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A Tale of Two Cities…

| Blog, Cycling Plus, Features | 28/06/2013 14:32pm

…Actually I rode through three cities, but it’s called London-Paris so I’ll discount Amiens.

“Slowing! Gravel! Hole!” For around six hours, and for three days in a row these three little(ish) words were the soundtrack to my life. I heard them so often that they would echo through my head as I slept. When I didn’t hear them for, say, three minutes I’d panic and I’d have to shout at least one of them. Welcome to the curious, wonderful world of the HotChillee London-Paris 2013 peloton. Specifically, Group Four, the Group of Champions.

Let me explain. Google “London-Paris bike ride” and you’ll find yourself spoiled for choice – charity rides, guided tours, self-sufficient advice pages… Close to the top, though, you’ll find www.londres-paris.com. Click on it – you won’t regret it. Billing itself as the Professional Event for Amateurs HotChillee’s French fancy is unlike any of the other – excellent – England to France rides on offer. For starters you do it just three days – 100 miles plus each leg – so it’s a more than decent challenge. You’ve got Skoda lead cars and in the UK the excellent National Escort Group motorcycle marshals keep good old irate British motorists at bay. Over La Manche their Gallic equivalents are allowed to stop traffic and create rolling road blocks…

And why do you need NEG outriders and road blocks? This London-Paris sees you riding in proper pelotons. Groups one and two – which included the likes of Team UK Youth‘s Greg Mansell, cycling triple crown winner Stephen Roche and former world champion Maurizio Fondriest – were properly racing in timed sprint, KOM and GC sections. In total there were around 400 riders were on the road in 2013, spread over six groups. This means some groups could be nigh on 80 riders strong at times. Keeping motors and cyclists separate was quite a task.

The big pelotons also explain the “Slowing! Gravel! Hole!” shouts that accompanied us for 500km. At first it was quite endearing that your fellow riders would shout to warn you of potholes, loose chippings and that the group’s pace was dropping (usually on hills (or, eventually, speed bumps)). After 300-miles it became rather wearying – especially as in some cases the shout of “Slowing!’ appeared to have become a Pavlovian response to simply covering brakes…

But I shouldn’t grumble. L2P 2013 was actually a riot from start to finish. It all kicked off early last Thursday at Imber Court, just outside Hampton Court. A 6AM start for the ride to Folkestone was required to avoid That London’s rush hour˚. I was riding for Team Science in Sport and our ‘DS’ former Olympian Simon Lillistone thought I’d fit right in with racy group two. So I started in group four…

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