The Chain Reaction Cycles-supported London-Paris 2012 came to a close over the weekend when 450 riders crossed the finish line in Paris, France, after a tough three stage, 507 km ride.
Event organiser HotChillee put on another flawless few days of high quality riding, where cycling enthusiasts, professionals, legends and celebrities all rubbed shoulders in the peloton. With rolling road closures in France, motorbike outriders, Skoda lead vehicles, Mavic neutral service and mechanical support, The London-Paris brings participants as close as possible to a Tour de France experience.
Fresh from taking on the first leg between Surrey and Dover, Jane Hansom was one of the riders privileged enough to join this year's group of cyclists, and you can read the report of her amazing experience below:
"The London-Paris 2012 officially started on 21st June. 450 riders (who have all spent months dedicating their time to cycle training) and me, headed to the start-line at Imber Court, Surrey to begin the three stage, 507 km ride from London to Paris.
I showed up for registration on Wednesday night and was given my registration pack and lots of lovely stuff in various goodie bags from the many sponsors. Registration was a very smooth process and afterwards I was ably assisted by the charming head Ride Captain David Bryant (aka The Bull) who attached my timing chip and duly stripped my bike of all excess baggage, including my aero bars (after eyeing them up very suspiciously)! All extra stuff had to be put in my cycle jersey. That would just be the lip salve then and a Go-Bar to be cracked open on the climb I'd been told about just before Dover. I was only doing the first stage so didn't need to worry about packing any bags.
Chain Reaction Cycles were there offering last minute checks so I popped over to say hi to the guys and check my bike was good to go. I then left my bike in the Group 2 locker room and headed to the bar for a bowl of pasta.
I had chosen to ride in Stage 2 at the pace of 29 km per hour (a nice and comfortable pace) BUT after seeing some videos and pictures of pro-pelotons riding at speed in a super tight bunch round corners, coupled with the wet conditions, I freaked out and decided that, as a triathlete used to riding alone and non drafting, this was not the place for me. I doubted my bike handing skills could cope with that and asked if I could sneak into Group 4 instead.
The start was very stop/start and I soon realised that I had underestimated my handling ability on the bike that I could do this ‘riding in a bunch' stuff no problem. It was not nearly as fast and tight as I was expecting. You just need to keep your wits about you, don't be unpredictable and watch the wheel in front. The pace was too slow for me so I spent a lot of time on the brakes and watching out for others being unpredictable, but it gave me time to hang back, spin along at a leisurely pace and chat to loads of nice riders, most of them bizarrely all called Dave. The ride captain, Big Dave, also gave me the low down on the Vitus bikes all the Ride Captains were on. These bikes look great and by all accounts handle even better. All in all, a very nice piece of kit!
At 80 km we stopped and after a pretty healthy lunch I had the pleasure of meeting some other cyclists. I had a great chat about triathlon with a very fit looking South African Ironman called Joel – who I learned later was rugby legend and South African fly half Joel Stransky. The Capetonian guests I have staying with me were very impressed later that night at dinner: “Are you serious? Joel Stransky is FAMOUS. He kicked the drop goal to win us the World Cup in 95! We LOVE him!” If anyone has ever seen the film Invictus, it was about this very game! As we were approaching Dover he sped past me yelling hello, so clearly he can turn his hands to most sports, cycling included.
After catching up with cycling mad buddy Jeremy and the Peregrine team (who was making use of the lunchtime massage service on offer) I re-joined Group 2 and had just the BEST afternoon ever.
It started well. I rode out with Maurizio Fondriest (so felt rather lucky to get to ride alongside one of the legends the 2012 ride was named after).
We cruised along at a decent pace but it was still comfortable enough to chat. I headed up front and hung onto the Ride Captain's wheels. It's much easier at the front as the pace is very smooth and consistent. And I got some great tips on gearing from a very nice man from Map My Run who had the biggest calf muscles I have ever seen on a bike and was using them pretty effectively as he accelerated up the hill before Dover – quite a climb and I started to feel the lactic acid build up in my legs. Clearly I need more hill practice! Over the brow, I managed to muster enough energy for a final sprint into Dover. I could not believe it was over. We had arrived. It certainly didn't feel like we had cycled 169 km from London and the time went way to fast. I could have easily kept cycling through the tunnel all the way to the other side and beyond. I felt like I was on a roll and it's so true that time flies when you are having fun. Certainly the most fun I've ever had on a bike!
Jane with some of the Peregrine team celebrate reaching Dover after 169 km in the saddle
Very few sporting events allow enthusiasts to ride with the sport's legends, making The London-Paris a truly unique event. The rolling road closures really were an experience to behold and the motorbike outriders and Skoda lead vehicles mean that you feel very very special. It feels like you are in the Tour de France!
I almost couldn't bring myself to get back on the bus to London and gazed wistfully out of the window at the riders lined up at the ferry terminal, even despite the rain. Two other South African brothers called Roger and Max confirmed the Garmin said that we had travelled 169.2 km at an average speed of 29.4km with a total ascent of 1585m (probably that hill into Dover!)
This amazing event has done two things for me: inspired me and ignited my desire to become a better cyclist and improve my triathlon bike times by learning proper bike handling skills. In fact I've already booked myself on an alpine sportive leaving next Thursday. And I'm pretty certain I'll find an excuse to go to Stephen Roche's training camp in Majorca at some point.
Team Peregrine celebrate the end of the first leg of The L2P with Irish road racing legend Stephen Roche
It also introduced me to a lot of very nice people, and the largest number of rather good cyclists I've ever met called Dave in a single day.
Thank you to Chain Reaction Cycles for the opportunity and Sven and HotChillee for an outstanding event. As an event organiser, I am totally in awe of the logistical masterpiece you have pulled off. With aplomb.
Next year I'll come back and race the whole three days.