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.
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.