I arrived in Paris on Saturday 31st July along with 60 other cyclists to complete four days of cycling from Blackheath, London. We all gathered in a park in Paris near to the Arc de Triomphe for our group cycle around the Arc, along the Champs de Elysees, alongside the Seine and around the Eiffel Tower. What a great feeling it was to arrive at the Eiffel Tower with many well wishers waiting for our arrival. I must admit that I did shed a tear or two. Basically I was proud of myself for cycling the 320 miles at 50 years old, and felt emotional after my father's death just a month ago. I was also delighted to be raising around £1,500 for Sue Ryder Care in Nettlebed.
We were so lucky with the weather for all four days. We had mild weather with very little rain. The only negative was an occasional strong headwind. I was on a charity challenge trip organised by Discover Adventure. There were around 60 cyclists taking part all raising money for different charities. We had a varied level of cycling abilities. I was pretty nervous when waiting around at Blackheath on the first morning. However when we were underway I soon got in to my stride. The first day was the longest ride of the trip and we had to get to Dover by 5.00pm. Each day we had a drinks stop at 20 miles, lunch at 50 miles and another stop for drinks and energy mid afternoon. The afternoon stop was often supplemented with a beer stop!!
The first day in Kent was tough especially two long hills out of the Wye Valley in the afternoon. Kent is a beautiful county but does have a surprising number of hills. We stopped for lunch in a lovely village called Charing. Unfortunately in the afternoon some of the group got lost due to local chavs removing some of the direction signs. Luckily for those people the ferry was an hour late so they just made it for the Channel crossing.
The first night was spent in West Calais so that meant another five miles once we got off of the ferry in the dark! Next day we set off for Arras. The first stretch was along a canal so nice and flat. Though we were soon climbing again through the French countryside. Day 2 was the toughest for me and I was really glad when the lunch stop arrived. Our lunches were superb with a chef on site at various picnic stops. We had 5 support crew who set the directional arrows, briefed us each day, took care of repairs and generally cheered us on. I managed to keep up a good pace overall averaging over 14mph for the entire trip. Cycling in small groups really helped the speed and the morale. I enjoyed making some great new friends who all had a different reason for making the trip.
The third day we cycled from Arras to Compiegne. This was my favourite bit as we made our way through beautiful countryside. This was also the day that we came across many military cemeteries as we crossed the Somme River. Very moving and puts a four day bike ride in to perspective. Our overnight stay in Compiegne saw more alcohol drunk as people realised that they had only one more day to go.
Cycling in France is great fun as the roads are generally so much better than in the UK. Also the French have a better appreciation for cyclists, except in Paris!! Local people were very encouraging, though to be honest we cycled through a lot of deserted villages. After arriving in Paris we had a celebratory dinner and thanked Jason and his team from Discover Adventure for all their hard work in supporting us. Sunday we had some time to see the sights in Paris before we set off home on the Eurostar. Only 1 1/2 hours late!! Gare du Nord is not the best place to have to wait around.
So all in all a great experience. No punctures, no falling off and above all I did it. Thanks to all at Expert Fitness who helped me get fit enough to do the trip. Especially Alison for her spinning classes. Also thanks to Henley Chiro and Expert Fitness for their sponsorship. And also all the individuals who sponsored me. A thanks to William, Jeremy, Tom and everyone else who cycled with me and gave me such great support over the four days. You're stars. Thanks also to Vicki and Gerry from Sue Ryder for all their support. And especially to Gill and our three boys for their never ending help, especially picking me up from St. Pancras n Sunday.
Now I've got the bug I'll be looking for another cycling challenge. Any ideas?
Member since: 9th July 2012
Hi, We are Phil and Gill Chappell. We own the Best of Henley-on-Thames. We live in Henley so would love to hear your views and opinions about all things Henley.