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Paul’s journey and experience with Limited Edition Cycling.

 

In February 2012, Paul accepted the challenge of a London to Brighton bike ride for charity in June. 

Having not cycled since a child he googled for a local cycling club to train with and found LEC. Starting with Saturday 'Fit Camp'  and progressing to Level 3 Sunday rides, on his trusty hybrid.

 

He completed the charity ride and continued cycling,

 

"I enjoy Sunday morning bike rides - they are relaxing in gorgeous Kent countryside, club members are friendly and supportive and it is a good way to maintain fitness."

 

His next cycling milestone was to buy a road bike last summer  – a whole new world after his hybrid!

 

Paul took inspiration from some club members who ,last year rode London to Paris for the Freddie Farmer Foundation and said what a great experience it was.

 

"I wanted to stretch myself and raise funds for a charity, Practical Action, so I registered for London to Paris bike ride (31st July – 4th August) just before Christmas."  

 

He embarked on regular Sunday club rides and then longer training runs from May onwards.

 

"For the future, I feel comfortable as a Level 4 rider and look forward to more enjoyable Sunday morning rides with LEC!"

 

Paul raised an amazing £2,380 plus GiftAid.

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Rider Story: Paul Walsh

  

This month, Paul shares his exploits and experiences of riding 325 miles from London to Paris in aid of Practical Action.

 

London to Paris.....

 

Day 1 Blackheath to Calais – 85 miles ‘Ish’ -

‘ Follow the orange arrows!’

 

How lucky I was to be starting the ride from Blackheath, just 3 miles away from home and where I spent my early years at school and playing rugby. I had the opportunity to meet some of the other 65 riders with whom I had connected on Facebook. We had our first briefing.

 

…….’We really need to get you to the ferry by 5 PM’

…… ’Follow the orange arrows’

……’Watch out for other arrows do NOT follow THEM!’

 

I made good progress in the morning. There was a bit of drizzle, which was OK. I was cycling by myself for a while when I nearly missed some arrows……’Wow, that was lucky’ I remember thinking….. and then I couldn’t find any more arrows………….. I stopped, checked the map, doubled back, ‘phoned in……….It was 1 ½ hours before I got back on route. I had picked up another bike event’s arrows! We were scheduled to cycle 85 miles and I had already whacked on another 10 miles.

 

The rest of the day was making up lost time, climbing some big hills and eventually getting to the ferry on time. The Team Leader, Christina and Caty were brilliant in getting me back on track.

 

We had our evening meal on the ferry………..Chicken & Chips and cycled 5 miles to our hotel in Calais. It was 11.30 PM before I sorted myself out. I felt a bit tired, frustrated and so stupid for getting lost. And I really did not want to cycle by myself.

 

Day 2 Calais to Arras 85 ‘ish’ miles

‘It is less hilly than Kent’ – ‘Undulations’

 

Before we started I hooked up with some folk from Scotland – Bob, with whom I had exchanged Facebook posts and met at Blackheath, Bryan, Ann and Jackie. They were good enough to let me join their group – There was no way I was going to ride by myself on this trip again! (Bob had also got lost on Day 1 – more to follow).

 

The day started beautifully. The weather was warm and terrain was flat, so we rode 20 miles at a good pace before our morning water break…………And then it became really tough.

 

First of all, Bob disappeared into the distance. I was leading the rest of the group and the temperature climbed and climbed and the ‘Undulations’ got bigger. There were some challenging hills. I was riding up the hills with Bryan and then waiting for Jackie and Ann. The waits and recovery periods became longer and longer. Bryan and I got up one hill and then he carried on whilst I waited. It was now 40C. This was becoming serious and it was evident that we would not make the lunch stop in time. A support vehicle came along and picked us up, curtailing 12 miles. I felt OK but there was no way I was going to ride by myself. In the van, we heard that Bob was seriously lost again and a good number of cyclists were finding the heat really difficult. We drove past Bryan, who was really suffering. The heat was causing havoc.

 

One of the support team eventually found Bob and there was much mirth when he told them that this man who kept getting lost worked for the British Transport Police!

 

After lunch, Bob, Bryan and I set off and Jackie and Ann decided to rest. It was more of the same, blazing, baking heat, rolling terrain and some challenging hills. And no one to be seen – It was as if this part of France had closed up. We rode past fields of wheat and maize, the occasional combine harvester and shuttered villages in the blazing sun.

 

We went through another shuttered village and Bob missed an orange arrow, didn’t notice and then lost pace. A big hill was coming up so I decided to climb it and wait for Bryan and Bob at the top. Bob had dehydrated and fortunately a support vehicle turned up and picked him up. Bryan was still suffering from his morning exertions and we worked together to get to the afternoon water stop. What a relief when we arrived and it was just 12 miles from Arras!

 

Bob recovered sufficiently so that he rode with Bryan and I into Arras– Most of the hills were now past and we made good time – about 12 MPH, which was really good in this heat.

 

We arrived at 7.45 PM and a local pharmacy was showing the temperature at 41C! – It had taken us nearly 12 hours to cover the distance!

 

We dined together (One of the riders, Tom, is a dairy farmer and reckoned we had horse and chips – tasted OK!) and had a couple of lagers.

 

Whilst seriously challenging, I had really enjoyed the day as I was in good company and we were working together. And we were already more than halfway to Paris.

 

Day 3 Arras to Compiegne – 85 ‘ish’ miles

‘It’s cycling Jim, but not as we know it!’

 

The game plan was for Bob, Bryan, Ann, Jackie and I to start together at 8 AM. At the first traffic lights, however, Ann got stuck in her cleats and toppled over onto Jackie, both of them ending in a heap on the round. No damage to themselves but Jackie’s rear wheel was buckled. Seb the mechanic (A university student who is also a really good cyclist, especially marathon mountain biking) couldn’t fix it and set up a spare bike for Jackie which she rode for the rest of the journey and preferred to her own. Bob, Bryan and I eventually got away at 8.40, whilst Ann and Jackie got a lift to the first water stop where they would start and we would meet up at lunchtime. As we were the back markers, Seb rode with us.

 

The early morning ride was good, the terrain was OK and it was not too warm. Our morning water break was at The War Memorial at Thiepval, a sobering moment.

 

We set off on our late morning ride and the heat kicked in again – this time it was even more sapping as it was 40C and humid. Cycling through a village, Seb and I were a couple of hundred yards ahead of Bob and Bryan when we missed an orange arrow. We doubled back, picked up the route and couldn’t find Bob and Bryan – we guessed they had carried on and so tried to catch them up. We went too fast and I was running out of energy. I had that awful tingly sensation. We eventually rolled in for lunch and I could ‘Feel’ my grey pallor.

 

Bob and Bryan were nowhere to be seen. At the time Seb and I missed an orange arrow, Bob became dehydrated again. He got picked up soon after Seb and I arrived for lunch and Bryan cycled in by himself about 20 minutes later. Bob rested up.

 

After lunch, Bryan, Ann, Jackie, Seb and I set off on the early afternoon leg. It was so hot and humid and we seemed to be going at a snail’s pace and forever stopping to drink – and we had to – our bodies would not work properly otherwise. There was a wonderful moment when Seb ‘phoned through to see if a support vehicle could get more water to us – They were too busy picking up riders but there was a ‘Fountain’ at 56 miles, which we found - a tap for a cemetery with cool water (The water in our bottles was warm!) We did a rain dance, drank, filled up our bottles and left 3 euros in Thanksgiving!

 

We arrived at the afternoon water break at 6.30 PM, 65 miles down and 20 miles to go. Ann and Jackie decided to miss the ride into Compiegne. I was still really tired and thinking ‘If Bryan calls it a day I am not going on by myself’

‘Yeah, let’s go for it’ said Bryan – and then followed the best riding of the whole trip! It was magical. We set off at 6.45 PM and quite quickly, the heat disappeared. Seb led us off and I drafted behind him. I could feel my energy coming back. We had a couple of hills to do and then there was a gradual descent into Compiegne. It was like I knew how to cycle again and we averaged over 15MPH! We flew in together in time for dinner…………………chicken and chips!!!!! I felt so fortunate that Seb had been with us and for Bryan’s will power.

 

Day 4 Compiegne to Paris 60 ‘ish’ miles

‘Let’s stay together!’

 

Who would have believed it – today we were cycling into Paris and it was as if the weather was celebrating. The soaring temperatures had disappeared. Unfortunately, Seb, who had looked after us so well, succumbed to heat stroke overnight and had to sit out the rest of the trip.

 

Bob, Bryan, Ann, Jackie, and I were back together – again as back markers! This time another member of the support team, Billy, would be sweeping up at the back and keeping an eye on our progress. I led and Bob sat in my wheel, followed by Bryan, Ann and Jackie – We aimed for 12 MPH and whenever a gap opened up or after a hill, we re-grouped.

 

The villages gave way to suburbs and our spirits lifted as we saw a sign for Charles de Gaulle Airport. We then cycled through Paris and arrived at Bois de Boulogne at 2.45 PM, all present and correct. Everyone had made it! High fives and hugs before our final cycle in convoy to Champs des Mars, behind Eiffel Tower, where we did a lap of honour and were met by friends and family – For me, I was met by my wife Judy, our children, Sarah and Michael and Judy’s sister Audry. That made my ride even more worthwhile!

 

After the photos, we cycled to our hotel for an evening of celebration. And our dinner? chicken and chips! Some fun awards were given out – (Written on orange arrows!) and I was chuffed to receive one, which can be best described as for ‘Smiling in adversity’!

 

We are already back at home and the London to Paris bike ride, which took so much time in preparation and training is a memory – and a much cherished one!

 

Paul's story features on the Practical Action website.