When Andreas asked me to write a guest post for London Cyclist, I immediately said yes – but it’s taken me nine months to put pen to paper. (Well, fingers to keyboard.) Sorry about the delay, Andreas.
So what is it that Andreas thought you might be interested in reading about? Is it a London Cyclist matter? Not exactly. But it is a cycling matter, and it started in London. And ended, four days later, in Paris.
Last summer I branched out, you see. I’ve ridden a bike all my life but I would never have called myself a "cyclist". And I’d never done anything that could have been considered much of a distance. But a friend of mine was organising a new London to Paris ride for charity, Arch to Arc, in aid of the James Whale Fund for Kidney Cancer. And somehow he persuaded me to sign up.
Now, the vast majority of my cycling at that point was just pootling round town only a couple of miles at a time. A cycle commuter, yes, but one whose commute was about a mile and a half. And riding an 18-year-old mountain bike. How was I going to cope with such a challenge? I had no idea. But you know what? I did it. And I loved it.
This time last year my training started in earnest. Over the course of just a few months I built my rides up until near the end I was going out for 20 or 30 miles at a time, about three times a week. Still on my old faithful bike. And that was about it in the way of training.
And then, early one morning last June at Marble Arch, I met my fellow Arch to Arc riders for the first time. There were just eleven of us, from a wide range of cycling backgrounds. A few were experienced club cyclists, but I was pleased to discover that a couple had hardly ridden since childhood; I wasn’t going to be the least experienced cyclist in the group! (But I was riding the oldest and heaviest bike.) The early start was necessary as day one was our longest day: 87 miles from Marble Arch to Dover. My longest ever ride, with another three days ahead. But it was beautiful. A bit hilly towards the end (of course) but we all made it in one piece and slept well in the hotel at the docks.
Another early start the next morning, to catch the first ferry, and soon enough we were cycling on the other side of the road for 72 miles from Boulogne to Abbeville. Beautiful rolling countryside, amazing weather, and becoming friends with my fellow cyclists. All along the route we were looked after by a great support crew who regularly kept us topped up with water and put on on fantastic spreads for our lunch breaks.
Day three was a beautiful meandering route, 64 miles from Abbeville to Beauvais, taking in Poppy fields of the Somme Valley and other beautiful scenery. And a few beer stops. Day four was relatively easy, about 45 miles from Beauvais to Paris. The fact that I could consider 45 miles to be a relatively light day said something about how I’d progressed in my cycling. And arriving in Paris was such a thrill. Such an achievement. As I said above, I loved it. If you’re interested to read my more detailed reports on each day’s ride, you can see them on my own blog here.
So, why suddenly decide to write about it now, nine months after the even? Can you guess? Yes, you got it: it’s time to sign up for this year’s ride. We’re doing it again, 23rd to 26th June 2011, and there are limited spaces available. You can read all about how to sign up on the Arch to Arc website.
Don’t think you can do it? Of course you can. I did. So can you.
If you want a bit more encouragement, at least watch this beautiful video that was shot last year:
Sign up on the Arch to Arc website.