The London to Paris Cycle Diaries

The Carbon Credentials Charity initiative (3Ci) has been supporting two incredible charities, Lymphoma Action and SolarAid, for the past three years. Throughout the year we host a range of fundraising activities, everything from clothes swaps to gig nights, with the main fundraising event being a physical challenge.

In 2018 we completed the Three Peaks Challenge, which really put us to the test but was a huge fundraising success, and this year we had to think of something to equal that feat. After being put to vote, it was decided that we would cycle from London to Paris in 24 hours.

This was not taken lightly; the route covers 275km and involves over 1,300ft of climbing throughout southern England and Northern France. But we figured, the bigger the challenge, the more we would raise for our chosen charities.

Here’s a little info about the great work that they do:

Lymphoma Action is the UK’s only charity dedicated to lyphoma, the fifth most common cancer. It raises money to conduct vital research on lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system), and to provide invaluable support to those with the disease and their friends and family.

SolarAid is an international charity that combats both poverty and climate change. It provides access to solar lights in Malawi and Zambia to help catalyse solar markets and eradicate the kerosene lamp. As a result, over 10 million people now have access to safe, clean solar light.

Those crazy enough to sign up had to take a long hard look at themselves and ask three important questions:

“Would I be willing to give up my weekend and spend time with my colleagues for a whole weekend?”

“Could I possibly cycle for 18 hours with a maximum of four hours sleep?”

And finally, “Am I climber that likes to grind and spin?”

After much thought, the answer to all of these questions when thinking of the support we could provide to SolarAid and Lymphoma Action was a resounding YES.

FRIDAY, 27TH OF SEPTEMBER

2PM BST – Carbon Credentials Office, Regent Street

Fourteen Carbon Credentials employees, past and present, were waved off by the rest of the team from outside our Regent Street office. Despite a sunny start to the day, the heavens opened up just in time for our departure and we were off to a soggy start.

Spot the irony in this photo..

We hit our first hurdle when a chain fell off causing a minor pile up on the A23, with a few unfortunates bearing the brunt at the back. This caused a bit of a shock throughout the team but the sun came out to brighten our spirits and we carried on.

6PM BST – Crawley

We took a well deserved break half way into the day’s ride somewhere near Crawley. Our heroic van drivers, Ollie R and Belinda (from here on known as Belollie), caught up with us and we stocked up on some much needed oaty snacks and energy gels. The support team had to fill the cyclists in on the hurdle, or should I say bollard, that they encountered on the way…

When Head of Delivery won’t stop banging on about missing timesheets…

Just in time for sunset, the storms rolled in and we were soaked once again.

The second half of the British leg was full of steep climbs and dicey descents. Taking this on in the dark and the rain was extremely tough and the team had to dig deep to keep going. It was also during this leg that Kesi experienced the first of what would be many punctures.

Around 9:30 pm all sixteen of us arrived safely into the port and the Golden Arches of Newhaven never looked so bright. Although even after 6 hours of cycling, we can confirm that McDonald’s still doesn’t taste good.

Arriving at the port, we were lucky to even get past the security check. When asked whether he was carrying any dangerous weapons, Charlie replied ‘only this one’ while pointing to his face. It was a tough crowd but they begrudgingly let us through.

We were corralled into a smelly waiting area where we found out the ferry was an hour delayed and we wouldn’t depart until midnight. Looking for the silver lining, we convinced ourselves this meant an extra hour to relax and less time spent cycling in darkness.

In the end, the ferry made up the time and  arrived only 15 minutes late into Dieppe. This may sound like a positive, but this meant a maximum of 3 hours of sleep for those who were lucky enough to nod off. Onward and upwards!!

SATURDAY, 27TH OF SEPTEMBER

4:15 AM CEST – Dieppe

We reconvened at the van to scarf down some breakfast and wrap up warm. Yet again, we set off just in time for the downpour and our hearts melt when Grace declared that “we deserve better!”, her front lights blinking through the rain. Just twenty minutes into the ride Kesi got puncture number two and was put on secondment to the support van.

Fortunately, the first section of our French journey was along the Avenue Verte. This part of the route was a dream; riding along the tree-lined countryside paths while watching the sun rise almost made the lack of sleep worth it.

11 AM CEST – Gournay-en-Bray

By the time we arrived at our first pitstop we had lost two teammates to mechanical issues, so we visited the bike shop and took the opportunity to grab some food served on a plate rather than in a wrapper.

Needless to say, the French know how to feed cyclists. We were presented with wheels of Brie, freshly baked baguettes, and omelettes all round. A couple of coffees down the hatch and we were good to go.

4:45 PM CEST – Saint-Ouen-l’Aumône

We arrived at our final pit stop eight punctures in. At this point, it was actually news when someone didn’t have a puncture. Kesi took the gold with three, followed closely by John Taylor with two.

By this stage the team was ready for the whole ordeal to be over, but with only twenty miles left we rallied together for the final push. Coming into Paris the Eiffel Tower teased us for the remainder of our journey, seemingly always in sight but out of reach.

“Are we there yet?”

8:30 PM CEST – PARIS!

After 29 hours, 8 punctures, 7 falls and a few tears, the team arrived in Paris at approximately 8:30 pm French time. We discovered that the traffic in Paris is even madder than in London but we all survived to see Belollie waving us over the finish line.

Some final thoughts from the team….

Looking back, I’m staggered by what we did. The sheer level of perseverance, determination and comradery shown blew me away. The money we’ve raised is going to do some real good, and I’m extremely proud of the amount we’ve accumulated. I consider myself very lucky to have been part of the whole experience and after the lactic acid has dissipated from my quads, I’ll look back on it with very fond memories. Here’s to next year and London to Milan!” – Charlie

It was just as hard as I thought it would be but 10 times more enjoyable.” – Grace

“Even though it was brutal, it was an amazing thing to have done” – Winston

“Would I do it again? 100 times over” – Tegan

So, would you do it again?

The question was raised at our final meal as to whether we would cycle from London to Paris in one go again. The consensus was that, although we will look back on the journey with a generally positive feeling, we only really put ourselves through that pain for our two wonderful charities. At 6 am on Saturday morning, the thought of having to cycle for another 12 hours in the pouring rain, after what could barely be called a nap, was only manageable when remembering the money we were raising for Lymphoma Action and SolarAid, and the great work they can do with those donations.

On behalf of 3Ci, I would like to save a massive thank you to the organisers, the team and our supporters. If you haven’t had the chance to donate to our wonderful charities, there is still time left! Follow the link to sponsor us here.