Friday, 1 July 2011

London to Paris in 24 hours (Danny and Ian's Parisian Adventure)

Two Thornton members took part in SCOPE London to Paris 24 hour challenge myself and Ian McMahon. We set out from Blackheath at 8:15am on Friday 24th June 2011 along with 150 others. You could either do the event as a relay or as a soloist; having intended initially undertaking the event as a relay we decided to do the whole event without a break and ride solo. Having completed the Pyrenean Raid I felt I was ready for this challenge unfortunately for Ian the most he had done was 60 miles this year!

The organisation of the event was excellent with great refreshments, food and support services. In order to establish some comtrol, a number of pace rides lead a number of groups with the balance of riders setting off after the groups and before the Broom Wagon.

The 90 mile stretch from London to Dover was harder than envisaged as I tried to pull Ian up to the fast moving front group on a number of occasions but unfortunately Ian found the pace a little faster than he was comfortable with. However having again reached the front group I was one of the first up Charing Hill getting some good TV coverage of the Thornton Shirt; which 3 different people advised that they liked our retro type shirts, well that was a first.

The first feed stop was at Charing which provided vegetarian Indian food along with the usual pasta and rolls etc. Having refuelled we set off with the second group, only for myself finding it necessary, to stop and dig out mud from cleats which resulted in us dropping from the comfort of the peloton. Having re-caught Ian it was down Stone Street from Canterbury into a head wind and then up Dover Hill and the coast dwen to the Ferry at Dover.

With 90 miles completed it felt like we had already rode a Sportive but not this event; we still had another 190 miles to ride through the night. A little daunted of what lay ahead we downed two large cappuccinos and headed for the car deck to pick up our bikes.

The first French stage was Calais to Therouanne 33 miles, within 5 miles I had lost Ian and was entering the zone of I am going to do this. Which resulted in myself catching a fast moving group after pushing hard up a 5 mile climb. Now feeling good myself and a new found buddy, we left this group and pushed hard to the feed stop; which provided fresh waffles which went down well. Around 10 minute’s later Ian appeared looking remarkably fresh. We decided to head off at around 10:30pm with the second group, a 39 mile stage from Therouanne to Doullens. After a few miles Ian eased back but I was taking my usual club ride position behind the pace riders (who we were not allowed to pass). After 30 miles I started seeing signs for Le Touquet and then Boulogne, yes we were going the wrong way, which resulted in 18mile detour and an hours time lost getting back on route and it had started to rain. Ian was fortunate to have the route on his Garmin so no detour for him.

Heading back in the right direction I passed the pace setters and decided I had to push on if I was going to do this ride. Arriving in Doullens around 1:00pm I was now at the back of the field. A quick coffee and a chicken fajita and I was on the next stetch which was short 25 miles Doullens to Bacouel via Amiens. Within 5 miles myself and two relay rides had lost the route but were heading in the general direction, albeit on a major road. We then picked up two chaps who were standing by the side of the road lost. I assured them we were heading in the right direction albeit off route. However, one of them appeared to ne a good time trialist and the pace shot up. The city centre of Amiens was disserted at 2:30am but unfortunately one of the relay riders rear ended a car stopped at a red light, full of French herberts. An autication quickly ensued with my time trial colleague declaring that he was up for a fight! Unfortunately, I was not and thinking I have just got to get out of here. Within seconds the lights were green and the locals were back in the car, 3 miles late we arrived at Bacouel-Sue Selle.

The rest stop was at a local sports ground and the rain was now falling hard. I grabbed a coffee and tried to eat some cake but just did not feel like it. With the next stage beckoning which was the last long one at 39 miles, I was keen to head off. As I was just about to hit the road my time trialist friend told me to wait for them and we would go out together. Suddenly, my luck changed, as they announced that the fast first group was about to leave. Having done 18 miles extra and lost an hour, been lost twice, been rained on had an autication wth French Chavs I was back on target!

The section that followed was through the dead of the night travelling over deserted French moor land in pitch black darkness. I got myself to the front  of a group of around 30 and felt extremely comfortable, the early part of the rourte had a lot of climbing which I managed to stay in without too much discomfort. Watching dawn break to my LHS was amazing with the dawn chorus commencing I arrived at Beavais in a group of around 15. With 70 miles remaining I new I had the event cracked baring a mechanical. Refreshed with a cheese and pickle sandwich I got ready for the next stage 30 miles to Pontoise. At this point I met up with Ian who had taken this stage out but was going to ride the final two stages to Paris (70 miles). Setting off around 5:00am at day break I was feeling good, a large hill beckoned around 2 miles which shed the pack of 30 to 4 which contained myself , one other and two pace rides, two other pace riders where still climbing up the hill. After 10km we were up to around 10 riders who continued to the final stop at Pomtoise on the Edge of Paris. Refreshed with croissants and coffee the final 20 miles to Paris was a coast-in with a group of 20 electing to ride in together. We stopped at around 30 lights which really hurt the legs, riding around the Arc the Triomphe on a bike is an interesting experience and one I would not recommend. Then it was along the Chans de Lise and a left turn saw the finish line at the Eifel tower at 8:00am French Time. Ian appeared about 30 minutes later. I got off the bike and felt ecstatic, it was amazing, we had both completed in 24 hours I had ridden 290 and Ian 250 miles. My previous best distance was 165 miles Ian 85 miles; this had been a real effort, it had not a ride it was an adventure!

Obviously this was my perspective hopefully Ian will write something on the blog. If you would like to sponsor us for our efforts the link is below: