Monday, July 06, 2009

London to Paris cycle challenge - Day 0/1

Now that I'm back and settled after a few days in Edinburgh after completing the London to Paris cycle I've had time to reflect on a few things about it and life in general.
I'm going to write about each day of the cycle and what the terrain is actually like.
Day 0 Getting our bikes and getting to the starting line.
Interesting. Arrived in Stanstead after a seriously early flight, ran into an old friend at baggage collection but didn't have time to catch up properly. Discovered we did not have our visa card (which has since been reported missing) and had to make a cunning plan about our hotel in Edinburgh as they normally pre-authorise your card in case you rack up a big bill. Worked out fine in the end. Hopped on the stanstead express and was very glad we had sprung for the first class tickets as it was rush hour and the "poor boy" carriages were heaving. Got into Liverpool St. and immediately on to the tube to head to Wimbledon, arrived and was amazed at how busy the area was. Battled through the throngs of people trying to get the buses up to the tennis. Got our bikes from the very nice (and ridiculously cheap) people at TriAndRun ( ) fitted perfectly even though he only had our heights and weights. Now was fun, attempting to navigate the tube, train and road networks with bikes and large rucksacks to get to our hotel in Bexley several stops, waits and a reasonable walk later we arrive in what is essentially a village. Very pretty and nice and quiet, until we get to our hotel, which may as well have been sitting ON the motorway. Had some severely overpriced lunch and went for a sleep. Woke up and went to a local pub for a very cheap (but microwaved Iceland or similar) dinner, which was reasonably filling and didn't taste "bad" Early night, very hot room.
Day 1 London (Bexley) to Dover
This was initially meant to be London to Newhaven which was a bit shorter, the ferry company messed about the timings and we had to reroute our ferry via Dover instead.
Started off from the holiday inn after a lightish breakfast and arrived for the briefing. Got told, "today is going to be a bit stressful as we have a fixed deadline that we don't control, if you don't make it quick enough to the lunch stop you WILL be picked up by the back van. If you are not quick enough to the rest stops you WILL be picked up by the back van" etc. Got some more information and it decided to start raining, on go the ponchos.
The first leg was great, 20k in we had a stop with fruit water etc, set off again after about 15 min or so and immediately met some really rough terrain, bear in mind that these are proper road bikes we have with 0 suspension and pretty much no padding on the saddle, think sitting on the crossbar with a small piece of leather under you and you wouldn't be far wrong.
Lots and lots of uphill sections, really shit Tarmac and potholes, they neglected to tell us we would be cycling through the south Downs. Which in itself is a lie, it's all bloody ups.
On one of the ascents I drop down on the front chainring and the chain pops off (my fault, don't downshift under heavy power) binds up the cranks and turfs me off the bike, I managed to stay upright but my foot dragged under the pedal for a good 20 feet, I also managed to fall quite hard onto the crossbar with the associated injury, pain and indignity that it causes, needless to say I had a very interesting bruise that's still a bit painful and lumpy. At the top of one of the hills the medic passed me and gave it a look over, said it was likely sprained and my heart sank I thought i was going to end up having to pull out after not even lunch on the first day. Made it to the rest stop after sending laura on ahead, got my fruit and a small rest then set off again. Covered about 7 miles and couldn't make my foot work properly so waited for recovery by the Big White Van, got chucked in the back with the bikes as another couple were too slow/tired or something.
Got out at the next rest stop and got seen by a doctor who gave me some painkillers, note you CAN take ibuprofen and paracetamol together, and yes they do work VERY well together, got back on the bike and after a mile or two felt like a new man minus the very painful buttocks and groin, it didn't take the pain out of their but it did take the edge off. Another slightly misleading description of the terrain followed, "There's a bit of a hill before lunch" a bit of a hill. That would imply, to me at least, that it would be on the order of 4/5 in 100 not a 1 in 10 that went on for 4km. Managed to catch up with laura and passed several people, felt quite pleased with myself at not getting scooped by the van even though I left at the last possible minute from the rest stop.
Got to lunch and was severely disappointed, vegetarian with only a tuna salad for anything resembling meat. As I had taken so long to get there I only had about 20 minutes before we had to set off, whereas most of the others had about 50-90 min. The afternoon continues in the same vein, except the road surface worsens, really stressful trying to make a bike go up a really bad road as it literally drains the energy and willpower out of you. This time I see a worrying pattern forming, we are crossing valleys, so a downhill section that you can't really fly down as the road is rubbish, a bit damp, covered in gravel and quite windy, then it's counterpart on the other side of the valley, a long ascent on the same road surface, not good at all. Made worse by inconsiderate moron drivers who have acres of space on the other side of the road and yet still managed to hit Laura with their wing mirror.
Made it to the last rest stop near the back of the middle group of riders, a nice farmhouse with a grassy area to lie down on. Was informed that there was only another 20K to Dover. Did some mental calculations and despite my geography being rubbish figured out that we were still a reasonable height above sea level and that Dover, being a port, HAD to be at sea level and that meant one thing to me, more downhill than uphill and we were near food (okay, 2 things) hopped on the bike again and went like the clappers. Arrived in Dover after passing several people and forming a small platoon of riders on the outskirts of the town managed to make it to the port itself in a reasonable time and rolled in accompanied by the sound of bicycle bells from or group and cheers and applause from the 30 or so that had already arrived. Staggered on to the ferry after a small wait at the terminal for the later riders and the vans etc. Had a nice meal with everyone, spirits were a bit down as the day was so strenous and miserable.
Off the ferry at calais and back on the bikes to literally travel 2 or so kilometres to actually move 100m, stupid road closures and fences meant we had to drive around the whole terminal area. BTW Calais is very industrial and is full of very industrial buildings and not very pretty.
Got on the coach to take us to Dieppe, sat at the top of the stairs with our day bag and helmets, drifted off to sleep a few times but was startled awake by the fear of falling off my seat and down the very steep coach stairs. Got to the hotel after 2 1/2 hours and fell straight asleep smelling like a corpse and feeling like one as well.
Thanks today go to:
Dave the medic for looking at my foot and giving me temporary relief with some ibuprofen gel and lending me his Allen keys to lower my saddle.
Ian the doctor for giving me lots of painkillers and basically telling me not to be such a pussy and get back on the bloody bike.
Bob for making ne laugh by arriving at Folkestone and having to get on the train to Dover after he misread the directions.
Everyone else in the group for being really nice, supportive and friendy when I was lying on the grass at the rest stop with my busted foot.
And as always, my fantastic wife Laura, always pushing me on, being encouraging and always supportive and watching out for me.
Day 2 will follow soon as this has taken me about an hour to write on my iPhone.

Posted via email from Daniel's posterous

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