Portishead to Paris Cycle Challenge

Portishead to Paris Cycle Challenge - Arrival in Paris

Training has begun!

After a long hard winter of planning our Portishead to Paris cycle challenge and an equally hard spring-time talking about training, summer is at last here (well nearly) and we are all out on our bikes training hard (except when its wet… or windy… or looking iffy… or dark… or if we’re a bit tired).

We are planning to post blogs as our adventure unfolds (or rather a younger person is, who understands these things) and will update everyone on the amount of sponsorship we have collected (the target is £5,000 for the Alliance Homes Charitable Fund).

We plan to set off around 8.30am (once we’ve all finished ‘faffing about’) on Wednesday 8th July from Martingale Way and should arrive under the Eiffel Tower on Sunday afternoon 12th July.

There are 11 of us cycling, plus 2 in our liveried van, ably driven by Clive James and Martin Toleman (remember to drive on the right, guys). Huge thanks to the two of them and we are all looking forward to hearing fluent French spoken with a distinct west country twist.

Portishead to Paris Cycle Challenge - Training

Here are some interesting facts about our trip:

  • We are cycling 350 miles (… more if we get lost, which seems pretty likely)
  • The average age of the cyclists is 48 (including Martin and Clive, it tips beyond 50)
  • We have 2 pairs in our team with the same birthday (no really, and all 4 have an ‘i’ in their first name)
  • The value of the Euro has gone up 20% since planning started (… more money for presents and ‘refreshments’)

The final big training session (and pub lunch)

Well the final big training session happened last Saturday with 8 of our team up and down the lanes of rural Wiltshire in glorious sunshine. After an eventful start with cars breaking down and getting diverted due to road works, we finally set off at 9.30 after much “faffing” about.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Garmin sat navs immediately said we were “off course” and remained in this mode for the next 6 hours, thank goodness for an old fashioned thing called a map (one of the photos show just how “off course” someone was).

25 miles and 2.45 hours later a pub lunch was called for, after which we turned for home. Amazingly our old fashioned map returned us in 1.45 hours and a mere 19 miles (via some rather steep hills though). It was a great training ride overall and some important lessons learned about navigation!

So all eyes now turn to Paris with a few days rest and plenty of pizza and pasta to consume beforehand … watch this space

The last supper …

Today was the final lunch as a group before we set off. Meeting at Bottelinos in Portishead it was a chance to share how training had been going, better for some than for others, and also finalise plans for tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. This was also the first chances for Steve L who will be completing the ride to meet the Alliance team, after having not being available to complete the training rides.

Upon the message of ‘make sure you pack light’ being broadcast, there were some awkward looks and comments about having to repackage tonight!

Unfortunately no pictures from the lunch as no one wanted to be caught ‘carb loading’ these will follow tomorrow and on the subsequent days of the ride, to showcase the journey.

Day 1 – Portishead to Salisbury

Portishead to Paris Cycle Challenge - Start

68 miles after leaving Portishead we have arrived in Salisbury, the home of the tallest spire in the UK.

Departing Portishead at 8.45 we made a good pace into Bristol to join the Bristol to Bath Cycleway. The Cycleway incorporates the longest cycling tunnel in Europe, passing for 1670 metres from Bath.

Along the path we stopped for a coffee at Bitton station, a chance to speak about the ride so far (only 25 miles into the journey, 325 to go…)

After Bath, Michael Williams took the chance to fall off, and from here it was on to Warminster. We joined the national Cycle Route 25 which continues to Salisbury, a lovely 20 miles of country roads with almost no traffic taking us across Wiltshire.

Now it’s a chance for a drink and a shower before heading off out for food.

Day 2 – Salisbury to Portsmouth

Day 2, 48 ‘easy miles’ to Portsmouth, so say Mick …

We took the opportunity to set off a little later than yesterday, and departed the accommodation at 10.55 after a walk around Salisbury to make the most of the morning before the ferry tonight.

After a spot of tinkering with bikes, it was time to get on with the ride. Once we were out of Salisbury it was a lovely ride into Southampton, crossing from Wiltshire into Hampshire, where we took the photo opportunity that presented itself to us. From here we worked to get across to Hamble-le Rice to catch the ferry.

Portishead to Paris Cycle Challenge - Hamble

Once in Hamble we stopped for a spot of lunch before boarding the ferry to Warsash. The ferry likes to cross incognito, so let us know if you can spot it …

Portishead to Paris Cycle Challenge - Hamble Ferry

Once we crossed into Warsash from Hamble it was over to the Gosport ferry into Portsmouth. However, after a fall Martin broke his saddle, and has since have had to be replaced. It’s fair to say after a long day the jokes about Chamois cream and chaffing are starting to wear thin.

After our our trip to Halfords for a new saddle it was a short drop to the ferry to complete the journey from Gosport into Portsmouth. From here it’s the overnight ferry tonight which will depart the UK at 11.

All aboard

Unfortunately despite battling through illness to get to Portsmouth, John has sadly gone home after showing his true Aussie spirit.

Arriving at the port for cross channel ferries brought on some new surprises.

Being unable to keep the bikes on the van – apparently there is no facility for foot passengers to board a ferry in Portsmouth – it meant unloading, and then collecting personal baggage to carry into the boat.

This coupled with navigating between lorries and other large vehicles, which seemingly manoeuvred without any warning became too much for Mick, and he started to head back.

Portishead to Paris Cycle Challenge - Portsmouth

After much persuading he agreed to rejoin the party and head towards France, where we cruised out of the harbour past HMS Victory (unfortunately it was too dark to catch a photo).

Day 3 – Le Havre to Le Neuberg

After the eventful evening before, the plan was to set off smoothly, and get some miles into our legs. Instead, we had the challenge of leaving Le Havre, a town which is best described as industrious, involving managing roundabouts and junctions surrounded by lorries from Mainland Europe.

Le Havre was also the nights stop for some of the Tour de France teams, so we took the chance to get as many photos as possible when stopped for breakfast.

From Le Havre the first meeting point with Clive and Martin was the other side of the Pont de Tancarville. The bridge was impressive, standing high above the water, with white cliffs to one side, and woodland to the other.

Portishead to Paris Cycle Challenge - Day 3

Following the bridge crossing it was onto the smooth roads across France, heading towards Bourneville where we stopped for lunch, a case of pizzas all round.

With lunch completed it was important to get on with the rest of the ride, the sun was beating down, and we still had 40km to go.

After passing the Abbey in Le Bec Hellouin we abandoned the pre-planned route and decided to stick to a cycle path taking us all the way into Neubourg. Arriving at the hotel 60 roasting hot miles after we set off. Time to take in as many calories as possible after a solid 3 days.

It’s fair to say the miles have really clocked up, and are taking their toll.

Day 4 – Le Neubourg to Maison Lafritte

Day 4, and the penultimate leg of the challenge. Apologies in advance for the lack of photos, the wifi won’t allow them to be uploaded, they will be posted later – once people have donated.

Departing from Le Neubourg it was back in the Voie Verte, a cycle track heading across the countryside to Evraux. We had planned to meet Martin and Clive (the support team)here, but they couldn’t find us on the route. So, an arrangement was made to visit a local landmark, and we would meet there, in this case, it was the Train Station. However, it wasn’t to be – Martin and Clive couldn’t find the station. It’s only a small station (see photos)

Struggling to meet Martin and Clive would later become the theme if the say, as on several occasions we left the route.

After Evreux it was to Pacy using some more wide, fast moving roads. Here we bought lunch, some Baguettes with Macaron to eat later in the day as it was still very early.

From Pacy we headed off to put some more miles under our belt before lunch. This however, wasn’t to be a good idea. The route took us across some fields, and through a wood. At this point we couldn’t cycle any more, and had to walk – not great when wearing road-cycling shoes with cleats.

Portishead to Paris Cycle Challenge - Day 4

The first 15 miles took an hour, the next 30, 4, travelling was very difficult across this terrain.

After the Rue Dangeraux we stopped for lunch, not wherever we had intended, but Martin and Clive found us eventually, after some dubious directions giving.

Once we were back on the roads, it didn’t take Martin Webb long to break his chain, it would appear the ‘Giant Curse’ which had previously plagued John had been spread to Martin, he managed to snap his chain!

From lunch we were back onto paved roads to finish the ride – something we were really looking forward to. Along the D190 we clocked up 15 miles in around 50 minutes, we were able to make the most of the tailwind and smooth roads.

One final crossing of the Seine and we arrived at Maison-Laffitte ready to get a shower and enjoy the evening before the arrival at the Eiffel Tower.

Day 5 – Maison-Laffitte to Paris

Day 5 was planned to be an amble into Paris. After a solid 275 miles, the ride has been completed.

Leaving the hotel in Maison-Lafitte we travelled into Paris, crossing the Seine along the way.

After the crossing it was to the Arc de Triomphe, followed by the Eiffel Tower to celebrate the end of our journey.

Portishead to Paris Cycle Challenge - Day 5

From the Arc it was a short journey to the Eiffel Tower. Here we stopped to make the most of the occassion, accompanied with the bag of goodies provided by Julie Bailey, including BBQ crisps in lieu of a BBQ. From here it’s a chance to soak in the sights, and make the most of a rest after a long 5 days.

Portishead to Paris Cycle Challenge - Finale

Thanks to all of those who have donated, and for those that haven’t, please check the link at the top of the page.

The arrival!

A quick announcement to say we have arrived in Paris! Thank you to all who have donated. There will be a post to follow with photos from the day.

Its been a tough 5 days, but it has certainly been worth it.

For more pictures visit Steve’s blog.