Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Pedal to Paris - 2014

As my grandmother always said... NEVER say NEVER as NEVER is a very long time. Many of you would know that I was rather vocal about my dislike of road cycling etc, but I've always had a tendency to suffer under peer pressure or maybe FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) will be a more fair comment.

At our Christmas Party back in December 2013, David  told me that I WILL be riding Pedal to Paris this year and that I will also be involved in the organisation of it, including the design and creation of 600 shirts in five different designs. I didn't have much choice other than to oblige and agree.

Our company, Manpower, has been involved with the Royal British Legion (RBL) for a number of years and have sponsored all 300 riders shirts again this year. Our team was 56 people strong and the biggest since Mark Cahill & James Levey rode their first Pedal to Paris.  

Team Manpower
RBL provide practical, emotional and financial support to all members of the British Armed Forces past and present, and their families. 

This year’s ride was the 19th ride organised by RBL from London to Paris and was particularly special as it is the commemoration of 100 years since the outbreak of WW1, and the ride included visits to War Memorials along the way, whilst the route passed through battlefields and WW1 and WW2 cemeteries, culminating in a spectacular finish at the Arc de Triomphe.

As a team we pledged to to raise £48 000 but exceeded that and are currently over £70 000 already! Over £25 000 was raised through generous corporate sponsorships including Pera Training, IQ Navigator, Sky, Steljes, Trailfinders, Lex Autolease, Broadbean & Career Transition Partnership. If you would like to contribute to this great cause you can do so via

Getting ready - Kit provided by Le Marq
Co-ordinating 5 different shirts with 3 different purposes was a challenge at times but great experience. At some point it did feel that riding 445km would be easier than arranging 600 shirts. Everything arrived on time and looked fantastic!

My training plan didn't really turn out as I planned as I got a cold in July. Thankfully I did a MTB-race in the Dolomites in June & I was hoping that the training I did for that would pull me through. I did one training ride with my friend Steph & bonked one kilometre to go from home & we only rode 87km, confidence levels were low and I really didn't know what to expect. David however had been to many spin classes coming in & out of the office gleefully asking me what I have been up to. On which I replied with either no training, or that I did an off-road triathlon 2 weeks before the event.

In all honesty I didn't have many expectations as it was road cycling which is not my first love, so I can truthfully say that I have been pleasantly surprised by everything. Firstly I would've never considered doing four days of road cycling and secondly I never knew that I would be able to do this. I have only once ridden 120km before, let alone 4 consecutive days of that distance. 

Day 3 - Fun fun fun!
1. Day 1 - jumping onto Gus' wheel early on and staying on it till the lunch stop
2. Day 3 - most fun I've ever had on a road bike, working together & pacing as a team with David, Adrian, Will, Gus, Gary, Antony & Hugo who also looked after me as if they were my brothers/fathers on & off the bike
3. Also teaching Hugo how to do drafting
4. On & Off the bike team work & banter
5. Turning right onto the Arc d' Triomph and sprinting to the end of four days of amazing road riding
6. Meeting other people from across the ManpowerGroup made me feel proud to be part of the company

- Stopping & Starting all the time on Day 2
Team Manpower road cycling legend
 & ride captain,
James Levey with whom
I got to work with on the shirts
Favourite quote/moment:
- You stole my wifi (pronounced weee-feee) - Gus Watt

Things I learnt about road cycling: 

You can also read this as, "Things I learnt about James Levey :-)"

1. Everyone should off course have 4 pair of gloves, a pair for each day
2. Wet wipes are better than any bike wash
3. To give your chamois a hand wash is not hygienic enough
4. You need to wash your water bottles out with warm water every evening

* Whether we all took that on board is a different matter :-)

I got to do three of the things I love most in life; organise, riding 'a' bike & meeting people. I can only thank David for not giving me an option to do the ride or not. I feel a huge sense of achievement and am even looking forward to do more road riding with my new acquainted friends.

Thank you to RBL for organising this great event, the closed roads, mechanics & physios contributed to a very memorable experience.

Day 1 - London Greenwich to Dover
Day 2 - Calais to Abbeville
Day 3 - Abbeville - Beauvois
Day 4 - Beauvois - Paris

David & Gus cycling through one of the WW1 battlefields

We all made it!

Thanks for pushing my road cycling boundaries!
Final remembrance ceremony at the Arc d' Triomphe

Catherine & Claire - hopefully we will be soon hitting some Strava leaderboards together in the Surrey Hills ;-)

More photos can be found on this link: