Its not often we can say this in the valleys, but we awoke this morning to glorious sunshine and a relatively still morning.
The team set of from Velindre as planned in two groups of 7 riders. A 9am and 9:15am start saw us miss much of the rush hour traffic and safely negotiate our way through Cardiff and onto Newport.
A couple of minor breakdowns with cleats working loose and a screw falling out (we were rescued by the support vehicle and a huge thank you to Cylclopedia on Crewys rd for kindly donating replacements after we mentioned Velindre – amazing support).
A puncture in Newport saw us sat on the road for 15 mins but a quick pit stop and we were back off.
We've arrived at the Severn bridge services at 12:30 and wolfed a Burger king down.
We’ll be heading off shortly to Devizes
Thanks for all your support. The donations have been flooding in over the last 48 hours at http://www.justgiving.com/cardifftoparis2017
So the morning pace continued the English side of the bridge after a brisk burger king (yes it was a double Texas).
With a cross wind sweeping us from the side at times we battled on through rolling hills and bumpy lanes. The road surface rattled everything and that over time took its toll on all of our hands and upper bodies.
Thankfully the afternoon saw no breakdowns (other than chains coming off) and we stayed puncture free arriving at the foot of the climb towards Devizes. After 70 miles or so the last thing you want is two long steep climbs one after the other... but we ventured on, knowing the hotel waited at the top.
One mile of slow riding through Devizes town saw us safely arrive at our hotel at around 16:30. Not bad for a bunch of amateurs 🙂
The fundraising has been climbing steadily and we had our usual warm welcome from the team at Velindre who continue to support us each peddle of the way.
79.9 miles in, bring on the 6am start tomorrow.
Thank you all for your kind words of support... it really helps motivate us / especially now we are 85% of target.
For anyone else who would like to donate, you can do at www.justgiving.com/cardifftoparis2017
So we're up and about (all be it like a scene off the walking dead) and readying ourselves to push off from Devizes.
The large tin of rice pudding has been cracked open and slowly consumed cold, which considering I quite like rice pudding, proved difficult to finish.
The sky is still dark outside and we push off in around 20 mins heading to Portsmouth.
Today will need to be quick and safe so here's hoping for a good day in the saddle.
The fundraising is almost nearly at target. What an amazing feeling that is. Thank you everyone.
So the two teams met up briefly at the co-op in Ludgershall (the staff there were amazing) and we've had a refuel of pasta, sandwiches and orange juice.
Just about to head back off after completing a quick 20 mile start.
Portsmouth here we come...
Heading off from Devizes today saw us instantly climbing hills and slopes which seemed a never ending cycle and the tone for the day.
A swift break for breakfast and a lunch stop for a double espresso in Winchester provided short, but needed rest bite for the team.
Team A and Team B managed to catch up with each other at both stop off points making for passing banter and motivation.
The long winding hills through Wiltshire and Hampshire were a tough challenge today with even worse road surfaces which rattled the frames of our bikes and transferred every lump and bump into our upper bodies.
Its the first time I've experienced a feeling like a dead leg but in my feet - and the familiar feeling of my inside thumbs numbing came all too instantly.
Riding into Portsmouth we took it steady making sure the team stayed together and we swept into the Ferry port around 1pm (in plenty of time to board at 2).
We've just departed Portsmouth harbour passing the warships and huge variety of marine vehicles and are on our way to France.
Well I've heard of a breakfast for champions but I cant help think as I'm sat dressed in the hotel room, eating cold rice pudding out of a tin, that I should have found an all you can eat breakfast buffet.
The ferry crossing yesterday was flat calm with lots of alcohol fuelled banter and Team B smashing Team A in the pop quiz. (Team A noticeably deserting the cause leaving a skeleton crew to compete :) )
Lunch on the ferry was worth the wait.
A king prawn starter and a steak and peppercorn sauce main. It helped re-ignite the energy levels (even though holding a knife with numb hands proved difficult).
Getting off the ferry Jeff and I had some playful banter with a lovely lady... explaining our trip and how the welsh valley lads were the best type of lads... being the good citizens we are, we offered to help her onto the shuttle bus with her bags where she commented that jeff had brought me up well... haha - I replied... thanks dad.
He had to let me have that one as the expletives in front of women and children had to be held back lol
Arriving in Caen, we taxi'd to the Hotel and checked in before going to watch the end of some European football and tucking into some seafood tapas.
A late turn in and we were soon sleeping and morning alarms going off to get us on the go for day 3.
Evreux here we come.
We left Caen this morning around 9 and headed on amazing road surfaces into a climb that proved tricky with cold and tired legs.
We quickly got into the swing of it as the pain of easing down onto the hard saddles eventually turned to numbness.
A brisk 16mph pace was set and a long straight flat road meant we quickly ate into the mileage.
And then it came... the moment that made good Friday good no longer.
The longest, steepest climb of the ride so far (I seem to recall Sam threatening me on it 2 years ago if I didn't leave her to climb it at her pace).
We grudgingly plundered on with a 'one foot in front of the other' mentality and aa the top appeared in the near distance and got ever closer, the road turned through 90° to the right and the worst site possible greeted us... another climb.
Team A had an unfortunate break down with a chain snap but this allowed the two teams to regroup and take on some needed food.
When we headed off again, we had lots of starts and stops with chains coming off. Sat Navs not working and a wrong turn onto a motorway.
But after a bite for lunch we soon hit the flats and really turned the pace on for the closing 30 miles or so.
We arrived safely in Evreux around 5ish and are now showered and fresh to enjoy the rest of good Friday.
The justgiving page needs just shy of £700-to pass our target. Please please donate if you haven't already.
So far we've been incredibly lucky with the weather and apart from a bit of sunburn on a couple of us, we definitely can't complain.
A 7am alarm woke us this morning to look out over an overcast and particularly dull looking day. The clouds overhead appear menacing and downpours have already washed the streets before we begin to get ready.
Last night saw the team return to 'The London Pub' for a night of the Irish black stuff (we drank the bar dry of it) and some more steak. The food and wine was followed by lots of laughter and with one or two people 'pushing the boat out' I hope they don't come to regret it as we hit the first climb of the morning.
A late and noisy return to the hotel resulted in some 'tour like' playfulness, as members of Team B left the lift onto the first floor (before you think it... after 220miles or so, stairs hurt) and out of nowhere, one of our young Welsh teachers decided to Rugby tackle one of our secondary school teachers.
You can imagine the noise level as everyone erupted in laughter, quickly followed by Hotel management ushering us away.
So as we enter the final days prep I can happily admit that at least double the butt cream, extra layers of clothing and more sun cream (in an attempt to tempt the sun out today) will be heavily applied in readiness of the dissatisfaction of lowering myself back onto that saddle.
The last time we arrived in Paris, I recall saying 'I never hope I see that bike again' but with the just giving fundraising nearing our target and knowing how much help this will give Velindre, I smile and feel proud of what we are again about to achieve and have huge sense of appreciation for everyone who has supported us with kind words and/or donations.
Paris here we come
(Paris, nous venons ici)
Setting off on Day 4 the teams planned to once again split into Team A and B to allow us to safely negotiate our way out of the city.
To start the day, We headed into the Hotel Canteen and ate a French breakfast of Croissants, Yogurts and Coffee to make sure we had our energy boost for the morning.
Whilst queueing for food, we ended up talking to a nice group of people from Derbyshire who were en-route to visit their twin town in France. After discussions, the word quickly spread amongst their friends and within minutes of sitting down and beginning breakfast, another incredible act of generosity began.
One at a time, people were coming up to us saying "here's a donation for a great cause, best of luck today". Within 5 minutes we had £50 collected at our table. The breakfast fuelled our day but this motivation gave us such a big kick and boost to get on with the day and we were blown away by their generosity.
The climb out of Evreux was all too familiar and provided an instant "warm up" as the ride started on a cold and wet morning. It didn't rain as such but a misty spitting of moisture kept with us until the mid morning.
Knowing the final day was a shorter day, the pace picked up a little compared to the three days prior. The roads were relatively good surfaces and the climbs so far were sweeping hills that allowed the group to stay together and get some quick miles under our belt.
Around 15 miles into the ride, we found ourselves snacking through quiet villages and country lanes and Team A waited roadside for Team B who were following around 10 minutes behind to catch up with them. This didn't take too long and the riders found themselves in the unfamiliar position of being a complete team of 14 riders. In fact, this was the first time all 14 riders had ever ridden together. It was such a good feeling knowing we were going to ride the last day as one team - after all of the effort that went into planning by Mark and Simon (and their wives of course) and the work that went into the fundraising and liaising with Velindre, it made all the hard work turn to a feeling of pride and accomplishment.
Mile after Mile passed with the team riding two aside and quickly eating into the miles. The experienced riders navigating our route and setting a pace that everyone was comfortable with. A few really hard climbs came and went with relative ease. Blood pumping and adrenaline running, knowing that at some point we would turn into Paris and see the target - the Eiffel Tower.
As we approached the suburb of Paris, the roads got busier and to make sure everyone was safe, we controlled a steady pace. The signs telling us that we were into the last 10 miles of our trip. As in any built up area, the road surfaces deteriorated (but still significantly better than the UK) and the build up of traffic meant the ride became a stop-start scenario as we hit traffic lights and roundabouts.
One wrong turn lead to a quick U-Turn and change of direction and then that moment came. The riders inadvertently got split up at a set of traffic lights which resulted in Mark, Simon, Lloyd and myself pulled over 100 yards or so down the road waiting for everyone else to get a green light. For the first time, we could see the tip of the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Remembering our first experience where a mile or so down the road you turn a corner and the Monument stares at you a few miles in the distance, we decided not to tell the others that you could just about make it out. I could remember how much emotion I felt when I first saw it two years ago and I wanted everyone to get that same feeling.
So we carried on, mostly downhill into Paris and a short while after, the entire team turned that corner and were welcomed into Paris by the world renown monument. One by one, word spread through the team and rather that cheers and celebration, a resounding couple of words spread from the front of the riding pack to the back. It was one of astonishment, emotion, realisation and significance - we were about to complete the ride.
Paris is so big it took us a further half an hour to ride through the city and as we got to the final road we could see our team of supporters stood in anticipation of our arrival, champagne at the ready - but the road had been closed off by the Gendarmerie (Police) and the group had again been split at traffic lights.
We regrouped and realised that cyclists were still permitted to use the road - even though cars and buses had been diverted - It was incredible timing as the road had apparently only been closed around 10 minutes before we got there. It felt as if it had been closed for our arrival - (ridiculous I know).
We made sure we were all together as one - no more Team A and Team B but Team Megaday. Team Cardiff to Paris 2017. A team who had got through physical tests, mental tests, new challenges and a team who had learnt so much about each other over four tough days and come out of it with this incredible achievement. As we approached we lined across the road and cycled into cheers and an emotional welcome from our friends and families. Wow - what a feeling.
There were tears, hand shakes, hugs, kisses and above all a big celebration. Champagne popped and fountained overhead, beers were opened, bikes laying everywhere, helmets laying on the ground next to them and at this point I looked around everyone who was there and the only work that really fits for me to describe how I felt was 'rewarded'.
What an achievement, what a group of people and what an incredible amount of support and generosity we had received along the way.
All that is left to do now, is a summary blog and a final figure which we will have in approximately 2 weeks time once we have closed the just giving page