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 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, Action Cancer (see, Marie Keating Foundation (see, Action Medical Research for Children (see and Prostate Cancer UK (see This figure is bound to increase with M&S’ Bike24 Endurance Challenge (see 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

Carrley Business Consulting (see

Crown Office Chambers (see

Datamere (see

Elior (see

Marine Harvest (see

Tangle Teezer (see

Wilson Gunn (see

You can support our endeavours, and these great charities, at or contact Hilary Garrett ( / 0161 603 5000) to hear more about our corporate sponsorship packages.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Duncan! I just got done checking out your blog and very much enjoyed my visit. I am involved in the cancer community and had a quick question for you. I was hoping you could email me back when you get the chance. Thanks! - emilywalsh688@gmail(dot)com.



NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004