Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Men At Work

We left our hotel in Paris with a massed group of 60 riders. Safety in numbers meant we'd have much more chance of making it out of Paris safely. At least, that was the plan. One of our riders had gone over the handlebars within the first mile. As he took photos of the Paris sights on his smartphone, the traffic came to a sudden halt. Looking up from his phone too late, he slammed on the brake with his spare hand. Unfortunately, his spare hand was on the front brake. He locked up the front wheel and performed an artistic somersault. Proof, if ever it were needed, of the dangers of using your phone on the road. I felt our chances of getting out of Paris in one piece were reducing by the second.


Team DWF at the first water stop on Day 2. Matters went uphill after that.

For all of their reputation for somewhat mad antics, French drivers are remarkably considerate towards cyclists and we made good our escape, including cycling around the Arc de Triomphe, without further incident. Outside of the city, cycling in a group was a revelation. Before I started training for this adventure, I'd never even owned a road bike and the furthest I'd ever cycled was around 40 miles on off-road tracks on my mountain bike. Getting to ride in a chain gang was a completely new experience. You get in a group of, say four riders, each taking it in turns on the front, while the other three ride in his slipstream. The benefit of "drafting", as it's called, is amazing. While the rider on the front is often working really hard, the riders in his wake are flying along at the same speed for a fraction of the effort.

The French scenery from Paris to Amiens is fantastic. I should know, I saw 16 miles more of it than the rest of the group, thanks to some villagers nicking the route markers. Similar antics also occurred on Days 2 and 3, on both sides of the Channel. I’m sure it seems funny in the abstract, but it’s less amusing when you’re clocking 110 miles, uphill into a headwind, in 29 degree heat. You can imagine how pleased I was to see Amiens cathedral coming into view over the final hill of the day.

Mass pile-up or waiting for the ferry?

Day 2 of the Arc to Arch challenge started with mercifully cooler weather than Day 1, but the hills and the headwind more than made up for that. Although we were working really hard, I was enjoying it more and more. In the morning session, I rode with the Irish Olympian, Giro d’Italia and Tour de France veteran (and stage winner), Martin Earley (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Earley). Not only a fantastic cyclist but a really nice chap. It’s not every day that you’ll get to cycle with such an accomplished athlete.

Craig suffers for his art on a cross-channel ferry.

Rolling into Calais at the end of Day 2 was some achievement. As if the hill-climbing wasn’t enough, the headwind meant that we were even having to pedal downhill. Craig read from his trip computer and noted it was the first time he’d gone downhill at less than 10 mph. Normally, you can easily maintain 15 mph on the flat. By the time we made it onto the ferry back to England, Craig and I were feeling pretty spent. Still, with just one more day to go, there was no way we weren’t going to finish.

Welcome home.

My lasting memory of Day 3 is almost certainly going to be the hills. Oh, and the cold. From 29 degrees to 6 degrees in a little over a day. Living in Cumbria, we’re spoiled for hills and mountains, so I never really gave Kent credit for the number of hills it has, and how steep (and prolonged) they can be. Even when we made it into London and the rendezvous at Blackheath, the final climb at Shooters Hill felt big. Once all of the riders had arrived, we set off in convoy to Marble Arch and a well-deserved celebration with our friends and family. Fortunately, there was no repeat of the Parisian handlebar somersault and we made our way serenely through London’s sights – past the Shard, over Tower Bridge (to applause and photographs from the pedestrians on either side of the road), past the Tower of London, Embankment, Trafalgar Square, Admiralty Arch, the Mall, Birdcage Walk, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park Corner and, finally, Marble Arch.

Victory pose.

The Arc to Arch adventure has already raised £100,000 for Marks and Spencer’s five charity partners: Breakthrough Breast Cancer (see www.breakthrough.org.uk), Action Cancer (see www.actioncancer.org), Marie Keating Foundation (see www.mariekeating.ie), Action Medical Research for Children (see www.action.org.uk) and Prostate Cancer UK (see www.prostatecanceruk.org). This figure is bound to increase with M&S’ Bike24 Endurance Challenge (see https://www.facebook.com/BIKE24EnduranceChallenge) in just over a week’s time. I’ll join several hundred others at Rockingham race circuit for a 24 hour endurance race. Teams of four will take it in turns to cycle around both the circuit and the clock. I’ve not told my legs about it yet. They still haven’t forgiven me for the Arc to Arch. Bring it on!

Many thanks to all of our kind supporters, not least our shirt sponsors:

2 Hare Court (see www.2harecourt.com)

Carrley Business Consulting (see www.carrleybusiness.co.uk)

Crown Office Chambers (see www.crownofficechambers.com)

Datamere (see www.datamere.co.uk)

Elior (see www.elior.co.uk)

Marine Harvest (see www.marineharvest.com/scotland)

Tangle Teezer (see www.tangleteezer.com)

Wilson Gunn (see www.wilsongunn.com)


You can support our endeavours, and these great charities, at www.virginmoneygiving.com/DWF or contact Hilary Garrett (hilary.garrett@dwf.co.uk / 0161 603 5000) to hear more about our corporate sponsorship packages.

Friday, 7 June 2013

French Revolutions

Today's blog comes from my colleague, and fellow Arc to Arch cyclist, Steffan Groch. I hope you’ll tune into our blog updates throughout the Arc to Arch event. You can support our endeavours, and these great charities, atwww.virginmoneygiving.com/DWF or contact Hilary Garrett (hilary.garrett@dwf.co.uk / 0161 603 5000) to hear more about our corporate sponsorship packages.

After what seemed an endless series of queues and briefings yesterday Tean DWF concluded the evening at the aptly named 'Pari's Cafe'. Dunc was first to depart so Robin and I made it our mission to ensure Choppy Chaplin only had one beer before hitting the sack. Mission accomplished. 

I personally then spent most of the night thinking "when am I actually going to fall asleep?". This blog was partly written listening to the sleeping rhythms of Mr Watt.

Breakfast in the Ibis was then followed by an emotional reunion with our bikes....sad I know. Fellow cyclists out there will know the feeling of anxiety you feel knowing your bike has been cared for by another during long distance travel. #controlfreak

Choppy Chaplin is right when he described me yesterday as a coiled spring. Could not wait to hit the French roads. Rode for most of the day with a former pro cyclist who won stages at the Tour de France and the Giro D'italia. We rattled along nicely....although he made me work hard.

Any charity bike ride is meant to be fun yet challenging. It was mostly the former even though temperatures today reached 29degrees Celsius! Team DWF, comprised predominantly of northerners are now sporting true cycling tan lines with beetroot red faces. Not a pretty sight.

We're now off to dinner and will resist the temptation to drink anything alcoholic....more news on that tomorrow.

As Craig said yesterday, please give generously for these worthy charities and to make team DWF feel a little better.

2 Hare Court (see www.2harecourt.com
Carrley Business Consulting (see www.carrleybusiness.co.uk
Crown Office Chambers (see www.crownofficechambers.com
Datamere (see www.datamere.co.uk)
Elior (see www.elior.co.uk
Marine Harvest (see www.marineharvest.com/scotland)
Tangle Teezer (see www.tangleteezer.com
Wilson Gunn (see www.wilsongunn.com

Thursday, 6 June 2013

The Drugs Don't Work

This week's blog comes from my colleague, and fellow Arc to Arch cyclist, Craig "Chopper" Chaplin. I hope you’ll tune into our blog updates throughout our preparation and the Arc to Arch event itself. You can support our endeavours, and these great charities, at www.virginmoneygiving.com/DWF or contact Hilary Garrett (hilary.garrett@dwf.co.uk / 0161 603 5000) to hear more about our corporate sponsorship packages.


Today is the non-cycling day of the trip which leaves us all slightly tired and frustrated. Groch (BA) is like a coiled spring. We had thought he'd gone all romantic when he suggested a pootle round Paris this evening but it turns out he has never gone this long without exercise in the last 5 years. The trip Doctor has advised that, if he doesn't cycle tomorrow, he will literally explode in a blast of testosterone like an indoor firework.


The view for the rest of the field tomorrow...
Many thanks to our sponsors: 2 Hare Court, Carrley Business Consulting,
Crown Office Chambers, Datamere, Elior, Marine Harvest, Tangle Teezer, Wilson Gunn

So we've met, been briefed, met some of the 60 or so riders who have so far raised £100k for the various cancer charities. We are now on the Eurostar travelling to Paris. We'll have a hotel transfer, some dinner (being a veggie in Paris will be interesting) and a further health and safety lecture. After some medicinal red wine, it's an early night followed by a 6.30am start.

Demonstrating our sleeve sponsors, or Tiger Feet dance routine (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKgGfiOpojc)?
You be the judge...

As we've done nothing much today, it has been a time for reflection for me personally. Five years ago, I was on a very similar trip to this in Spain when I learned that my brother-in-law had sadly passed away at the age of 39. He had battled against lung and brain cancer for just over 5 years enduring 9 bouts of chemo, 2 lots of radiotherapy and brain surgery. Vince embodied everything that was fun about life. At his funeral, they played "The Drugs Don't work", "Think I better Leave Right Now" and, rather predicably, "Pinball Wizard" at the graveside. His coffin had a sign saying "This Way Up" which my sister had to argue with the undertaker to put on as it was one of his wishes. They said it was in bad taste. I think that was Vince's point, it was his taste.



Whilst through deliberate undertraining I will suffer for the next 3 days, nurofen and a beer will make me feel quite normal. Vince suffered horribly for several months prior to his death and never had a normal life from the day he was diagnosed. Cancer is a disease that rips families apart, as well as bodies. It was only Vince's humour and humanity and my sister's mental strength which stopped that happening.

I have been relatively lucky with Cancer in that Vince is only one of 3 people close to me who have been affected. Another chap I know is dying of prostrate cancer and he still beats me up the hills on a bike. The last time we were out, we rested at the top of a hill and looked out over the view. "There's a very dark cloud on the horizon", I said. "Aye", said Charlie, "that'll be the Cancer".

So, here's the deal. Supported by very generous companies and individuals, I'll do something I enjoy doing and I'll also monitor Steffan so that he doesn't explode. Mad Dog Duncan will plough through the miles with the efficiency of a runner and Robin Watt will discover whether the time crunched training has helped at all. If you haven't donated already then now is time to do so.

Tomorrow we ease into things with a 96 mile scoot. Bring. It. On.

2 Hare Court (see www.2harecourt.com)

Carrley Business Consulting (see www.carrleybusiness.co.uk)
Crown Office Chambers (see www.crownofficechambers.com)
Datamere (see www.datamere.co.uk)
Elior (see www.elior.co.uk)
Marine Harvest (see www.marineharvest.com/scotland)
Tangle Teezer (see www.tangleteezer.com)
Wilson Gunn (see www.wilsongunn.com)

I hope you’ll tune into our blog updates throughout our preparation and the Arc to Arch event itself. You can support our endeavours, and these great charities, at www.virginmoneygiving.com/DWF or contact Paula Ferdinales (paula.ferdinales@dwf.co.uk / 0161 603 5000) to hear more about our corporate sponsorship packages.




NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004