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A Tale of Two Cities…

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

Day Two started badly for me – our bikes had been stored overnight in a big shed in Calais and while everyone else in group four had no trouble finding theirs my Viner, the only one on the ride, was nowhere to be seen. After making five laps of the different stacks of bikes I was becoming increasingly sweary. Of course, the bike was standing proud and alone in the middle of the shed…

Once reunited I did something weird. I took out some baby wipes and cleaned all of yesterday’s road grime away. I blame spending too much time with chef and cycling-nut Alan Murchison and listening to his coach Ben Wilson. Their mantra is ‘look like a pro, ride like a pro, and both insist that pros don’t ride dirty bikes. Can’t believe that Bradley wipes his Pinarello down with Johnson’s Wipes for Sensitive Skin though…

Ride Captain Eddy seemed to be riding like a pro as we swept out of Calais, with strong gusting winds, tired legs, and sore rumps, the first few miles on the main N-road away from the port felt like a time trial! It settled down as we got stuck into the rolling roads on our 170km schlep to Amiens. The main climb came pretty early on – at around 40K. I have to say I don’t remember it all, so I guess I must have been first over the top…

Stage two demonstrated another great aspect of the event – the mechanical support. Publisher Richard and another group four rider, Phil Jones, MD of Brother UK, prolific cycling blogger, brave wearer of all-white Skoda kit and not-so-closet mod,  punctured. Having a blow-out was actually great fun on L2P. In true pro style you could take your stricken wheel off, hold it in the air and summon your own mechanic. They’d give you a spare wheel and you’d then give chase with a ride captain and a motorbike back to the peloton. Almost everyone who punctured commented on what a buzz this was.

Another all-white clad Skoda rider – seriously, riding behind them in the wet was the stuff of nightmares – John Durling had an even bigger mechanical moment on day two. His rear mech snapped into his spokes which should have meant ride over. Incredibly though the HotChillee team furnished him with a Campagnolo EPS test bike for the rest of the ride. I think he gave it back, but I can’t be sure…

It’s fair to say that day two passed without too much drama for group four. Lunch seemed to take an age – 110K – but when it came the apple tarte tasted like heaven.

That’s more than can be said for the pork chops in the Amiens Novotel that evening. Not naming names but James Golding – cancer survivor turned mega-cycling-fundraiser, Daily Telegraph journo John MacCleary, Simon Lillistone and, possibly, the editor of Britain’s Best Selling cycling magazine may have supplemented the pig meat with something from the ‘Golden Arches’. If Science in Sport’s nutritionist is reading I had a salad…

The third and final leg of London-Paris is, arguably, what makes this event stand out from all the others on offer. I’ve no idea how he’s managed it but Sven Thiele, the man behind Hot Chillee, has pulled off one hell of coup when it comes to rolling his event into the French capital.

Before we hit Paris, though, there was a 127km trek before lunch. It was during this long ride that group four really got it’s s*** together and started motoring. I gracefully got up to the front end – yes I did Eddy – and helped battle the crosswinds.

After lunch we had a right old tear up on the day’s KOM stage. This was used to sort out the classifications at the sharp end of the field, but our ride captains could obviously tell there was plenty of competitive spirit in the Group of Champions. We stopped for a breather at the bottom of the timed climb – at 80km in – before we all unleashed our very own hells… It was proper carnage but great, lung-burning, vomit-on-shoes inducing fun.

After lunch, the magic really happened. Essentially, the roads into and through Paris get shut down so that the London-Paris peloton can ride in together to the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. I’ll say that again – the whole of Paris makes way for 450 cyclists. Most of them from the UK. And no-one, really, moans. It’s incredible. Amazing. Unmatchable. Would London drivers mind if the North Circular was locked down so that a few hundred French dentists, stock brokers, plumbers and car dealers could take a leisurely ride to Buckingham Palace? You bet they would!

There was no sprint on the Champs Elysees for us, but we did get to wobble over some cobbles before we finished in the shadow of the France’s premier Blackpool Tower impersonator. For the first time ever I picked up a mini bottle of Moet et Chandon with my finishers medal and started rehydrating in completely the wrong way. But as the bubbly recovery drink went straight to my head I didn’t care. 500km in three days, in a group of champions. That’s well worth popping a cork for!

For more information on London-Paris 2014 and other Hot Chillee events click here.

Thanks to Science In Sport for inviting me to ride in their team

All photos are copyright of Hot Chillee and taken by Joolz Dymond and Matt Alexander

*Actually Ned didn’t but I’ll acclaim him now. His books are very good






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