Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Pedal to Paris 2015

Last year David gave me no choice but to do Pedal to Paris with him after being involved with arranging & designing our team shirts. This year I didn't have much choice but to not do it with him again.

The Royal British Legion organises all accommodation, routes, route closures, transport and logistics to offer you maximum enjoyment whilst riding your bike.

Day 1 - Greenwich Park to Dover Ferry Port

The view from Greenwich reminded me again how much I love London!

After a short rider briefing you set off in a group. The ride to get out of London is as expected quite slow and must be very frustrating for the drivers.

I started at the back and realised that I've lost David & Gus really quickly. I then tried to play catch up in my search to find then. After about 45km we had our first stop at the Royal British Legion Industries Village in Aylesford. I arrived with only a few people hanging about. Being me I immediately felt deserted thinking they just carried on without me. :-( After a visit to the ladies I went outside and suddenly there were heaps of cyclist including my side-kicks. Apparently they had a comfort break saw me going past, called after me, wanted to chase after me, but got stopped by a ride captain to regroup. I was delighted to have my company back. We swore a truce to stay together till the end from there onwards.

The last few times I went out on my road bike my coccyx got really sore. I thought it was because of a hard rear tyre & no suspension. Well the opposite was true, it was a rear tyre that lost air slowly.

We were just in the mix after lunch when the inevitable happened, rear tyre puncture! I pulled over, David with me, put my hand in the air, service van stopped asked me how many gears, classic TC answer, maybe 9 or 10... No I mean 10!

Back wheel changed and off we went, David & I that is! :) Gus long forgotten the truce. We were now right at the back! David put the hammer down and all I had to do was sit in his back wheel as he powered on. We were picking up people the whole time. Eventually I took a few turns at the front. We eventually caught Gus where he was drafting behind 3 ladies!

He looked a bit pooped and I force fed him one of my treasured salty potatoes! Apparently he was just fine, but obliged anyway. David cracked on, almost left me behind, I managed to catch him again, but we lost Gus in the process. So much for our sworn truce. J We stopped for our well-deserved much needed lunch bang on 1 pm!

We had only 30km left to Dover with Dover Hill our biggest obstacle. David and I rode along with Steve Sherry from Royal British Legion Industries (note they are different from RBL). I realised that Steve has been on our Christmas card list for the past few years and that last year I’ve mistaken RBL & RBLI for the same place and phoned up RBL with confidence to ask for Steve’s address. Finally the penny dropped.

Negotiating the fly-over leading into Dover hill was much harder than Dover Hill itself, the road surface are very uneven and your legs just feel a bit ughh! Dover Hill was not as bad as I remembered it from last year which I am very thankful for.  We celebrated conquering the hill with the traditional beer at the very conveniently placed pub. From there it is a long fun descent into Dover where we board the ferry.

White Cliffs of Dover

Day 2  - Calais to Abbeville

The day started with a ceremony at Calais before we headed to our normal coffee shop waiting for the groups to start. There was a bit of confusement as to which group started at 9:45 as the booklet were incorrect. I confirmed via the ride captains that the fast group were starting at 9:45 and the intermediate group started at 10:00. Mark & David were still questioning me, “Tharina if we are in the fast group…?” I couldn’t help but laugh at that as I wish I had the guts to per accidentally sign us up for the fast group, but then my P45 would quite possible be on my desk as soon as I get back to London, so better not to risk it. Hehe.

I find it weird how I can remember and visualize mountain biking routes, but when it gets to road cycling, I just go blank. The guys reminded me of the Tower climb, all I could remember about it, is that I didn’t really like it… This year it seemed to be a lot better than last year. I think I have to thank the Wales Epic from two weeks before Pedal to Paris for getting me in shape. I felt really strong and were mixing it up going up the short steep climbs! One of the outriders was brilliant, he has this really old playlist on his motorbike and as soon as we hit a hill he rides alongside us turning up the music and the ride basically becomes a moving spinning class! My best memory of this was going up a hill on the beat of U2’s, Beautiful Day! Merci Monsieur!

To the English eating potatoes during exercise is almost as weird as being offered a chicken and egg baguette for lunch in France! I firmly believe in potatoes, the Cape Epic does it, so it must be right! I snacked on my pre-boiled salty potatoes every day and had only one left by the end of Day 4. Salty potatoes are the rocket fuel for champions. :)

Riding buddy for the day, Chris Gray
I rode most of the day with Chris Gray apart from when he dropped me on the long slow climbs!

We regrouped at the last drinks stop of the day before entering our final destination as one big group. We were cycling along flat farmlands and to my delight they were harvesting fresh potatoes. Now listen, you can take me away from the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of me! I was in my element! The smell of fresh soil along with being totally amazed at this potato harvester! The plants were all gone, this thing was digging it out, rolling it over some rollers to get rid of most of the soil, then moving it into a drum before being ferried out via a conveyor belt into a wagon! Amazing!!! The reason for my amazement was the whole process, I love a process and also in SA, there is no such technology that I know off yet. This was a one man job, in SA this would be a 10 man job over the course of a week or 2! 

Back to cycling… We were riding along at quite a nice pace in one big group, not as much stop starting as last year and almost in Abbeville when I got my second puncture, this time it was my front wheel! Phuutt, hand up, van pulled in, wheel change & back I go. We were at the back again… One of the ride captains pulled in front of me, whilst a motorbike pulled in front of him and Chris jumped on my back wheel. We were given a freehand at chasing back to the pack! Man this was great! This was the most fun we had all day!!! It wasn’t for long before we caught up and had to settle down to a very tame pace. :(

I had a great day and loved it even though there were times that I would’ve loved to be able to go faster!

At dinner I was sitting next to one of the ride captains and we were discussing the day etc. I mentioned that I was battling on the two long hills. He then asked, “Did you walk up it?” (insert a frowning face) I wasn’t quite sure what to answer as I didn’t quite expect to be asked that question. Knowing that all my riding partners were looking at me in anticipation of my answer to him I was under pressure to have a good come back… So I thought the only way to answer him instead of giving him a complete scalding is to answer with a question, "Would you like to ask that again?” END of story!

Day 3 – Abbeville to Beauvais

I remembered this day as my favourite day last year. I rode most of the day with Paul & Tim. We had a great ride captain, Danny who allowed us to play a bit leaving a nice gap between us and the pace car. This helps as it doesn’t have an immediate effect on the peloton when the pace car slows down, the ripple effect of breaking is a lot less.

Apparently I was very moany and for some reason I can’t remember much about Day 3, that must be the reason!

Just before lunch we picked up a bit of speed and were back in our outdoor spinning class with Mr Motorbike and his sound track. I needed that!

Today we were treated with a ham baguette and an amazing French tartlet! Wow – they do taste as good as they look.

After lunch however we were back onto the tail of the pace car and were just pulled along some flat lands. I was counting down the km’s to the street party in Auchy as I was starting to feel pins and needles in my right lower back area. On one of the hills one of the other girls came past me, I jumped on her wheel, she pulled us to the top where I took over on the flat bit and pulled us back to the pace car – that team work was fun-fun-fun!  

I went to the masseuse as soon as we arrived and he literally clicked my back in and manipulated it a bit, I was so relieved.

One thing I’m still not used to or will ever get used to is the amount of panic in the peloton at the sight of gravel. As soon as the first one shouts the dreaded word gravel, the echoes of gravel, gravel, gravel becomes louder as the panic grows! The thing with gravel is that you just slow down a little bit, don’t change your line & keep on pedalling…

We regrouped and cruised together to Beauvais where we had an evening ceremony. Unfortunately we were surrounded with dark black clouds and we couldn’t out sprint the rain.

The mayor of Beauvais invited us for champagne in the Town Hall which was very nice!

Tim joined us for dinner and whilst not saying much during our ride all of my observations (moaning) were thrown out there for us all to laugh at… Schucks I did moan a lot today, the poor man!

David, Gus, Mark, Lil, TC & Steve

Day 4 – Beauvais to Paris!!!

I’m not sure why, but the night before the last day we are all a bit like children who didn’t want to go to sleep! This morning was a slow start for me, getting ready to double the time it normally does!

There was a nice presentation of a yellow jersey to the top fundraiser of the event. Rob was awarded with it and decided to ride in the intermediate group for the day, he had a bunch of friends around him riding for him on the hills and keeping him in the group. It was lovely to see how they worked together. That is what makes cycling so special!

The peloton started out in silence as fatigue definitely kicked in. People were using hand signs rather than shouting hole etc!

It was a much harder day than what I remembered from before. It started out with a steady long climb which thankfully was much better than last year, I was quite surprised and thankful that my legs didn’t disappoint me. The first half was quite undulating surprising us with lots of short steep climbs! I got to cycle with Gus a bit and as it was the last day the pace car had a sense of urgency to get us at our lunch stop in time, so it was a bit like shut up & pedal to get there, but it was good.

Chris started the day not feeling great! Mark & Steve were looking after him before lunch. After lunch David, myself & Gus took over, riding with him in his hour of need. Pacing him, feeding him & encouraging him.  

We stopped about 4km from the Arc d’Triomphe to regroup. It worked really well this year and as expected it was truly special to arrive together in a big group and in one piece after 4 days and 460km on our bikes!

Our moment of glory

With my favorite Scotsmen, David and his best friend Gus!
Made it! 
Final Observations

It has been a great experience yet again on and off the bike. This blog is too long already to try and fit in everything so I tried to keep it top level, but unfortunately I write as much as I talk. We were a much smaller team, but it was great as we got to spend more time with each other and we all looked after each other whether making sure we were awake in the morning, holding a seat at the table, buying drinks, carrying a bag, offering a back wheel, seeing the Medics on behalf of someone else, getting a plaster for bruised peep-peeps. You name it, we did it! Thank you all for all the fun we had and looking after me.

I’ve been amazed by everybody who rides it regardless of their ability, size, type of bike or the type of clothing they wear, it just proves that anybody who puts their mind to something can do it! One of the ladies on our team, Davina started riding in April 2015 only a mere 5 months ago and she completed it. I feel inspired by her guts! 

Our team is planning to get back together on 11 October to ride the Boxhill Sportive and I know some people have been so keen and have signed up already for next year.

 The best gear to take along apart from the essentials
  • Arm warmers - The comfort of pulling them up and down without having to stop is invaluable
  • Gillet - The best way to regulate your core temperature without over heating with the extra material of sleeves and also much easier to take off whilst riding, not that I have perfected that on my road bike yet.
More photos via these links: 


Routes can be found on Garmin Connect or Strava



To sponsor us click on the link beow: 


Team Manpower 2015

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Tango Cycling Diva Ride

On Saturday we had our monthly Tango Cycling Ride again. Marie & Sara who rides with me often and my university friend, Marize came along.

Marize was riding on my 'new' bike and I was riding on my old bike as it needs a bit of maintenance and I didn't want her to suffer more than what was needed. :-) 

She absolutely loved it, moaned when we had to go uphill, but thankfully my recent fitness came in handy and I was able to give her a needed push at times. 

I love seeing and hearing how people enjoy it and it was an absolute joy to introduce her to mountain biking. 

Marie was trying out her new Specialized bike in Surrey for the first time. Marie started riding on a hand-me-down heavy bike with v-brakes and hardly any suspension, but it did not stop her from riding. 

Riding with my girls is so much fun and something I look forward to every time. We ride hard, chat even harder and love hanging out!