A team of local novice cyclists are shedding their Christmas excesses by training to cycle from London to Paris in two days during May in aid of Parkinson’s. Their first blog in what will be a monthly series reveals their expectations and fears in swapping the comfort of their armchair for the unforgiving English winter.
What do you get if you cross two golf professionals, a building surveyor, an IT executive and a newspaper reporter? Our unlikely and slightly dysfunctional London to Paris cycling squad, of course!
Far from being Tour de France winners-elect, the five of us – Andy Charles, Alex Etches, Matt Halfpenny and the two Richards, Candlin and Eldridge – have decided to abandon our social lives and sanity with little or no riding experience in the quest for charity cash.
But when one of your mates come to you early in the New Year suggesting you get fit and raise money for Parkinson’s at the same time, what are you going to do? Say ‘no’? Well, yes, you should do really, but we’re all crazy enough that we didn’t.
Within the first couple of weeks of training it’s quickly become all too apparent just how out of our depth we are probably going to be. It’s terrifying to envisage riding more than 200 miles in two days when you can barely make it around 15 miles of Mansfield’s and Ashfield’s roads!
Already we’ve had one casualty and, ironically, he was one of the best in the saddle of all of us. Peter Charles realised with a two-month old baby daughter that the time commitment needed to complete the challenge was going to be too much. Good on him for putting his family first – he certainly got the respect of the rest of the lads for that.
As for the rest, It’s been, unwittingly, like some of the scenes out of Jackass.
Richard Candlin – that’s Cando to his friends – didn’t make it two miles up the road without falling off and grazing his knee, while Andy realised that downhill tucks, corners and frosty roads don’t make an accommodating mix, ripping up his new cycling trousers 30 minutes into their first outing.
Then there’s saddle soreness. That’s almost worse than the lactic acid in the legs and the cold wind shear on the numb hands, and the day after a heavy gym session has left one or two of our number walking around like John Wayne.
But it’s still failed to put us all off and there’s been definite progress. The beer bellies built up over Christmas are fast receding and the standard and distances covered are slowly improving. There’s even been the purchase of a new racer by Ridge (Richard Eldridge). He means business!
Off the road and out of the gym, we’re currently looking at options for our ‘support team’, with Mark Strawther, another who considered joining us, weighing up driving a van either side of the ferry crossing, where we can stow our stuff.
It would certainly beat riding with a rucksack on the back and give added reassurance in the case of a serious illness or accident. None of us, after all, want to be stuck overseas, even if the French beer is that much cheaper!
For now, though, the main thing is to keep at it. Miles in the legs are key and you don’t do that sitting on your sofa. No pain, no gain, as they say…
• Don’t forget to keep up to date with our training by following our regular video posts. It will show you just how bad we really are!
And if you want to donate to our cause, please follow this link: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/LondontoParisontwowheelsandaferry