On the 18th March I received a phone call from a good friend of mine and print supplier of Ghost; Andrew Edmondson of Purely Digital, asking if I’d be up for cycling from London to Paris in aid of raising money for Derby Hospital. “Absolutely” was my immediate response, it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, being a keen cyclist myself, that and being able to help Andy raise money for the Derby Royal Hospital that saved his life, without a doubt I was in. In 2017 Andy suffered a heart attack, it was totally unexpected, however due to the speedy action of Derby Royal’s A&E Department, he was assessed and operated on in a very short space of time, which resulted in less damage to his heart and a faster recovery period.
We have all been thankful to a hospital and its staff at some point in our lives, be it a family member, a friend or ourselves. Unfortunately, over recent months we have experienced some of our work colleagues battling through their own health scares, and again with a lot of support from the hospital and its staff, are now on the mend.
One year on from Andy’s heart attack and we are stood on platform 6 at Derby train station waiting for the 7:30 to London St Pancras, the bikes are already on route with a courier. There are 2 others taking on this challenge with Andy and myself, Cameron and Craig who are both close friends of Andy’s. Just to put this challenge into perspective, I am the only keen cyclist, Andy rides every so often, Cameron a lot less than that and Craig… well he loves the gym and avocado but that doesn’t make him Bradley Wiggins. All jokes aside most of the guys were just getting into cycling so this was a mammoth challenge for them to be taking on.
Once arriving in London, we found the courier with the bikes, got the kit out and then headed to the London Eye for a group photo. After that we were about ready to start, although Craig seemed to have different ideas. He couldn’t get his foot out of his clip in pedals, resulting in him going down like a sack of rocks in front of all the Boris bike riders (He did this again 20 miles in, at the top of Farthing Downs with wobbly legs).
Getting out of London took a lot longer than we had anticipated, stop starting at all the traffic lights put us behind our pace time. By the time, we met Phil (our support man in a pick-up truck) at Bletchingley, 25 miles in, we were starting to worry if we’d make it to our ferry at Newheaven. We briefly stopped to refuel and with more energy and mildly rested legs we started to hit our target pace again. The rolling country roads definitely helped with getting us back on track. All in all, I think I can speak on behalf of everybody when I say that we weren’t expecting such a tough start.
Thankfully we got to the ferry on time. Here we parked the bikes up and then proceeded to the bar for a few shandy’s.
Day 2 was the day we were all looking forward to, no boat or train to catch, no time restraints, just a enjoyable 70 mile day in the saddle. We planned to stop at cafes and shops in the small villages of France, and due to the relaxed day we managed to do exactly that. A huge part of the day was spent on an old railway line that had been converted to a cycle path, the lads loved this! The path itself was nice and flat, the pace was steady, allowing ourselves plenty of time to take in the surrounding sites.
I have to admit that visiting France for a vacation has never really interested me in the past. My opinion on this has dramatically changed since witnessing some of the most beautiful surroundings I have ever seen. The countryside and its quaint villages were beautiful and I can’t wait to go back! With my bike, of course…
Halfway into day 2 we stopped and met up with Phil in a little village called Forges-Let Eaux for refreshments and to rest the legs. We found a lovely little cafe (which served Leffe… great!), we sat down outside and was shocked at how quiet the village was, nobody walking around, no cars, just the intermittent sound of loud groaning coming out of the bars! It was then that I remembered France’s national football team were playing their first group match of the 2018 World Cup.
We pushed on for the rest of the day and arrived at our hotel in Beauvais around 5:30ish, the guys had done really well, this was our longest day on the bikes and the route was pretty flat. Unfortunately lack of hills meant lack of rest time for the legs on the downwards slopes. It was constant peddling and by the end of it I knew our legs had taken a beating. That night we found somewhere to eat and all of us fell in love with a beer call Affligem, this felt like a night to commemorate our achievements so far. We celebrated with great food, even better beer and amazing company.
57 miles to Paris and we’d of done it. Not everyone was feeling so fresh that morning (Mr Andrew Edmondson) probably could of done without the hard start to our final day.
I really enjoyed the last push to our destination, it was my kind of riding, flowing roads, a few climbs and amazing road surfaces. I was relishing the day until we got close to Saint-Denis. Our route started to try and take us down farmers tracks and mud trails, not great when you’re riding a Canyon Aeroad (a pure road cycling, supreme machine). Because of this we were having to re-navigate, a lot, which started affecting our pace. As we started to get closer to the centre of Paris the more traffic lights, cars and the tourist there seemed to be. This had massive affect on our arrival time to the Eiffel Tower.
What was supposed to be the last 10 miles of our journey, which would usually take half an hour ended up taking us a lot longer, over an hour of very hectic cycling through a very busy city. At last we made it to the Arc de Triomphe, which resulted in our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. It seemed to be a while until we arrived, but arrived we did. WE HAD DONE IT!! Chapeau!!! We met with Phil for a few pics in front of the Tower and then the stress started. We had now got to get from the Eiffel Tower to the Gare du Nord train station, still on bikes. It was only 3 miles away but we knew it was going to take longer with all the traffic and red lights we were going to hit. Not good when your train is scheduled to leave within the hour!
For us to make our train we had to run every red light in Paris, not something I would ever usually do as a cyclist. I dislike cyclists who don’t respect the roads and the people using them, but needs must at this moment in time if we were to make it home that night. We made it to the station in 18 minutes, but we had complications with checking in our bikes that resulted in us missing our train. Luckily, we managed to book on to the next train. Once we were checked in we headed to the bar, where the weekends accomplishment started to sink in. We celebrated with a couple of beers and a toast.
It’s now been a week since that weekend and it has to be one of the best experiences of my life, if I’m cycling I’m happy but this was something else. I cycle close to 200 miles a week to and from work and then at weekends so this wasn’t really a huge challenge for me, and I always felt like a fraud asking for sponsorship but I was blown away by the generosity of everybody who donated. I’d like to thank everybody that did donate, it meant so much to me and the team, so again a massive thanks to everybody who kindly donated, because of you we hit our target and a lot more. Thank you.
I have to say a massive well done to Craig, somebody who has only just started getting into cycling and who’s biggest ride before this challenge was a 50 mile one. He always put the rest of the team selflessly before himself, making sure we were all feeling okay. He was a great drinking partner and a lovely bloke. Incredible effort Craig, you smashed it!
I’d also like to say a huge thank you to Phil; our support vehicle and photographer. Thank you for patiently trucking around after us over the three days and capturing the wonderful moments on camera.
Now for the main man, Mr Andy Edmondson. What this guy has gone through over last year and a bit is nothing short of amazing, his life must have flipped upside down and every which way after his heart attack. But he has transformed his life in every way, and to get back on a bike again must have been shit scary, but then to come up with the idea of cycling from London to Paris, WOW. I’m so honoured he asked me to help him with this challenge for such a great cause, and for me to help one of the loveliest people I know. Well done Andy, what an unbelievable achievement. Can’t wait for the next challenge.