Day 1 – London to Calais
We were slightly thrown as we planned to start from Hyde Park but it was closed for the rehearsal of Trooping of the Colour so we decided Green Park would be just as good, but that was also closed. We started on a side road just off Hyde Park Corner. The ride through London was pretty slow due to the number of traffic lights and also pretty wet. Just about at Dartford was where the “fun” started as I got a puncture in my rear tyre. No problems, I carry 2 spare tubes so I just changed the tube and continued. About 10 miles later I got a front puncture, again a new tube and away we went. Another 10 or so miles and the rear punctured again. Now we had problems. I tried to repair it but the puncture repair kit I had was old and it didn’t want to know (the nice new kit I keep in the car just in case I ever see a stranded cyclist with a puncture) the only thing we could do was call the back-up team, so we did. 25 minutes later and via Halfords, a move of brilliance from Sarah, they arrived with 2 new tyres, 6 new tubes and lots of smiles. We changed the tube and tyre on the back and off we went. 200m up the road the front punctured! Now 4 in 1 day. Luckily the back-up team were still very close so we changed the front tyre and tube as well and off we went. We arrived at Dover late for our crossing because of the earlier traffic and puncture delays. We got onto the 21:35 ferry and headed for France. The next bit of “fun” was getting off the ferry as I somehow managed to ride my front wheel down a gap in the off ramp and got thrown straight over the handlebars. No real damage, a bit of a cut hand and a bit sore but nothing major. We then rode to the hotel, about 10 miles, and arrived at 1am. 94 miles done!
Day 2 – Calais to Abbeville
Amazingly we both felt pretty fresh on Sunday morning and we set off for Abbeville. The start to the day was about a 5 mile climb, that woke us up! We just got over the top of the climb and I managed to get another front puncture! I called the team to bring me a spare tube even though I had 2 with me as after the previous days experience I didn’t fancy riding with just 1 spare. They arrived just as I had finished changing the punctured one and delivered the spare tube. We went off and spent the next 30-35 miles climbing. If you thought the French coast was flat I can promise you it isn’t. One of the climbs was an official mountain, Mont de Senne. We eventually made the top where it levelled out. It was then we hit the head wind. All over the landscape there were wind turbines and we soon found out why. We rode the rest of the day into Abbeville, approx 30 miles, into a ferocious head wind. It was very hard work and we seemed to get nowhere very slowly. The back-up team passed us and stopped with about 20 miles to go with much needed energy bars, Tuc biscuits and best of all smiles. We arrived at the hotel just as the team were going out for dinner so a quick shower and change later we were in the Buffalo Grill in Abbeville, Perrier and beer in hand, much better. The total miles for day 2 was 74.
Day 3 – Abbeville to Beauvais
We both felt good again, the steak and beers the night before had worked but both of us had tired legs after the very hard ride of the previous day. The start of the day’s ride was good, through the town of Abbeville and the wind seemed to have dropped. We then hit a big climb, not what we wanted to see. As we reached the top we quickly realised it had done us the world of good and really woken the legs up and we both felt great. It continued well, the wind had dropped quite a bit and better still was behind us. The route was fantastic taking in some lovely roads and beautiful French villages and towns. We continued like this for about 35 miles. After that we got onto a bigger road, it was fast but still great riding. It was then Pa’s turn to get a puncture. A new tube and we were off again. With about 15 miles to go the ever encouraging back-up team passed us and stopped and administered the bars and sweets, again really appreciated but it was only then we realised the fast road was in-fact the Route National, not just the D901 as we thought! We rode the rest of the way into Beauvais and after a few navigation issues to get off what felt like a motorway we arrived at the hotel. Another fantastic meal, this time in the Courtepaille and a couple of beers. The total mile for the day was 63 and I would have gladly ridden them all over again. It was a fantastic day.
Day 4 – Beauvais to Paris
The last leg of the journey. Again the day started with a climb but we soon got up it and underway. We had a good ride, a little slower than the previous day as the legs were tired but we still had a good pace. The hardest bit was navigation. As soon as we hit the peripheral towns around Paris we quickly realised that the written directions we had and the actual roads were quite different things. We struggled with the directions for a while, stopping and starting every few hundred meters. In the end we gave up with them and , thanks to google map on the iPhone, we picked out a route, which quickly went wrong as the road numbers were different to the ones on the map. We then did the only sensible thing, stopped and ask “where’s Paris?” With directions given off we went and we soon found ourselves in Paris. I had not been looking forward to riding in Paris having driven there a few times, the drivers are mad! However I was wrong, all drivers were very polite towards the bikes, most bus lanes were also bike lanes and the whole experience was pretty easy. We made our way into the centre, after stopping once for directions we found The Louvre. A quick photo stop then onto Notre Dame were we met the crew and officially finished. Our ride wasn’t quite over as we then did another 10miles, including going the wrong way, out to our hotel. A total last day distance of 66miles.
It was a great ride. I really enjoyed riding with Pa and our back-up crew was fantastic, to say Sarah had only driven the Land Rover a couple of times before and never driven in France I think she did just as much hard work as we did. The official miles over the 4 days was 297. Add in the point something of a mile each day as well and we were only just under, if not at, 300 miles and our bodies burnt 21,500Kcal each to do it. Both of us feel great and I certainly would have been happy to jump back on the bike after a days rest and done it all again, maybe with a bike sat-nav though.
The only question left now is……