Cycling from London 2 Paris should be on everyones bucket list. It was most certainly on mine. When I created thirty4thirty I knew it had to be one of the 30 endurance events of the year. I did not however dream that it would attract the support of five other awesome ladies to ride the 300km with me.
This dream team made the event better in so many ways. If you are thinking about taking on the 24hours find yourself a dream team. There are many organised events out there; it doesn't have to be done in 24hours but can also be cycled at a much more leisurely 3 day pace.
The team consisted of Eva (route planner), Rosalie (general cycling goddess and leader of the pack), Michelle (involuntary mechanic), Adelaide (knowledge wizard), Alice (moral booster and most resilient person ever) and me! We were also very lucky to have the best support crew (Will and Jo) with Bertie the van. The support crew followed us the whole way, providing food, bananas, much needed water and general support. The van was like a Swiss army knife with spare parts, track pumps, picnic blankets, a spare bike and even red wine!
We started our journey from Tower bridge, the team descending on the South side of the bridge from many different angles and parts of the country. Many of us having a much more relaxed start than others, however we were there ready to go for our start time at 4pm. This would give us until 5pm the next day to get to the Arche de Triomphe. Here we go...
The first 10 miles to get out of London were led by the two resident Londoners. Riding in London is all about being confident and being a little bossy with the traffic. Get sassy! If I was leading the group at that point we would still be stuck in London as I am way to polite and kept letting cars and buses through.
Within the first hour the team sadly had an incident, Alice missed a cycle path and understandably tried to catch up and follow the rest of the team. She caught her peddle on the curb and took a big tumble. She was extremely brave considering her ripped shorts and massive bruise already appearing! Alice was up and standing but her bike was a little mangled; we thought it may be the end for Alice and her bikes journey but then Michelle came to the rescue. After getting very oily hands she managed to work out the brakes and back derailleur. Well done Michelle. All systems go. We were back on the route with about 20minutes to catch up.
The first section of the route from London to Newhaven is actually the most time restricted. If you miss the ferry for whatever reason the ride is over. We worked out pace to be about 20km per hour on average. This gives lots of time for breaks and mishaps. Once we had reached Mytchett on the suburbs of London we were in my comfort Zone and our speed increased. The weather was perfect, cloudy but not cold. We were well on our way to the ferry. Check in would start at 9:30pm. We arrived at 9:10pm just in time for the support crew to deliver us Fish n Chips from Horaces fish bar. The best fish and chips ever!
There are many ways to sort out the ferry logistics, as we had the support van all bikes went inside the van for the crossing and the riders went over as a foot passengers. This is the cheapest way to do it as a foot passenger ticket is around £23. The ferry leaves at 11pm and reaches Dieppe at 5am (local time), this gives riders up to 4hours sleep. I highly recommend buying a cabin. Cabins fit four people and cost £55. They also have a shower in. Such a great feeling to feel clean again. Even with only 4 hours sleep it feels like a new day of riding.
The very loud ferry alarm went off at 4:30am. I jumped out of my skin and was so confused as to where I was and what I was doing. This soon became clear as I put my cycling shorts back on and anti-chaffing cream! Yuck!
The morning was glorious, the sunrise was beautiful. We met the support van just off the ferry where we got our bikes back, had a cuppa and a porridge pot. By 6am we were on the road, the sun was up by this point but actually it was pretty chilly. We all lost feeling in our fingers but knew within the next couple of hours we would surely be boiling again.
The route then took us through a beautiful village and along the Avenue Verte; this was a cycle path of pure delight. It felt like a magic carpet for 50km through farmland, amazing scenery and beautiful villages. I never wanted that cycle path to end. But as they say all good things must come to an end - but for us at the village of Gourney-en-Bray we met the support crew with the most tasty almond croissants I have ever eaten. My cycling dreams had come true, bikes, friends, croissants and smooth roads.
Our next stop would be at about 230km for lunch where we would meet the support van again. The roads became slightly more undulating, travelling through the French villages. I am sure they are deserted as we rarely saw a soul! Where are all of the people?
The support crew came up trumps for lunch providing the best picnic ever. Loads of bread, cheese, ham, tomatoes. The picnic blankets even had flowers on! Bliss. Lunch sadly couldn't be that long, I could have happily stayed there all day.
We had less than 70km to go at this point, everyone was feeling pretty good, loving the scenery and working off all of the cheese from lunch. We were truly on our way to Paris now and heading in the direction of Versaille. Our route took us through the woodland of the Palace which provided restpite from the sunshine and gave us a perspective of how big the estate must be. With under 30km to go we were in the town of Versaille; all of the peace and tranquillity was lost. The town was manic, tourist every where, cars abandoned, buses reversing into us, bike paths covered with obstructions, pedestrians taking up the road and well groomed poodles running in front of the bike tyres. Versaille also had many traffic lights, the team started to get slightly disjointed at this point and it seemed to take an age to get out of the town. At the this point the panic started to rise that we may not make it to Paris in 24hours. We were peddling as hard as we could and trying to navigate in now a much more built up area. We crested a considerable hill and there it was...the Eiffel Tower in all her glory just five miles away. I must say I did have a little tear here. In my heart we had made it whatever time we reached the Arch de Triomphe did not matter.
The last five miles into Paris the sassy-ness had to come back out as we battled the bustling city. The clock was ticking but we were on Place Charles de Gaulle looking onto the roundabout madness of the Arch. One...Two...Three...go. We were all of the round about risking our lives to get to the Arch. We made it. 23hours and 42minutes. Phew. Much celebration and champagne followed before we had to risk our lives once again to get back off the roundabout.
What a 24hours. A bucket list event ticked off.
10 pieces of advice for London 2 Paris in 24 hours
- Service bike before the trip
- Research routes - I would recommended London - Newhaven (97km) Dieppe - Paris (200km)
- Pay for a cabin on the ferry to get a shower and sleep
- Get fish n chips at Horaces fish bar. So good!
- Have a support crew if possible - if not factor in the stopping time
- Eat loads of snacks - real food works best for me such as trail mix, oat bars and sandwiches
- Drink lots of water plus eletrolytes
- If you have the time stay in Paris on the night of arrival
- Do it with people
- The 24 hours of endurance is so worth it in the end
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