London to Paris and a few places in between

On the 25th September at 8:30 a small crowd started gathering outside Lloyd’s Chambers, Portsoken Street. Excitement was building but for 5 members of that crowd excitement was quickly being replaced by trepidation as the task ahead loomed large, three days of cycling from London to Paris raising funds for Rainbow Trust!

 

The Ride: Day 1

With all riders present and correct and the support car loaded there was nothing more for us to do than to hit the road. As we made our way over Southwark bridge the rush hour traffic dissipated and the sun shone brightly overhead. With favourable conditions on our side and the inspirational work of the Rainbow Trust front-of-mind the group made great progress through the suburbs, over of the M25 and into Bletchingly where the first of many roadside meals was gratefully devoured. 

The second half of day one proved much tougher as the gentle flats of the suburbs turned into the rolling hills of the south downs. The pace slowed but the determination of the group remained strong, a big push was required to make it to Newhaven in time to catch the ferry! Before the next break however Turner’s Hill stood in our way, it’s difficulty could be measured by the number of mentions it got from the team over the rest of the weekend.

The team pressed on and soon the first road sign for Newhaven was in sight! We had ten miles to travel and time to spare but a fork in the road split the group in two between the advice of the GPS and a road sign to Newhaven pointing the other way! With two separate groups and no phone signal to communicate the split, each group pushed on to Newhaven now a little bit tight for time. But despite heavy traffic coming into the harbour the first group was soon followed by the second which meant the car, 5 bikes, 5 weary cyclists and 1 relieved driver could be checked in with only minutes to spare. A big meal and some rest on the ferry were well received and sleep quickly followed our late-evening arrival at the hotel in Dieppe. 

The Ride: Day 2

One-by-one the team emerged for breakfast with varying degrees of soreness but the mood was good as we looked out on another day of blue skies. Full of coffee and croissants the team headed out wading through the Saturday morning market-goers in the picturesque town centre of Dieppe.

After heading out of dieppe we arrived at the Avenue Verte, a purpose-built cycleway opened in 2012 to connect London and Paris. This would prove to be the highlight of the trip as the pan-flat cycle-friendly surface bisected mile-upon-mile of stunning French countryside.

The flats made for some very enjoyable cycling and we made great progress through the first section of the Avenue Verte. This was until our first of two punctures hit the team, fortunately for us we had an excellently prepared support car driver en-route to provide us with a spare tube.

Also lucky for us was the timing of the puncture - we had by chance stopped right in front of the stunning château de Mesnières-en-Bray, the perfect spot to have lunch. The château suffered a major fire in 2004 but as you can see from the picture they haven’t done a bad job of restoring it to its former glory.


 

After lunch we continued along the Avenue Verte and the 85 miles we had covered up to that point were starting to show. With an old knee injury gradually taking hold, Janka was experiencing the beginning of what would need to be an immense display of mental toughness and determination to complete the tour. As we progressed we decided against the GPS route in favour of staying on the Avenue Verte for as long as possible. We arranged to meet Andy in Serqueux where we would join the main road into Beauvais. 

Our arrival in Serqueux was quickly followed by a major setback, to add to Janka’s increasing knee-pain she now had a broken chain to contend with! With the daylight hours dwindling and a fair bit of mileage left to cover we decided to split into two groups again. Tom, the team’s most experienced cyclist volunteered to stay with Janka and Andy who found a nearby bike shop which was still open. Once the repair was complete Janka and Tom continued, determined to catch us up and make it to Beauvais before it got dark. An incredible effort saw the pair arrive in Beauvais just before it got dark and only 20 minutes behind the front group in the end. We checked into our hotel and headed out into Beauvais to eat a well-earned meal and catch the England vs. Wales match, but the less said about that the better! 

The Ride: Day 3

We all knew the third and final leg of the tour was going to be our toughest test yet despite the slightly lower milage we had to cover that day. The team had tired legs and Janka was now cycling through some intense pain in both of her knees. To add to this, the flat starts of the first two days were not replicated on day three so we set about scaling the biggest hill of the weekend with 130 miles already behind us. It was here that the team witnessed the taming of the hill - Janka, now in real agony had some choice words for that hill and it duly stepped aside and let us through. 

Then, towards the end of the third morning, we had a bit of drama - something a trip like this wouldn’t be complete without. In Méru, our first meeting point of the day some 16 miles into day 3, an abrupt stop upfront caused a mini collision in which luckily there were no serious injuries. We decided to break for lunch here to give those involved time to compose themselves for the final push.  

And what a push it was! Janka could see the end goal in sight and fought through the pain as we got closer and closer. Soon we were on the Avenue de Paris and less than 10 miles from our goal. The suburbs gradually got more urban and we caught our first glimpse of the end goal, the Eiffel Tower. On we went and although seriously flagging the spirits were high as we knew the end was near. Around the crazy roundabout that surrounds the iconic Arc de Triomphe we went and down over the cobbles and we had arrived. What a feeling to arrive at the foot of the Eiffel Tower having completed our goal. After we had unloaded the car and said a truly deserved thank you to Andy it was time for a few drinks.  

 

As we made our way back to London via a tunnel under the sea thoughts turned to what we had achieved not only over the weekend, but in the three months preceding the event. We had all been fortunate enough to have a platform to raise vital funds for Rainbow Trust and support their awe-inspiring work. The proper challenge here is the one that Rainbow Trust embarked on almost 30 years ago. The work they do is not just important, but rare in its scope and reach. Helping not only the child affected by terminal or life-affecting illness but the family as a whole with practical and emotional support during their darkest hours, weeks and years. The magnitude of this task and the importance of its execution could never be overstated. 

The 5 riders would like to send a massive thank you firstly to Andy, our brilliant support car driver who put up with so much and provided an excellent level of support. Secondly, to Amsphere for their continued support throughout this event. Without the support of Andy and the company as a whole there is no question as to whether we would have made it to Paris. Another big thank you has to go to Rainbow Trust who provided us with great support throughout the organisation of the event. And finally, thank you to all the generous people who sponsored the team and helped us reach our goal! We feel privileged to have taken part in this event and to have had the opportunity to raise funds for such a great cause. 

 

Luke McAllister

Graduate Kaams Analyst