17 hours and 20 minutes. We’ve checked the deepest darkest bits of the internet for the fastest London to Paris via Newhaven and the closest we can find is 17:40 – Record breakers by 20 minutes, but the time is only a small part of the story…
Our journey began when Olly realised that there seemed to be no official record for London to Paris. I was on board straight away and soon enough we’d roped a few more in, including Miles from our local club, Nick from Sommet and my mate Bruce from Kinesis. Demo bikes from Parlee were prepped with Reynolds wheels and Lezyne lights, tools and bottles. Then we spent a week or two getting used to riding in Giro helmets and shoes.
Then the big day! We all spent the beautifully sunny warm spring morning staring out the window yearning to get on our bikes – keeping relaxed, eating lots and drinking even more was the key to our ride though so we all behaved ourselves before assembling at The Velo House in the afternoon to pack the team car for the last time. Time then for a cheeky last minute dinner on the train up to London whilst the car stormed up to the start. We met back up with the car on the South side of the river Thames for the official 19:30 start.
Leyzyne lights on and reflective Giro overshoes in place we rolled into the Sunday night streets of central London. Kennington, Clapham, Balham, Tooting, Carshalton and then the M25 all trundled by before we made our escape into the dark of the countryside. With the car headlights helping illuminate the way we were now flying and making up for lost time in the first hour. We had to make the ferry before 11:30!
Outside Turners Hill we got a few cheers from a friend of ours before he retired to the pub like any sane man – further up the road my girlfriend cheered us on and then we were back into the night – the five of us now working well together. The last half an hour into Newhaven was freezing cold. Some riders were now missing turns, but I was pleased to be staying warm on the front and rolling into port at the agreed time. 100km done in 4 hours – Now for a shower, dinner and bed.
Back up at 5am for the French side. Getting out of my bunk, I felt weary and a bit stiff but the whole time in prep I’d been comparing this ride to racing a 24 hour race – when you sleep at a 24 you can only normally allow yourself 45 minutes maximum and you wake up in a freezing cold wet tent, so in comparison our smelly plastic carpet was a luxury! On with another few layers of team kit, grab the bike and let’s get going!
Our first job of the day was to remember to now ride on the right hand side before locating the start of the “rue vert” – a wonderfully smooth stretch of bike path bathed in the icy sunrise of rural France. We started working hard, rolling through as a team to shelter each other from the wind. Several times I wasn’t sure whether to concentrate on the wheels around me or the absolutely stunning valley we were cycling along. Olly did a couple of radio interviews and then we regrouped with the car to swap bottles and remove lights.
The next few hours were the same for each of us, we all had low points where it was all we could do to just eat everything we could find and sit on the back. The brilliantly rewarding thing was how we looked after each other as a group. We were really working well as a team now, each doing time in the wind to protect the rider who was struggling. In this way we soon made our way through the sunny French countryside and onto the grey outskirts of the capital.
Once inside Paris becomes a confusing network of one way roads, tunnels and bridges. It was now stop start all the way to the end and only my Garmin was behaving – nothing for it but to get on the front and try to shout out as many instructions as possible. Apart from one small error we did a good job of filtering through the bus lanes, cobbled roads and kamikaze taxi drivers. Across the last of the bridges we finally allowed the smiles to cover our faces as we rolled underneath the massive arches of the Eifel Tower to finish our ride 17 hours and 20 minutes after we’d set out – even better than that we’d put almost 3k away for sports relief, kindly donated by the amazing support we’ve enjoyed throughout.
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Photos by HARDY CC
Glen rides for the Southborough & District Wheelers. He races Mountain bikes in the UK National XC Points and Eastern XC Series, Road bikes in the Surrey, South-East and Eastern Leagues, TT in the South East Region and ‘Cross in the LCCA League. He receives personal support from Helly Hansen, The Velo House, and the.æight.bicycle.cømpany @eightbikeco #aeightracer
Glen runs The Velo House with Olly, a coffee shop, workshop and bike shop welcoming all cyclists and even well behaved non-cyclists. We’re based at 5 St.Johns Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN4 9TN – 01892 554 505 – firstname.lastname@example.org. @thevelohouse #thevelohouse