding around some of the familiar roads in the city of London but the over the Thames and into some fairly dodgy parts of the capital – no stopping around here I kept saying to myself. However, the issue was that I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going.

Anyway, as often is the case in London, one dodgy part is quickly followed by some really nice areas. Dulwich village is one such place – never been there before but it looks lovely and well worth a return visit I think.

So I’m all settled, alarm set for 4:45 tomorrow to get ready to meet everyone else at 5:45

Onwards and upwards.

Well, it’s here at last….

Well, I’m packed, and on the way, curtesy of Virgin, to London so that we can start the London to Paris challenge first thing tomorrow morning.

It’s been an eventful start to the journey…

On the way to the station, I felt the tyre go but every time I checked, it didn’t seem completely flat. Thought I’d get to the station and then check the inner tube. Issue #1 – I realised when t was too ate to turn back that I’d forgotten to ack the spare inner tubes. Issue #2 – when I got to the station and checked the tyre looks buggered – I must have been riding with a flat – not clever.

So, I’m now in First Class travelling down hoping that CycleClinic will remain open to sort me out with a new tyre and a few spare inner tubes. Please, pretty please stay open or the challenge could be over before its began!

Once I get this ‘little’ issue resolved, I’ve just got to get across London to Crystal Palace, meet up with the other ‘ nutters’ who have decided to do the challenge also and chill until tomorrow.

I’m really looking forward to cycling in a group – it should be great fun.

Hopefully it will all be worth it and I will reach my target of £2000 raised for North West Air Ambulance. See how I’m doing here – http://www.doitforcharity.com/tonylockwood

I’m getting sick of lazy journalism. Are you?

We are supposed to rejoice that we live in a country that enjoys a free press, the freedom of speech, the ability to criticise and challenge authority and to keep the government to account.

Of course, I do personally.

However, I also believe that with this should come responsibility. Responsibility to deliver news stories factually rather than with any specific bias and I certainly expect that from the BBC, a publicly owned institution.

So I have become somewhat disillusioned over recent months to find that time and time again, this isn’t the case and we are being presented with incorrect information that will cloud our judgement when forming our opinion on specific items.

A case in point, yesterday, when the British Prime Minister visited the Wigan Lads and Girls club, a fantastic facility that is run completely independently from any public purse, and has been established by the charity, On Side through public donations, corporate sponsorship and lots of fundraising. Rather than present this factually, the BBC decided to concentrate on the demonstration outside by a small group – no more than 15/20 people and invited someone from this group to comment on the youth club.

This ‘ex Liverpool Militant Councillor’ then stated incorrectly that “how can the PM celebrate such a facility when within a matter of months the council will be forced to close it down due to funding restrictions imposed by central government”

An incorrect and highly political statement that wasn’t challenged or corrected in any way.

There are many such events that will help people generally and the youth in particular form an opinion. I’m not asking for much, in saying that news should be presented with balance and indeed factually.

Otherwise we are no better than the countries across the world that don’t have a free press.

Is this lazy journalism or just poor journalism, I don’t know, but please the BBC, just concentrate on delivering the news and let other people form their own opinions.