London to Paris for Hospitality Action.....
To say I like a challenge is an understatement, so when the opportunity came up to cycle from London to Paris came up, I jumped at it. 300 miles in 3 days for one reason, raising funds for Hospitality Action. In fact 21 of us signed up to do the cycle ride, mostly people from the industry. The cast list included fellow Michelin starred chefs Matthew Tomkinson & Steven Drake, Hayden Groves who was 3rd in the National Chef of the Year in 2011 and I also managed to get my young apprentice chef from L'Ortolan, Sam Bowden to join us. We also had the pleasure of a very good ex pro cyclist in Roddy Riddle. Back in the day Roddy was the holder of the Scottish hour record taking it from a certain Graeme Obree and also represented Scotland at the Commenwealth Games. Roddy doesn't do that much cycling these days, however his 'riding from memory' training was always going to be good enough to keep up with a few wannabe cyclist chefs.
The plan was hatched 8 months ago by Michael Cross and we kept in touch with regular updates so that we all knew the group (21 riders in total) would have put in enough hours of intensive training to make the trip hard but enjoyable. On day one was a relatively easy day setting off very slowly from Greenwich in rush hour traffic and then cycling all the way to Dover. Rolling hills and pretty countryside were the order of the day. The last 6 miles were amazing, battering down a dual carriageway flat out. Indeed the last 2 miles were downhill and I am pleased to say I managed to average 54 MPH for a whole mile!! That's shifting for sure and I put it down the awesome aerodynamics on my Specialized Venge.... Oh and pushing a 53-11 gear down the hill flat out. I haven’t had chance to download my Garmin yet, but I reckon top speed must have been 56-58 MPH !! Am not sure if any cars even passed me!
On day 2 we had our biggest day mileage wise to do. Scenic rolling roads in northern France meant we got carried away with ourselves and ended up getting a bit lost and taking in a few too many hills and miles. Over 20 miles too many even before lunch. And during the last part of the day the heavens opened and we did 30 miles in biblical rain. It was savage weather and a 120 mile plus day in the saddle, meant we were tired all round. But when we arrived at our hotel there was no sign of our bags, somewhat unamused I ordered a double expresso and went to bed suffering from mild hypothermia!
Day 3 we rolled into Paris, after another 100 mile plus day again and truly stunning scenery for the first 5O miles of the day. I can’t believe how beautiful it was and the quality of the road surface. Getting to the outskirts of Paris and asking for directions was so amusing, think of being on Maidenhead and asking for London! Once we got into the financial district we ended up in a tunnel, in the dark on an 8 lane motorway with no lights whilst wearing sunglasses ! Quite an exciting mile or so and it certainly got the adrenalin going. The trip finished off with the relative safety of cycling round the Arc de Triomphe and then going flat out chasing cars down the Champs Elysees in Mark Cavendish stylee.
What was great was that my body coped really well with 20 hours of cycling over 3 days and I was back racing a Duathlon 48 hours after getting home feeling absolutely brand new. It goes to show that all the bike training is starting to pay dividends. I just need to get my running legs back now. It was a great few days with a different story to be told every day. Great friendships were made and most importantly lots of money raised for charity, so now it is back to work for a rest !
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