Monday, 22 June 2015

Chris Keal - London 2 Paris June 2015

Another guest blog this time from C&D Cycles owner Chris Keal. We owe a lot to Chris but none of us have really ridden with him. He explains in this blog that he doesn't ride much but to make up for that ticks off a ride that a lot of would love a crack at. Chapeau Christophe!

London 2 Paris June 2015

Well most of you will know I don’t do a lot of cycling. I own a lot of bikes and have worked in this industry over 27 years and I never once done a charity bike ride. So I thought it was about time. If I was going to do a ride I wanted something that went to a different country so this is why I picked London to Paris (L2P).


An early start from our prison like Travelodge which was just over a mile away, so we had a walk dragging a kit bag and pushing the bike to the Crystal Palace sports ground where we had to register at 6.00 AM. Once registered we had a quick briefing by the Skyline team, which were the organisers, and given a basic map for when you get lost, and to follow the orange arrows.

Off we went all 85 of us on a variety of bikes, from the all carbon with dura – ace to a mountain bike and a range of hybrids. All riders had various abilities and were excited to get started. We left Crystal palace and I was leading for the first and only time as nobody else wanted to go first.

Riding through London is not great ,  vehicles hitting their horns at you and not respecting us a road users.  We were desperate to get off the main roads and into the quieter lanes. The day was split in to 3 stops , a water stop at 27miles , lunch at 65 miles water stop at 87 miles.

The country riding was fantastic, a nice steady pace chatting to other riders while we pedal along in the glorious sunshine. The route was fairly flat until we got to the south downs then we had our first test of hills. Luckily I live in an area with hills so I was ready for whatever was in front of me. The riders who live on the east coast wondered what they were. After the last water stop we had to meet at a holding point just outside the port of Dover. We were held there so all riders could go in convoy to the port so we could load on to the ferry together. If you got there early you had a long wait for the back markers. Surprisingly we were in the first 25 so we had quite a wait and as the holding point was in a pub time for a pint or 3. Eventually we rode to the port where security took us straight through onto the boat.

The time on the boat was used for eating and a another pint. Once the other side we got escorted off the boat straight through passport control and onto the hotel which was 10 mile away.


Bit off a lie in today as we had to be ready to leave by 7.30 AM.  After yesterday’s glorious sunshine, we had thunderstorms and rain. #NICE DAY TO RIDE.  Off we set heading from Calais to Amiens. It was very humid and wet but the roads were tarmacked and rolling nicely, then the sun came out and the heat went sky high and so did the hills. The Garmin topped out at 37 degrees and it was hill after hill after hill. Long and winding that went on and on. The stops were the same distance apart which in the heat and the hills needed to be closer as we all ran out of water before the next stop. Riders were dropping out with heat exhaustion and some with sun stroke. It was a slog this day , the tarmacked roads turned to farm tracks. This would be a test for the boardman wheels. We made it to Amiens  which was a day’s total mileage of 104. Drained we shower and went for dinner which was provided. Well what they provided was a disgrace. For the amount of energy we were burning dinner consisted of a small bit of mash potato and 3 chunks of beef stew. Not enough to fill my little toe. Vegetarian option for main was a small mound of rice with 6 green beans. #NOT HAPPY. We voiced our anger!


Last day and although the day before was gruelling we were all buzzing as we know that at the end of today we will be in Paris. The weather was a lot cooler today and the group I was riding with decided to leave at 7 AM just in case it warms up to much again. Short day today 98 miles to do . Off we went and as I was from the first day in our little group designated group leader we left the beautiful town of Amiens  and headed directly south. Now this is a completely different day, long rolling roads fairly flat this is what i thought the whole of France was meant to be like. Being cooler and flat the smiles were back on peoples face and not the sweaty grimaces from yesterday. The French country side was gorgeous and riding through the traditional villages you saw nobody. It was deserted.  The pace had picked up and we soon through both water stops and lunch heading towards a holding point about 1.5 miles from our finish point which was the Eifel tower. Now riding in Paris is as wild as London but without the horns. The most terrifying part of the Paris ride was the roundabout around the  arc de triumph .  We waited in a group of six seeing where to go as we still had to find and follow the orange arrows. Once we had spotted our exit we went for it . Sitting in twos behind each other to make a rectangular block. This we thought was the best attack as they must see us as a block of riders. There were cars chopping in round, front, back. Arm signals going out with a flat hand trying to say I” I am coming over” pedalling like the clappers and praying at the same time.  We made it through and did a head count. All present. After that roundabout the roads go to cobbles. So  I have just shit myself on a lethal roundabout now I am being shaken to death and they love cycling!  The guy on the mountain bike that has struggled all the way is now laughing unlocking his suspension and getting a comfortable ride in.

We reach the holding point and wait for all riders to arrive . No pub at this one. Once everybody was present we and to put on a corporate t shirt and we all rode to the Eiffel tower together with the organisers cars surrounding us to stop any traffic cutting in to the group . On the group ride in all you could here were cheers and claps from tourist and locals on the streets cheering you on. At the back of the tower is our finishing point where our friends and family were there to greet us.

We had done it. 300 miles 3 days 2 countries and a lot of memories.  If you believe in yourself you can achieve anything as I have proved.

Another great guest blog, thanks Chris. I assume my 50% discount on that Giant Propel is now a done deal...what...not really...oh ok, you get a guest blog anyway!

Happy Pedaling

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