London to Paris 2017 - 17 girls, 1 mechanic, 4 days, 518 km, 4 flat tires and lots of fun.
It’s one of those things that you’ll learn to love. The Tour de France. Especially their last kilometers at the Champs-Elysées. Last year Strongher decided to ride from London to Paris in four days and it instantly became one of my favorite rides. So when Strongher asked me to lead this ride again this year, how could I possibly say no? 15 participants with a wide array of nationalities and two Dutch ride leaders. We gathered together at Greenwich Park in London on a Wednesday morning. We left the city as a group, and after lunch the ‘cappuccino’ and ‘espresso’ group were born.
This day totaled at 134km and 1574m of elevation.
The next morning we started fresh and went straight for the ferry (Dover-Calais) that took almost two hours. An excellent time for a long coffee break, because we already rode 4 kilometers. After the ferry we had to accustom to the ‘right’ side of the road, euros instead of pounds and French instead of English...we arrived in the country of bicycle racing! This second day gave us 141km and ended in Douai.
The 115km ride on day three was a great day with perfect French roads. One of those days with humongous hay bales showing for hours. Eventually, we had abiding photo shoots that resulted in a ‘Laurel & Hardy’ type of photo shoot. In Noyon we could freshen up at our hotel, and we went to one of those ‘long-dinner table-in-the-garden-type’ of restaurant for some food. After that it was straight to bed for the next day we had to ride our last 127km.
One of the more fun and special things about this ride, is our ‘soigneur’ Frank, from ‘Bikes and Frank’. He drives with his van, helps with flat tires, makes photos from his roof (parked, of course) or just stands on the side of the road with watermelon or the likes. His van is the car you are eager to meet on the road, because there will always be a treat or time for a joke.
It’s cool to see people with the same interests molding together in a group during these days. They grow in their cycling skills, get Stronger and become more accustomed to group-riding. The closer we came to Paris the better the ladies got to know each other. And with a bunch of new bike-buddies they know that they’ll reach their cycling goal for 2017!
The last day was towards Paris, that day made me a bit sad since it also means the end of this ride. I always forget how BIG Paris is. The suburbs start way before you are actually in Paris where you have to be cautious for the busy traffic. This was a big challenge for the ride leaders... Especially with the Tour de France in town, there are a lot of colleague cyclists! Great to see how alive and kicking this sport is.
A lot of supporters, family and friends of the riders where at the Eiffel tower to welcome their heroes! And there was champagne, because hey, Paris! After another complete photo shoot, and more champagne, we still had to ride to the hotel. Safe? Maybe. Smart? Maybe not. But a life without taking risks will never make you Strongher. So there we go! A bit less structured than usual (because hey, champagne!), we all arrived safely at our hotel. Our last dinner together was in a shady restaurant, but when the proud girls took their places it turned into a majestic place with majestic food. And the finishing touch: the waiter was a Tom Dumoulin look-a-like! Need I say more?
This dinner also concluded London to Paris 2017. Some stayed an extra night, some left straight away. But we all took home what bonded us in these four days: The smiles, friendships and memories.
Next year? Champagne!
About Anne van Leeuwen
Started cycling 5 years ago and straight away addicted to the relaxing feeling that cycling gives her. Anne (aka Docter An) puts in many miles every year. She loves to go for long rides with friends. Upcoming year her biggest challenge will be the Ride. Riding from the Stelvio to the Cauberg in 8 days, 1300km and 17000 elevation meters.
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