Cycling like a champion through Paris

By Jacs – Celebrating the Tour de France season – Cycling like a champion through Paris

It was raining so hard when my alarm began to chime in an unfamiliar London bed, that it seemed that the puddles were trying to jump back up to the sky. A perfect day to stay inside (after all there’s not much fun to be had when you’re getting rained on from both directions). The truth was, that I’d been lying there for quite some time; quietly in denial about the adventure I had tangled myself into… for today I was to begin an epic adventure into the life of road cycling warrior, and a venture into the capability of us all to overcome the odds. Cycling like a champion through Paris

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The London-Paris is known as the “professional event for amateurs”. It is a tough, 3-stage endurance road-cycling event with full support and rolling road closures. If you have ever wanted to experience what it would be like to ride the Tour de France, with full support, feeling like a superstar, then this is the event for you. Entries are restricted to 450 riders only – in 6 seeded speed groups, with world champion athletes such as Stephen Roche, Nigel Mansell, and Maurizio Fondriest all cycling side by side with amateurs like me; supported by HotChillee’s 260-strong crew which includes mechanics, marshals, outriders sports therapists and Ride Captains. Somehow I had been magically transported from my cozy, jacs-loving, bed in New Zealand, to lining up with my friend K, my dad and some of the world’s best cyclists, as a lycra-clad jacs cycling machine in London, England. We all have those friends and family members that possess a strange kind of magic, where you mysteriously find yourself in situations you never imagined, doing things you were never quite sure you intended to do…and there I was sandwiched between two of them.

We had registered the day before the race started and I had met a person known as the “ride captain”. My group ride captain was called Jedi-jay… which was appropriate as I felt very much like a wookie on a bicycle. The ride captains are a phenomenon I’d not experienced before (and that I’ve missed ever since). Specifically selected for their motivational qualities, cycling expertise and all round awesomeness, these jedi-warriors are the backbone of the tour and the rulers of the road. We were to follow these warriors for the three day journey (check out the 2014 route). (Special shout-out to Ride captains Jedi-Jay and Dan who both made my tour)

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Stage 1, London to Dover: Our ride captains of Group Four rolled on out… and like a wee pack of lemmings we followed on and began our journey. The rain had eased but my anxiety had increased correspondingly. Massive amounts of self doubt and nervous energy were rocketing through my body. I felt quite overwhelmed by the peloton of cyclists, the initial push for positioning within the bunch and the enormity of the challenge we were about to undertake. A lesson in focus, I let the nerves get to me and fell off the back of the bunch at a round-a-bout when faced with a particularly large truck. This was the start of a very tough morning for me riding solo, where I quickly fell out of love with cycling, but managed to fall in-love with the English countryside. Rolling green hills with rambling moss covered stone walls, I felt like I was cycling through a Beatrix Potter book.

f8It was somewhat a fortunate misfortune that I managed to get a dramatic full-tyre blow out puncture. It gave me a chance to experience the incredible Mavic bike mechanics genie-like qualities as they managed to swap my blown tire for a new one before I’d even had a chance to step off my bike. No rest for the wicked with this lot about to help you, it was truly quite an astounding ‘Tour de France’ experience. Perhaps more astounding however was my encounter with the Group 7 cycling group. Having reached a bottomless pit of cycling despair, I had ambled along fast enough to catch up to the Group 7 team. Immediately I was confronted with the enormity of the quest this group of hand-cyclists and medical staff from the Stoke Mandeville National Spinal Charity Team had undertaken. A lesson in perspective, I was reminded of how lucky I was to have the capability to participate in the race, and how incredible the human spirit could be in overcoming seemingly impossible obstacles to live our dreams. I do not think they sought to inspire me, but it was with a new sense of determination and purpose that I made it to lunch that day.

The next 80km or so to Dover were a far more comfortable experience. Powered by the two handfuls of fruit cake I had managed to grab on my zoom through lunch (deciding to shift down to the slowest group, I only had 7 minutes to stop), I found both my cycling rhythm and my friend K and rolled through with the Group 6 bunch to the seaside.

Lesson 1: Our biggest limitation is our own fear. There are many who triumph over odds far greater than our own to achieve their goals. Perspective and belief is everything.

f4Stage 2, Calais to Amiens: The 170km 11 hour odyssey of day two of the tour will go down in history as one of the toughest weather conditions I will likely ever face on a bike. Starting the day, the HotChillee DJ was pumping upbeat music to get us in the mood, and amped for the cross winds, head winds reaching 65kmph, rain, and grey, black skies which greeted us. It was a study in stubbornness that we managed to stick together and not be blown off our bikes. For the experienced cyclists, the tour includes the more professional stage competitions including hill climbs, sprints and a yellow jersey; for Group 6 we too had our own stage competition – who could reach the top of the hills without being blown horizontally back to England. Heads down, legs steadily cranking, the aim of the game was to keep moving forward. There’s nothing quite like adversity to bring people together, and to drive a sense of achievement… and it was as a team of heroes that we made it to lunch and then to Amiens that day.

Lesson 2: Don’t look back, you’re not going that way. Like Nemo…just keep on moving.

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Stage 3: Amiens to Paris: Paris! I have never been to Paris, and so the thought of rolling in on my bike down the Champs-Élysées was incredibly exciting to me. I literally could not wait to arrive at the Eiffel tower…. trouble was with 168.25 kilometres of road, and a niggling back issue, between Amiens and the Eiffel Tower – I could definitely afford to wait a few weeks before I ever wanted to sit on my bike again. The goal for the day was to make it to lunch where all of the groups would convene to ride the last 40km into Paris as one. As each km ticked by I became more uncertain that the dream of riding into Paris with my Dad and K could come true. I was exhausted. However just at that moment Dad (who had been placed in a faster group than me (because he is a cycling ninja) appeared at my side to ride with me to the finish line. And so, with rolling road closures, 65 motorbike outriders, Skoda lead vehicles and the Police Nationale, dad and I rode on. We and our fellow road-warriors formed part of the 450 strong, beautifully flowing, 1km long peloton to cycle across the final stretch of the iconic Champs-Élysées cobbles to the Arc de Triomphe and then to the Eiffel Tower for an emotional finish.

Lesson 3: No matter how old you get, your Dad can still be your hero

 

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Final Thoughts:

550km in three days…and I still remember each km of the ride vividly. The people I met were fascinating (and awesome), and the shared experience of such an epic journey is something I will treasure between K, Dad and myself. I simply cannot recommend this ride enough. HotChillee do an incredible job both logistically and in creating a truly extraordinary experience. I hope to ride it again.

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Watch a video of this epic adventure here

How we entered: The London-Paris is managed by the international marketing and events company, HotChillee. Check out the race and entry details here. Follow them on twitter at @HotChillee or on Facebook. www.londresparis.com/

Our noble cycle-steeds: Were kindly loaned to us by Sigma Sports, who possibly have the coolest bike shop I ever been in anywhere in the world. They allowed us to ride new Trek Madone’s 5.9 packed with race-ready features like carbon, electric gears and a super-aero shape. It didn’t make me a better cyclist, but it sure made me feel a little bit awesome. www.londresparis.com/

 

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4 responses to “Cycling like a champion through Paris”

  1. Carol Chilcoat says:

    Thanks for posting this. You look terrific and are obviously having great adventures. Mike and I love seeing how your life is unfolding.

    OOOOOs, C & M

  2. Kat says:

    Awesome! Maybe one day if my backside can cope with the challenge I will do it to!

  3. Ollie aka Dad says:

    It is amazing how time dulls the pain so you only remember the good bits!

  4. sam parr says:

    Wow Jac-what an amazing thing to do! Congrats! What an amazing(and memorable)adventure you and your dad embarked on. All the scenery looks stunning. It must of been the most amazing(and surrealistic)feeling riding past the Eiffel tower. 550km in 3 days is amazing thats about 183km a day!! You and your Dad are both amazing cyclist! So lovely that you got to do it with your Dad and spend great quality time with him. Your Dad sounds like an amazing cyclist. Whats your best cycling distance? I can only cycle about 22km and i was knackered! Adventure is an essential to life!💗💖 Keep up the good work and keep stiving to acheive more amazing things!😊Hopefully you and your Dad find more longer cycling trials. Have you done that ride again. Your next challenge should be to do an ironman! Good luck!! Am yet to watch the video. Those memories are priceless and wonderful!💖

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