We arrived at Esplanade du Trocadero in front the Eiffel Tower in the rain (inevitably) around 6pm on Wednesday, after a scary couple of hours (least that’s what it felt like) negotiating Paris rush hour and crazy arsed French drivers, whilst really needing a wee (I did, anyway).
The last day of riding was not nearly as challenging as previous days … just 4 big hills (including a nice steep forested one that we didn’t actually need to climb, due to a slight navigational miscalc), all conquered before lunch. The mood had an air of demob happy to it and we picked two thirds of the mileage off before lunch. What should have been an easy 20 miles into Paris along the canal path after lunch actually took the best part of five hours due to 9 punctures, wet slippery surfaces (coupled with overall tiredness) causing several riders to spontaneously fall off their bikes, and the innumerable traffic lights through the city.
No-one really seemed to mind the hold ups though; the mood was so high, the team spirit so strong and there was a little bit of not wanting the journey to be over. We stuck together through every obstacle and rounded the last roundabout en mass, oblivious to rain and traffic and making as much noise as possible. It was the most incredible sense of achievement.
There were challenges, there were aches and pains, and there were times when humours waned, but these made the whole experience what it was … the most amazing few days, with the loveliest bunch of people. I loved it. And I now miss it! I miss getting up and getting on the bike and I miss the team. Admittedly, their bottoms are more familiar to me than their faces, so I’m looking forward to seeing them all properly dressed at the reunion!
There is so much I could say about the team, the amazing crew, the hotels, and Rusty Bob (who got me all 425 of the miles with only one puncture); and I have a whole load of Bob Cam footage to edit, but for now … some vaguely lucid memories of the after party:
- Champagne and happy faces
- Promising Abi really sincerely that I wouldn’t drink too much so as not to be really irritating on the ride back to Calais at 3am
- Immediately proceeding to drink several bottles of wine of a variety of colours
- Having what I hope was a coherent conversation with Kate’s mum
- Joining the drinking game and failing at the first hurdle
- Snorting vodka
- Charming rendition of Alouette, sung by every occupant of the bar, ably led by Ash
- A surprise visit by the cops, a period of drunken hush and placating of said officer by the bar manager
- Another round of Alouette
- A taxi ride, another bar, somewhere else
- Lucy and Kate dancing on the tables
- Walking, maybe even skipping down the street hand in hand with the Phils (sorry Phils)
- Not nearly enough Tequila!
- Heartfelt goodbyes and the best hugs
- A 2am taxi ride back to the hotel to meet up with a none too pleased Abi, a 3am taxi ride (of which I have no recollection) to collect the trucks and bikes (on the plus side, I am amazed I actually left on time!)
- Ellie puking out the window of Andy’s truck as we made our way back to Calais