A couple of years ago my then partner – now husband, cycled from London to Paris, in 24 hours. I remember the day; I waved him off at the start line before making my way to St Pancreas station to catch the Eurostar – aka, the sensible route – arriving in Paris set to wave him in as he passed the Eiffel Tower the next day, which incidentally I managed to miss, but the thought was there. Well, fast forward 2 years and I’ve just cycled to from London to Paris myself! I am not completely insane however, and so I did do a few things differently; firstly we took the scenic route, and secondly, rather than endure what I can only imagine to be a ‘welcome to hell’ type of ride through the dark & ghostly AM hours, we gave ourselves 3 days. I wanted to enjoy the challenge, not be wishing for a sudden death half way through.
Leading up to the ride, we cleverly managed a month of practically no training – oops. In our defence, we had some hectic weeks following our wedding, including the most magical honeymoon in Bermuda, followed by a trip to New York. So the timing wasn’t great – but as with life, it needed to be fitted in around work schedules, and so it was August or next year – and I wanted to get this ride in the bag!
My husband has at this point done a few cycling trips and so, knowing everyone’s strengths, I let him do all the packing. I mean, I packed my own clothes, but as far as tool kit/general bike touring essentials went, I put my faith in my man! I did a little ‘have we got this’ check list at the car ahead of leaving, but as I was reminded – this wasn’t his first rodeo, and so I got in the car, happy to trust that we had everything we needed. What we then didn’t need, heading to my parents from where we’d be training it to London at 6am the following morning, was a flat tyre. Strong start. Off came the bikes from the rack, out came all of our luggage (we didn’t seem to be travelling light?!) and eventually we (/he) got the little back-up tyre fitted on. Back in went all the luggage, on went the bike rack and off we went again.
The train journey to London went without a glitch, which was a relief; we only had a 5 minute change over time between trains, which put me in a state of panic, but luckily all went to plan. Arriving at Waterloo at around 10am… it was over to the bikes. I faffed around changing into my kit – I was definitely procrastinating, feeling the nerves settle in my stomach. I was unbelievably anxious about riding in London! What if I failed to unclip?…In the countryside it’s not such a problem – you fall into a hedge and it’s more embarrassing more anything else. But in London! Well, you fall into a big red bus, and this was my fear. I cautiously followed my man as he followed his Garmin. It wasn’t a relaxing cycle through the city, but I’m here to write this blog – so it wasn’t ‘death by red bus’ either. There is a blue cycle lane leading you along most of the main roads, but as for roundabouts – you’re pretty much on your own. Heading out through the suburbs was easy enough, and then, eventually, we were amongst the fields and hedgerows that signify the countryside – a more familiar setting!
It was an undulating 97km (60 miles) down to our ferry at Newhaven, and I grew increasingly sore and achy as the pedalling went on – our lack of cycling leading up to this trip really coming into play. My shoulders and neck were screaming for a change of position, making the ride far more uncomfortable than it should have been. Stretching rests were aplenty throughout the afternoon but nothing could save the glutes, or the inevitable saddle sore, and I was definitely feeling it by the end of the day. It was an exciting moment, when we cycled into Newhaven, I felt super pleased with myself for finishing day 1, and ready to rest! 60 miles, at this point, was the furthest I’d cycled all in one day – so a distance PB to kick off the trip! And slightly kicked I felt! 😉
Boarding the ferry was an experience in itself, seemingly understaffed we had to queue up in between the cars and lorries to check in. It was very strange to be stood amongst the traffic, and we certainly got a few strange looks! We then arrived to something of a festival in Dieppe 5 hours later, and had to try and get a good night’s sleep despite an extravagant firework display, a rock concert and a mass of enthusiastic party goers. Luckily we were both quite tired!
We were woken the next morning to the beautiful song of seagulls. Except beautiful it was not, Jesus those birds are loud, and squawk-y. It was a good thing we had to get up anyway. Kitted up and off by 9.30am my body cried as it met the saddle once again. Ouchy! The mornings ride though, was beautiful; out of Dieppe we joined the Avenue Verte, a cycle path surrounded by lakes, streams & rivers, quaint french villages & vast farmland. It was such a joy to cycle through, that for the most part I forgot all about that unavoidable saddle soreness! Not only was it beautiful, but so quiet – other than the odd group of cyclists, it was just us – us & these long open roads & pathways, all with stunning views on either side. I loved it.
Cycling into the town that marked the half way point of the day, we met our support car crew – my wonderful parents and their shiny Range! Hungry hungry, it was burgers all round, and they were gooood! They filled us up nicely, ready to embark on the second half of the day, another 60 odd km.
It’s fair to say that the afternoon of day 2 was far more challenging than our cruise along the Avenue Verte that morning. The temperature was up around 30 degrees and areas of shade were sparse! The hills started to appear, and with the sun beaming down on my back, so did the sweat. We hit one particularly lengthy gradual ascent and it knocked me for 6! I piddled up that hill at an embarrassingly slow pace; my mojo had plummeted, with every turn of the pedal feeling like a struggle. I suffer from ‘hot-foot‘ and this frustratingly began to play up as well, so it felt like I was dealing with a lot! We pulled over at the first shop we saw, and refuelled with bananas and cherry coke! We still had another 40 km or so to go, and to really enjoy it, I knew I had to try and embrace it. My husband gave me a pep talk, telling me I had to soldier up, so I dug deep, remembered that along with Beyonce ‘I’m a survivor’, and on we went.
It wasn’t an easy ride to our B&B, and I rode slowly, but it was wonderfully scenic and we made it. . . and the bed was so big! A 117 km day in total, 73 miles & thus a new distance PB, I was ecstatically pleased to reunite with my parents at the gorgeous, family run B&B that we had pre-booked, Chateau de la Folie, & very much looking forward to the evening ahead; some well-deserved time to rest and re-energise! An evening of good food and good company was the perfect end to what had been, despite some challenging moments, an amazing day.
Before I knew it I’d had a dreamy night’s sleep and it was time to get up & ready. . . for the final day.