Wednesday, 24 June 2015

#L2Pin24 - The Longest Day

On the start line......

Six months planning; twenty four hours riding; a lifetime of memories; a day on the bike I don’t think anyone who took part will ever forget.

As we stood outside Buckingham Palace in the sun, I’m not sure any of us really understood what we were about to undertake. Over 430 kilometres (that ‘s 270 miles in old money) lay between us and our destination, and this was comfortably more than any of us had attempted before in a single ride. We might have had a ferry crossing to break the journey up, but in reality this was more a hindrance than a help, taking a good chunk of time out of the already tight schedule.

The first challenge was to escape the clutches of London, every stop and start upsetting our momentum. Blackheath marked a most welcome change though, and as we crossed the A2, the congestion seemed to ease slightly, and our progress picked up.

After our main re-fuelling stop in England , it was time to turn inland from the north Kent coast, and head towards Dover. By the wonders of technology we’d already been warned that our ferry was going to be approximately 45 minutes late, and whilst this ate even further into our schedule, it also gave us some breathing space. Our passage through Kent had taken longer than we’d planned.

Once on the ferry, it was time to take on more fuel, and to charge battery packs in preparation for what would be possibly the toughest part of the whole ride, the night shift. Not for the last time on this ride, caffeine was most certainly our friend.

The ferry doors slowly opened; the darkness ahead welcoming us onto French soil. Paris may well have still been almost 300km away, but at least we were in the right country. Calais was soon a distant memory as we navigated through the eerily quiet lanes of northern France. The temperature had dipped noticeably, but thankfully it was dry.

The next two hundred kilometres or so are all a bit of a blur to be honest. My focus was on making sure I was eating and drinking enough, as well as just trying to keep the pedals turning. One memory which does stick with me is when our route took an easterly turn, and we were met with the sun coming up over a distant ridge. Quite beautiful, and perhaps most importantly, a real boost to our group’s morale.

As we passed the 100km to go marker, the group came to a simultaneous and unanimous decision. Caffeine was required, and it couldn’t come soon enough. Ten espressos later, we were back on the bikes with just the kick we needed to get us over the line.

Even though our progress in France had been good, the knock on of the earlier ferry delay meant that this was going to be very tight. We were certainly going to make it to Paris in time, but we might just be fashionably late getting to the Eiffel Tower.

Our 24 hours ran out as we rode through the Parisian suburb of Montmorency, just over 15 kilometres from the middle of the city. We all came to the decision that this was an absolute victory, and we’d done it, we’d managed to ride from London to Paris in 24 hours.

All that was left to do was navigate into the centre of Paris by bike on unfamiliar roads, when we’d all been awake for upwards of 30 hours, and had ridden over 430 kilometres!

As I rode across the Pont D’lena, blue sky was the backdrop for the Eiffel Tower. I really can’t think of a better place to finish a ride.

A sight for sore eyes!

After the celebratory pictures were taken under the tower, the tiredness that had been building so slowy, was gone in an instant. An absolutely amazing experience; without a doubt the toughest thing I’ve ever done on a bike. As I said earlier, a ride that none of us would ever forget!

We even attracted a fan club!
Here are the ride details.......

Vive la Velo


Tuesday, 9 June 2015

#SocialImperial100 – Ride Report

An amazing turnout

Cycling and challenges go hand in hand; undertaking the former leads us almost inevitably to the latter. It’s these personal challenges which keep things fresh, and without them life would be a whole lot duller.

This year’s challenge thrown down by the ladies section was, by comparison to our last two efforts, fairly straightforward. One ride, 100 miles, an imperial century; simple enough to say, but even having ridden a number of imperial tons, it’s still a fair achievement.

With the date set, and the route designed to take in many of the roads which make cycling in Shropshire so special, the challenge was on. I knew we had half a dozen or so definites, but I really had no idea just how many would turn up on the day.

The day of the challenge dawned, and as I rolled down to No5 with @ASL191 and @TF2109, it looked like the weather was going to be kind to us as well. A little windy perhaps, but more importantly, dry and bright. As pre-ride espresso was consumed, riders kept arriving. Ten and counting and still more were turning up for the challenge. As we lined up for the group pre ride shot we had 17 riders. Just amazing, and a testament to just how far we’ve come.

As the saying goes, you can’t eat an elephant in one meal, and with this in mind I’d split the route up into manageable chunks interspersed with coffee and cake stops. Our first stop was another of our favourite coffee shop, the excellent Jones’ in Market Drayton. They handled the influx of cyclists admirably, and in no time at all, coffee, tea, and cake was served. Refuelled, it was time to get back on the bikes; we still had some way to go.

Spirits were high amongst the group and our progress was good. New acquaintances were made, and old ones renewed as we passed through Woore and Audlem and towards Lunch in Nantwich. We even ended up with a brass band playing to us as we had lunch in the sun.

With a total of 1700 miles being covered by the group, punctures are an inevitability, and sure enough we suffered our first. Fixed in double quick time, a second was quickly followed by a third. This was getting silly! Fortunately though this was to be out final mechanical issue of the day, and we were soon back on track.

Our final scheduled stop of the afternoon was Wem, and another favourite watering hole of ours, Joules’ Castle Hotel. #MaltedRecoveryBeverageConsumption completed, we were on our final leg. Shawbury passed, closely followed by Edgmond and Newport.

The Imperial Century mark was passed just as we passed under the M54 on the final sprint into town, but that didn’t stop some from doing a lap of the town. Just to be sure you understand ;¬)

With a post ride curry planned for the evening, the was only time for a very swift one in HQ. The mood was buoyant and it was fair to say that the challenge had been well and truly #Smashed. A massive thankyou to everyone who made this such a great day on the bikes!

So, what’s next? The bar has been set high…..

Vive la Velo