The alarm went off uncharacteristically at, err, 6am! We surveyed the bomb-site that was our room, before going through the early morning ritual that was an examination of our tired and sore bodies.
Day 4: Compiegne to Paris
The hotel had put on a spectacular spread of bacon, sausages, hash browns and mushrooms, with a choice of red or brown sauce. We feasted like kings and queens, before clipping in and departing our hotel at 8am for the final time.
The roads were deserted, the temperature kind and the wind absent. We set off more or less last, before catching a big group who were in front of us. Morning water was outside a chateau, in what could only be described as perfect cycling weather – a gentle breeze and about 18c.
Kill or cure
As we rode on, again I felt sick. Figuring it was kill or cure, we stopped at a patisserie for a sublime tartlette fraise. It was cure! I’d discovered my ideal sport fuel! Oh, happy days!
Lunch was at 11am at a swimming pool, before we all departed for the final 40km dash into Paris. I’d made a clear decision that we would combine with other riders for the Paris segment, and due to another issue with signage, we became a peloton of 4, then 6.
As we neared the outskirts of Paris, our speed increased, and we hooned through the outer suburbs before hitting the city centre. We careered along, driven by the excitement and adrenalin. We rode like locals, paying scant regard to road signs, before barrelling into Parc Monceau – our marshalling destination.
We rewarded ourselves with ice creams, coffee and cold drinks while we waited for the other 65 or so riders to arrive.
The Eiffel Tower
Once everyone was present, we grouped up, and set off, with one van at the front, one at the back and everyone riding excitedly in the middle. This was the biggest opportunity for accidents, as we slowly made our way towards the Arc d’Triomphe through numerous sets of traffic lights. Our instruction was clear – once the lead van entered the traffic on the Arc d’Triomphe, we all followed, and the traffic would stop.
The van entered. We followed. The traffic didn’t want to stop. 76 mostly smelly, all very excited and all very determined people genially waved fists at cars, buses, coaches, mopeds and anything else that wasn’t us! We OWNED it. We BOSSED it!
As we got stuck trying to exit onto the Champs Elysees, traffic tried to push through our line. “Non!” we said. “Non!” we said again. We held firm. We cheered. People videoed the scene. We took selfies. We grinned. We chatted. We indulged ourselves in the moment.
We made our way down the Champs Elysees, now with music provided by one of our group who had an iPod and possibly the worst playlist in the world. It started classically enough with Joe Dassin’s “Champs Elysees”, before taking a turn for the worse. We got noticed.
After some time, we arrived at the Eiffel Tower, with lots of friends and family greeting riders from our group. There were tears, smiles, champagne corks and hugs. It was the culmination of months of training for all of us, and 4 days of hard but utterly worthwhile riding.
N.B. In the photo above, the white panels of my top have blended with the background. I haven’t photo-shopped Chris Hoy’s legs to my body.
P.S. There was no feast breakfast on the last day. It’s the product of my imagination.
Hours travelling 9.5 / Hours cycling 6:30 / Km covered 101 / Pedal revolutions 29,250 / Enjoyment 10/10