It’s here ! it is 6:45 and I am on edge, the nerves have hit home. It is a stunning day, clear blue skies, sun in the sky and very little wind. The negative is the temperature, it’s already 21°Celsius .
I loaded my luggage into the truck which had the hotel name I was going to stop at in France. It was at this point realisation hit, because the next time I was to sleep was going to be in France and not the UK.
I listened to the induction of what to do and not what to do. The main info was water stops, food and what side of the road we need to be on. They went through the contact phone numbers we may need etc.
Before I know it, it is 7 am and 147 of us are at the start line and off we go.
It was a very slow start as we had to be ever so careful as with so many riders, if one person was to fall we would all be on the floor. image that on Harry Hills TV show, £200 would not go far between us all.
I got around half a mile and realised I had not got any gloves or map on me, I had left them in reception before I set off and I can’t say on here what and how it had happened but the bottom line is I had no gloves and my spares were well on the way to France. So that was to be the best part of 93 miles with no gloves and I can tell you gloves are essential for cycling any decent distance.
I got the first 20 miles in the bag and hit the water station, the temperature had already hit the late 20’s and you could tell some fellow riders were already struggling with the heat. I filled my bottles up with water and later in the day this would come back to bite me with a vengeance.
Next stop I was heading towards was lunch and it was around 24 miles ahead. I have travelled the country extensively but not on a bike and this really lets you appreciate the country side within the M25, as you always just expect it to be a concrete jungle.
By the time I got to lunch it had hit 30°C and to fair not many people felt hungry. The food was great and loads of choice of real riding food such as pasta, potatoes and rice etc. such a shame my appetite had all but disappeared.
Off we went again with my head down, not got time to hang around as we had to hit Dover for 15:30, we did not want to miss the boat.
I had never cycled in a group before and I must say it does make the miles go much quicker. I jumped on the back of several groups and one particular group was ever so useful. They were well paced on the flat and down hill the when it came to uphill section they were nice and steady and this pace really suited me especially in these hot conditions. I talked to people about why they were doing the London to Paris, what charity they were raising funds for and why. I listened to some amazing stories on the very first day.
As I mentioned it was hot but I was on it and I was so glad I put the training in as I could certainly tell I had.
With 10 miles to go the fact I had been drinking just water hit me. I had several paralysing cramps in my right leg and this included my upper legs front and back and my lower leg. this then started on my left leg too but only lower. I had to un-clip myself whilst in agony or I would have fallen over. It took around 10 minutes for this to go and then I tried to cycle again, I was OK until I hit the final climb and once again it came back with vengeance. I ended up having to walk the last part of the climb for around half a mile and I was in agony and it was even more difficult when walking in cycling shoes and cleats.
It was the last hill and then it was all flat and downhill which enabled me to complete my ride to Dover at the meeting point outside the ferry terminal.
So why did I have cramp problems, I soon realised I had washed out all the salts in my body by drinking just water. I needed to have electrolytes to replace what I was loosing in this heat. I needed a good source of electrolytes for the next day. I did have a mix of electrolytes and glucose in powder form but the amount I was drinking I could not carry all the powder. In terms of diabetes I have not mentioned it as I did not have a problem thankfully.
We all made our way together to the ferry terminal and seeing 147 of us certainly looked impressive especially as we made our way to the actual terminal before we boarded the ferry.
It was then announced once in the departure car park that our ferry was delayed for 1.5 hours so we all tried to get some food in the services and with 1 person working in WH Smiths, Costa Coffee and couple in Burger King you could imagine the queues. the temperature was now in the 30s and the queues were that big that many an ice cream did not even make to the till and ended in the bin.
Back in the car park over my shoulder another 200+ cyclist arrived and then another 50. Both from different event organisers. It must have been agreed as all ferries were late they put all the cyclist (over 500) on together instead of the other lot waiting for their original ferry. As you can imagine it was carnage when we got on board. We were supposed to get some food in but the queue was still snaking around the ship as we docked in Calais.
It was dark and over 27°C when we arrived and it was the only time we needed our lights, we made our way from the terminal and through the streets of Calais and the sight of over 500 riders with flashing red LED flashing in front as amazing. I had another 6 miles to go and was rather hungry. It was gone 10 pm and after around 30 mins we arrived at our hotel and lets just say from a 5:30 am start I had a shower and fell into bed and ate a banana bar I had in my secret food stash in my bag which had arrived at the hotel.
Day 1 – over and out…..