230 miles 3 days – we did it

Well we did it 230 miles in 3 days and what an experience!!!

When John, my husband, asked if I wanted to see Paris in June I happily said yes then he announced we would be cycling all the way!

Up to March this year although I owned a bike I rarely rode it. Here I am end of June and I have cycled from Twickenham to Paris.

Just to set the picture a bit more you need to understand that my bike is a hybrid, and Johns is a mountain bike. We do not own road bikes, our bikes are heavy and they do not have SPD pedals which apparently (so I now know) can improve your performance by 20%.

But we were cycling for a very worthy cause. The Urban Stars project of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. Money raised through our sponsorship will benefit under privileged children by providing them with sports coaching and facilities. Developing their sporting abilities as well as their self confidence and sense of being, as well as their understanding of team work and team spirit.

This is how we did it. 

London to Paris bike ride

Day 1

We were due at Twickenham at 6.30 to drop our car and go to the briefing session. Left home at 5.45 but then we were back home at 6.10 as I had forgotten to get the water bottles out of the fridge!!!

Arrived in Twickenham just in time for the guide to take us on bike to the briefing session.

It is 8.45 before we finally group up and start off (why did we get us so early)!!! 90 of us start off on our 70 miles to Portsmouth, 230 mile ride to Paris.

There are 9 teams and our team is small – 7 riders and we all seem to be a similar level but those with proper road bikes have an advantage.

The day is hot and poor John is disadvantaged as I have laden him with a bag full of ‘just in case’ stuff. As a result he cannot get up hills as quick as everyone else.

There are 3 stops on the way to Portsmouth morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea but each has some killer hills before and after, particularly just before afternoon tea.

We arrive in Portsmouth at 5.15 taking out the breaks that is 70 miles in 7 hours. One of the girls in the team has a heart monitor and can tell us how many calories she has burned – she is about my size 4,000 calories!

When we arrive we are shattered and really don’t want to eat dinner but we need to ensure we have energy for tomorrow.

Day 2

Up and ready for 5 am – we have a ferry to get.

We are joined by Michael Vaughan (for the girls he played cricket for England).

Finally arrive in Caen at 11.30. Once we are grouped we set off at 12.10 on our 63 mile trip to Haute-Normandie. I have allowed John to leave the ‘just in case’ bag with the main luggage so he is unencumbered (now he has no excuse for being slower up the hills).

2 stops today, and no, John is not faster than me getting up the hills but he seems to be getting stronger so it won’t take long.

Michael Vaughan joins our team after tea in the afternoon. We have a photo session before we set off and he almost falls off his bike as we go (not very cool). John is in his element chatting to Michael for most of the next leg!!

The ride is beautiful some wonderful French countryside but again some killer hills. The sun is really strong and the temperature reached a high of 32 degrees. We are exposed to the sun quite a bit. The weather causes one of our team to feel unwell that he does not complete the last stage of the day under doctors orders, this should mean he is fit for tomorrow.

Finally arrive at the hotel at 6.30 actual ride time is 5 hours 20 mins for 63 miles!! 3,000 calories.

Despite the heat we feel a lot fitter when we arrive at hotel – not as tired as the night before.

We are joined in the evening by Miguel Indurain (try googling him he won the Tour de France 5 years in a row at the end of the 90′s). He is going to ride with us tomorrow as well as Michael Vaughan.

Day 3

Quite a daunting day we have 100 miles to do today.

The starts are staggered to see if we can all get to Paris at roughly the same time. We are in the second set of teams to go and finally leave the hotel at 8.20. The sun is already out so things do not bode well in terms of heat.

4 stops are planned. The first stage is 20 miles to tea and all goes well. Second stage is 30 miles to lunch. After some strenuous hills John starts to beat me up them.

The sun is very hot and the countryside is magnificent – beautiful poppy fields and wonderful farm land, but not a soul in sight – what is the saying ‘mad dogs and english men…..’.

We do get some relief however in one town where some local kids throw water bombs at us and a women out watering her garden obliges us by spraying water over us as we ride past.

Our guide teaches us to do a chain and we ride a really flat 12 mile stretch in a chain. The beauty of the chain is that you get time to conserve your energy but overall ride a lot quicker than you normally would.

As we get towards lunch I really do not feel good, I have the shakes and feel really emotional. The advice is to eat and I indulge in plenty of sugary foods.

Miguel is signing anything and everything during lunch so I get my rather bashed helmet signed by him.

I am better after lunch and ride well up to tea. It is exhausting stuff. The sun is out beating hard and we have been exposed for most of the ride.

Unfortunately we do not get to ride with Miguel during the day – he has to be at Versailles by 4 pm for a taxi so in the morning he rides with the slower groups (which we are not one of) and after lunch has to ride with the elite (which we will never be one of) at 50km per hour to ensure he arrives in time for his taxi.

He did however pass us along the way and we tried to keep up but we had no hope!! For a few minutes however our guide left us to ride with him – he is his hero.

The fourth stop of the day is just outside Versailles and to everyone’s disappointment no view of the castle is in sight!!! The disappointment was short lived however as the next 20 minute ride however is magnificent, through the gardens of Versailles with wonderful views of the Palace. Magical!!!!!

As we get closer to Paris we ride though parks and woods and finally get our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. The ride takes us around a race course which has a rock festival in full swing. At times I am sure we should not be inhaling as we cycle past groups of ‘revellers’.

We have one final hill to climb inside Paris and this has got to be the worst of the whole trip, it is short but almost vertical. One of our team does not make it and feel very unwell, so we all take a breather after it for about 15 minutes until she feels fit enough to continue.

At 7.15pm we finally we arrive at the Champs Elysees and a second guide joins us to ride us around the Arc de Triomphe and boy was that exhilarating!!! If you have ever been to the Arc de Triomphe you will know what the traffic is like. There are no rules and no etiquette but plenty of Parisian traffic. Navigating a group of cyclists around the Arc is an art.

We did it and it felt really good cycling around the Arc to the finish line!!! Taking out stops that is 9 hours for 100 miles, 4,000 calories.

If I spoke to you the week before this event you will know how much I was dreading it. I was making myself ill with fear and dread. If you asked me now would I do it again, the answer is yes!! That answer is mainly down to the spirit of the team. Sport and team spirit is so important for self confidence and a sense of achievement. Let’s try and help those who are disadvantaged.

If you have not managed to sponsor us yet, you still can here is the link http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JohnandMargaretFinnegan.

The estimate of the amount raised by the 90 riders is £115,000, after matching by the company SJP and gift aid the total fund raised is a staggering £250,000. Well worth 3 days of pain.

As Ramsey would say

230 miles 3 days – DONE!!!!