money well spent

We aren’t quite sure where the last 6 months have gone since the ride, but it feels like it was only yesterday that we were wearily making our way across the cobbles of the Champs-Élysées after 24 hours straight in the saddle. We are very excited to finally be able to bring to you the real story of the London to Paris cycle ride…

Here is some information from Francesca Devereux, Marketing Manager for Kenya Education Partnerships (now Education Partnerships Africa) about the success of the EPA Summer Project 2012, funded in-part by LTP24.

Following on from a successful summer project in Kisii and Kakamega, I can now give you and the London to Paris Bike Ride team an update on how the money you raised is being put to use. As you can see below, your donation has gone a long way to addressing some of the underlying infrastructural challenges facing Kenyan secondary schools. While sticking within the remit of providing sanitation and electricity to schools, you will see that the LTP24 money has been utilised in a diverse set of ways to accommodate the specific needs of each of the schools.

Demesi (40,000 KSh)*
The grant awarded to Demesi covered 40% of the cost of bringing electricity to the (previously unused) computer lab, including installing power outlets and lights. Electricity is of course essential to power the computers that the Project Workers invested in and means that KEP has provided  Demesi with a fully functioning computer lab. Not only does this allow students the opportunity to access increasingly-important computer skills, it also allows the school to generate income by offering computing lessons to the community. The Head Teacher of Demesi strongly believes the new lab will boost grades and attract more students, contributing to the school’s long held ambition to go double stream.

Lwanda K (52,000 KSh)
The grant awarded to Lwanda K covered 80% of the cost of completing water installation in the science lab. The school had already begun work on installing both gas and water but was struggling to find funds to complete both projects. With the Project Workers using their investment to complete gas installation, this money will take the school within touching distance of a fully functioning science lab. Lwanda K has directed much of their own money already towards this project, showing how important it is to them and how committed they are to providing their students with a functioning science lab. The LTP24 grant will allow them to finally finish this essential work.

Ivona (35,700 KSh)
Ivona’s laboratory had no gas, electricity or water facilities. This grant will contribute to the provision of a water tank and a suitable gas house to service one sink and two gas points to make possible practical demonstrations, essential for students ability to understand the course material and pass their exams. Ivona is one of the poorest schools in its region, with its purpose on establishment in 2006 being to cater for the region’s significant number of orphans, and therefore has much lower fee collection than surrounding schools. The school has enthusiastic teachers but little money even for essential resources. The laboratory in particular has let students down in their exams.

Esokone (89,186)
Esokone did not have electricity when this year’s Project Workers arrived and this grant will enable them to wire the school and bring electricity to it. The benefits of electricity hardly need to be emphasized, but include enabling students to study in the mornings and evenings (especially  beneficial for those whose families cannot afford paraffin at home for their own lamps), which can have a huge impact of school results. Having electricity also provides possibilities for the future, including that of having computers in the school.

Mukulusu (72,840)
The Project Workers in Mukulusu also identified the laboratory as a priority for investment. The LTP24 grant covered 80% of the cost of installation of water in the lab. This included bringing water from a bore hole, raising an existing tank to hold the water, fitting the lab with taps and appropriate drainage systems, and building an additional soak pit for wasteage. This will save lesson time, since students usually have to go outside to collect water and wash equipment, and the digging of a new soak pit will provide a safe way to dispose of chemicals. Chemistry is a compulsory subject but is the schools second-weakest, therefore significantly adversely affecting the schools results and the attractiveness of the school to new pupils. It is hoped that improving the lab will make it more unctional and efficient, positively impacting on science results, 50% of which are based on practical examinations. In addition, the water plumbed to the lab can easily be used in future to route to the toilets or kitchen, improving sanitation or food hygiene.

Nyamburambasi (37,980 KSh)
In 2010, the school spent 41,600 Kenyan Shillings (KSh) on electrical wiring, but did not have enough money for a connection. Therefore, KEP decided to establish an electricity connection in this school because it would lead to immediate benefits – the school will be able to run tuition after dark (sunset is around 6pm), give students the chance to work by themselves, and enable them to utilize five computers they already own. There are also plans in the future to use the electricity to set up an income-generating activity whereby local people will pay a small fee to have their phones charged, and carry out printing and photocopying.

St Catherine’s Iranda (50,790 KSh)
KEP has decided to donate an 8000L water tank to this school and connect another disused tank, increasing current water storage from 4000 to 21000L. Since the school is unable to procure water easily, this investment will have a significant impact on its ability to store enough water for its needs. Moreover, there will be increased demands on St Catherine’s to provide water when the school becomes ‘double streamed’ – essentially doubling the number of classes.

Nyanko (56,440 KSh)
Nyanko spends a lot of money on water procurement. When Project Workers first visited the school this summer, it was suffering from leaking water tanks and money being spent on employing people to collect and deliver their water. KEP has decided to provide two 5,000L tanks to help in this respect, in addition to replacing the taps in the laboratory which will allow water to be easily pumped there for science lessons. There is also a ‘washing bay’ around the toilets and dormitory (soon to be built) which will help increase hygiene.

Riagumo School (67,200 KSh)
KEP decided to provide an internet connection, a connection to a central server and printer connection through internal internet in order to allow this school to become a centre of excellence within the local area. With an internet connection, the school will be able to push forward learning and research, provide ICT training for teachers and students, and give internet access to the wider community for a small fee.

St Thomas Turwa (54,394 KSh)
St Thomas Turwa suffers from being situated on the top of a large hill, which makes it difficult to procure water. It already has a 6000L water tank, but during the dry season this runs out and the school has to pay 1000 KES per day for water from the river 7km away. Lessons have to be cancelled when students need to collect water. KEP has agreed to provide another 6000L water tank for collecting more water during the rainy season, including guttering, a tap, and other fixing costs. The school will finance the clearing of the area where the tank will be placed and hopes to use it to provide water for a girls’ boarding section in the future.

On behalf of the charity, I would like to thank you and the team for your financial support this summer. Your donation will not only have a lasting impact in the schools in which LTP24 money was used, since it has also kick-started a new ‘central pots’ initiative within the charity. This will allow Project Workers to apply for additional funds to cover specific challenges in Kenyan schools on an annual basis.

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*The numbers stated here are the costs for the projects in each school. In some instances, schools contributed towards this final amount, increasing buy-in and a sense of ownership from Kenyan partners.

w: www.epafrica.org
f: www.facebook.com/EPAfrica

tom

11 weeks after finishing the ride, Tom finally gets his act together and submits his story to the blog. If there is anyone still out there, we apologise that this is so very late.

We had allowed ourselves plenty of time to sort things at Austin’s and Greg’s flat, but naturally come 6pm everyone was frantically running around trying to get the right things in the van or on their bike. Once the van finally left for Marble Arch, an eerie calm descended. We were ready. Sort of.

We slowly made our way across London, weaving in and out of annoying, loud four wheeled menaces with rain beginning to fall. At Marble Arch a hearty crowd who had braved the weather greeted us. We thank you, stoics of the April showers.

8pm came and we were off – all ten metres down the road to the first traffic light. Unfortunately this process was repeated all the way out of London and made for a very stop-start beginning to the trip. However, as we made our way through Kent, powering up the gentle hills and tucking in down the other side, we began to put our training (and my dodgy knee) to the test. Cat eyes lit the way for the last couple of hours into Dover, where we blagged ourselves onto an early ferry and settled in for some carb-loading. This was the first real high – sadly as the day progressed the lows outnumbered them.

The first of these was on the ferry. A carb shake made me feel pretty ill. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. There were lots of annoying teenagers. Anyone who knows me is aware of the holistically optimistic view I normally carry in life (editors note – this is a joke), but this scenario was certainly sub-ideal considering the day ahead. Shooting down the unloading ramp of the ferry like Evel Knievel plunged us all into the fresh French air. Believe it or not, it felt good to get back on the bike. We were ahead of time and my legs felt pretty good. Unfortunately this was quite short lived. An hour later it all changed.

Suddenly my legs felt like lead and my blood sugar went through the floor. I’d hit ‘The Wall’. I could not turn my pedals any quicker and I could not get it out of my head that this was only the first stage of five in France; how would I keep them turning all day? Oh and there was a headwind. A massive ******* headwind. And there was rain. And we lost Greg for a bit. This was the lowest point of the 24 hours for me. I just kept thinking of getting to the top of the next hill, but after two hours of that mind-set I was completely drained and we decided a longer break and a coffee was necessary. This was not a high, but it was a massive relief. After that break, I most certainly did not want to get back on my bike.

We were determined to make the second France stage better. We had averaged 14.5mph in the first but we needed to be making 15. We decided we were going to make 15 this time if it killed us – we could not afford to loose much more time. Then the hail hit and the headwind kicked up another notch. Morale in the team dropped and nervous calculations started. At least the expansive French countryside was lovely.

Stages 3 and 4 were much the same. We tried to push on but the bad weather just would not let up. On the bright side (metaphorically) I did feel much better, but we just could not physically get the average speed up. I wearily remember at one stage pedalling downhill and still only doing 14.5mph; a world away from the 19–20mph we’d comfortably been averaging on the flat in training. We tried to shorten the breaks to 10 minutes but we were so delirious by this stage it took 20 minutes just to do the basics of refilling water bottles and taking on food. Somehow Greg found the time to update the blog on his phone. It was going to be close.

I will never forget the last stop. It was the first time since the end of Stage 1 in France that I really thought we could make it. Even though we had been below average for the whole of France, the earlier ferry meant there was still a chance. I remember coming around the back of the van telling everyone we couldn’t stop for long, to see Oli nod towards the road. Keeled over on the verge Austin was vomiting. Laurence looked delirious. And my knee had finally failed. Bam looked confused, as if it had finally dawned on him that he was no longer in Wales. Greg was struggling to update the blog on his now out-of-focus phone keypad. It was going to be a tough and testing last stage.

We smashed the last leg into Paris, taking full advantage of the now subdued winds. We new we were in the suburbs when out of nowhere we were once again bombarded with red lights. So many traffic lights. I did think it was quite fitting though, finishing in the same fashion that we started in. H.G. Wells once said ‘Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia’ – I, for one, cannot wait.

It was still very much touch and go; we knew Paris was also going to be both traffic heavy and difficult to navigate. The team took turns trying to keep Austin awake; last food rations were passed around; I think somebody was singing at one point (editors note – Tom was singing, alas he does not remember). Finally we weaved along a little bicycle path, past some cafes, over some underpasses and onto a big road. At the end of that road was the Arc de Triomphe. Few things have ever looked more beautiful. I blindly dashed across the eight-lane roundabout and hoped for the best. It was maybe a little bit silly, but let’s be honest, 23 hours 31 minutes sounds much better than 23 hours 32 minutes.

Editors note 1 – Tom Bishop, future teacher, has terrible punctuation and grammar. Apologies if not all of the mistakes were picked up, I gave up completely re-writing sentences after paragraph five.
Editors note 2 – The film will be finished at some point in the near future Dave promises, so hold tight on that front. It will be worth the wait.

 

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laurence

A lot of people had asked us why we were doing this ride, and as we sat in Greg & Austin’s flat watching the lightning through the window, I think all of us questioned this. However, the mood was high. Arousing jokes were made as Chamois cream was liberally applied and mountains of pasta were demolished. A break in the weather allowed us to hit the road (and one unnamed rider a parked Nissan) for a gentle spin to marble arch. We arrived, as the rain did, to be greeted by a group of hardcore fans. After a quick sneak into KFC (difficult in cycling shoes) for the first of what was to be many desperate loo breaks, I was ready.

Failing to synchronise watches, we set off by Greg’s 8pm, making a lung busting grand total of 100m before our first red light. One of dozens that stopped us developing any form of rhythm in the first hour. The UK stage flew by after that though, with the team averaging well above the required 15mph. Marked only by Bish failing to unclip and falling into my handle bars. In his defence, he hadn’t been on a bike in three weeks.

The groups spirits were buoyed by being allowed on the hour earlier ferry, although the rule that you have to ride your bike onto the ferry meant I nearly missed it as I hit the steep entrance ramp in far too high a gear. Excessive stretching and carb loading followed on the channel crossing.

France becomes more of a blur. Led on by Bam’s increasingly damp mascot – a sheep strapped to his handlebars – we hit the rolling hills. And headwind. I think everyone had their own highs and lows in that period, suffice to say there were more lows. Certainly on one stretch of road where we had to ride single file due to traffic, my eyes began to sag and strange half dreams entered my head. Nothing on the hallucinations of Austin in his slippers by the fire place at home, but still pretty surreal and, in hindsight worrying. Luckily Bish interrupted the monotony by crashing again into a ditch, leaving him rather muddied.

Oli marshalled us through the down times with a limited pro plus supply and a Red Bull for Austin, which probably caused more distress than it was worth. The weather wasn’t helping either. Hail punished our lycra-clad legs and storm clouds chased us along never-ending undulating roads. Everything seemed against us. Even when the dark clouds were safely behind us, the rain defied the basic principles of meteorology and continued to drench us.

There were some good moments; watching the boys try to eat the incredibly dense energy bars that need a litre of water to wash them down (impossible on a bike) and the urine stop where six of us were relieving ourselves by a long drive way as the house owner rolled up (his wife found it amusing).

The idea we weren’t going to make it to Paris disappeared at about 10 am, but then the calculating began. On a bike you have a lot of time to worry. We had lost the hour we made up with the ferry and the crippling headwind was causing us to fall well below our required average speed. It was not just for suspense that Greg’s blog posts were so negative. Breaks were cut and “Heroes Made” – Oli Jepsen 2012. All the while I was convinced Tom’s knee would give up any second.

And then Paris. It was left to the GPS to guide us in. No one trusted Bish. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see straight enough to read the words on the screen. So the constant questions of how long left were answered with complete lies, that no one in the group even half believed. A route was suggested to pass down the Champs Elysée, an extra 3km. Austin quickly squashed this idea with a string of expletives. Instead, a slightly dubious (and possibly illegal) manoeuvre brought the Arc d’ Triomphe into view.

Bam got a puncture. Bish nearly died as he tackled an 8 lane roundabout at a right angle to traffic. Then upon arrival the police quickly escorted us from the scene.

But we had made it with 29 minutes to spare.

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le fuzz

Three stories down, three to go. As an aside, here are some photos of our brief altercation with the French Police when we arrived at the Arc. Noah was much more accommodating.

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oli

Getting drunk at a gig the night before probably wasn’t the best idea.

Even more so getting picked up from town by Dave (our videographer) the next morning, packing the car and driving the two and half hours to London. And definitely not seeing as I normally drink less than the pope. Bam and I were supposed to be the brawn, not the brains, so we probably should have had a brew and an early one (as usual). But there we were, Marble Arch on a crappy Thursday evening, a little tired, a few heroic friends seeing us off, waterproofs on and quiet excitement in the air.

Once the inevitability of a slow exit from London was done with, it was nice to finally spin the legs with the boys and settle (almost) into a rhythm. Other than the Tron-like dual carriageway, White Cliffs and the novelty of riding a bicycle onto a massive boat, the English stage was more of a necessity to get to the Channel. A warm up, really.

On the ferry, the two thousand respectfully quiet Dutch teenagers were fine company for those of us who needed a wee kip. If anything, we ended up having too much sleep. Which would probably explain our lethargic and reluctant return to the saddle. Although there must be something in the tarmac over there in France for when my tyres hit the road, I became irrepressibly excited. Riding on the RHS, the smell of the air and the Continental houses (with shutters and everything) was almost too much. I had to stop and have a wee. Even the morning call of the birds had a wonderfully arrogant tone. France. Road cycling heaven.

The beauty of the northern French countryside was even more apparent once it was light. For the majority of the ride the scenery was incredible. Picturesque villages, quiet fallow fields and perfect forests complimented by That Early Morning Café, smooth roads and encouraging drivers. We crossed The Somme. It was starkly impressive and I easily pictured the trenches and horrendous fighting. Maybe some ingrained year eight history was at play but the landscape really felt it’d seen some things it’d rather forget.

The odd town, heavy eyelids and a constant dull ache in the legs would remind us we were cycling a fair mileage but on the whole, all was tres bon (French). Except the weather. That wasn’t ideal. But when it got even less ideal, we all went to our happy places (and if you’re Austin, remained there) and got on with it.  When you’re tired on the bike, you’ve got to do something to keep you going and on one particular section, Laurence was feeling a little drowsy and so team leader Tom was sent in to stimulate him. With talk of prescription glasses and pre-Cambrian rock, it’s a wonder Laurence is still with us.

And after an endless amount of story-worthy moments, it was over. The first thing that struck me when arriving gloriously at the Arc de Triomphe was how much better it was than Marble Arch (and how well we did). Then we got kicked off the oversized roundabout by the Le Fuzz, who remained notably underwhelmed when informed of our achievement.  On the contrary, our Parisian host Yan turned out to be a top bloke and showed great character in letting eight smelly, tired Brits into his exquisite apartment for the weekend.

To be perfectly honest, I was there mostly for the ride, not the charity. But once I learned that the money we raised will help specific schools get water and electricity, that tangibility meant riding a bike for a really long time made even more sense to me. I’m proper chuffed of what we achieved, on the bikes and for the charities, and although it wasn’t easy, I completely loved it. I often wonder why I do these sorts of things but actually, I mainly wonder why everyone else doesn’t. I think the others would agree. Well, some of them anyway.

Endnote: despite the best efforts of the tech-savvy members of the team (everyone but myself), I still have no idea what a hashtag is.

♯epic (?)

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greg

“WHERE’S THE LUBE?”
A faltering shout echoes its way around the small fourth floor flat in East London. Beyond the slender brick walls lightning cracks and rain creases. Momentarily a second shard lights up the city’s skyline.
“BANG! WHSHHHH…SHIT”
In the bedroom bike workshop an inner tube blows out at low pressure and a frantic Laurence now looks confused.

It is 6:15pm. Less than two hours to go. I serve up pasta with an over-sized ladle into over-sized bowls. Tom brings a mountain of grated cheese to the table where Oli, Dayfdd and Austin wait eagerly. The six riders huddle round their food and one by one dismantle the ziggurat of cheddar, sprinkling it generously over their meal. Small talk is made. Dafydd, to everyone’s delight, confirms that a microwave in Welsh is indeed called a ‘popty ping’.

“LET’S FILL HER UP”
Roy, the support vehicle driver, orchestrates the systematic loading of the van with the spare bike, wheels, tools, food, drink and kit. Oli goes over a final checklist, Laurence curses his missing ferry ticket, Tom stretches his lycra-clad buttocks. Dave, the film-maker, scuttles around shoving his camera in everyone’s faces.

It is 7:55pm. We line up in front of Marble Arch, where a small damp crowd looks on. After an unsuccessful attempt at synchronising our watches (Hollywood make it look misleadingly easy) we decide it is 8:00pm. One by one we lift our feet from the floor and the ‘click click click’ of cleats clipping into pedals reverberates as we pass under the arch. The crowd cheers. A few of the ladies faint. We swing a right under the arch and immediately come to a complete stop. Red light.

It takes almost an hour to get out of London. The rain has eased a little but the drizzle is still persistent, laying a reflective sheen on the road and making the darkness glisten. The team struggle to settle into any kind of rhythm due to the steady beat of red lights, but it gives everyone a chance to calm themselves after the frantic few hours before the start. As I coast to a stop at a junction, thinking about how there are only 274 miles to go, I hear a yelp behind me and turn just in time to see Tom clatter sideways into a stationary Laurence. Promising start.

Riding from Sittingbourne to Dover in the dark is a little like that scene in Star Wars when they accelerate into hyperspace. Picking up our speed on the desolate A2, cat eyes explode out of the vanishing point ahead of us in eerie shades of green. We push hard towards the coast, knowing there is a slim chance we can get ahead of schedule by catching the earlier ferry.

We make it with just minutes to spare, thanks to a long steep downhill run into the port. Once the 2:20am ferry to Calais had departed, the team commandeer a corner of the Spirit of France and begin to stretch. As Tom lunges down the gangway in his full length lycra, a large group of French schoolchildren look on bemused. After an intense 10 minutes of groin strains and pasta consumption, I immediately fall sleep, only to be awoken upon arrival in Calais after what seems like a matter of minutes.

and lunge…

Getting back on the bike at 4:30am is certainly one of the lowest points in my twenty-two year life. It is cold and dark and French. I wearily swap my watch over to my right wrist in a feeble effort to remind me that we should now be riding on the other side of the road. I quickly scoff a jam sandwich and a handful of peanuts with some more energy drink, to compliment the stodge of pasta already at the bottom of my stomach, and then comes the familiar ‘click click click’ as we set off.

Amazingly, in utter defiance to the weather forecast, it hasn’t rained since the gentle drizzle that sprinkled us in London. I smile at the weatherman’s ineptitude, knowing that we are an hour ahead of schedule and all set to simply cruise into Paris at a gentle 15mph. So despite the grim restart, I suddenly feel really good. Through small villages and over rolling hills we ride, out of the darkness and towards the sunrise. But suddenly a headwind hits us with a big, painful, morale-stealing slap to the face. I should have known it was too good to be true. Every pedal revolution gots two times harder.

The long first stage in France ends with a much needed coffee and refuel in the village of Fléchin, 142 miles into the ride. The short 20 minute break has to be extended slightly due to some very upset bowels, but once back on the road at 8:00am the entire team are looking slightly better. None of us clock that we had just passed the halfway marker, but this is probably a good thing as the thought of needing to cover the same distance again would no doubt severely dent our spirits; certainly Austin’s, whose general instability reminds me of Captain Jack Sparrow.

The next 60 miles pass, but I remember very little. By Crevecoeur-le-Grande, the rain had finally caught up with us and the team were all cold, miserable and soaked. The fierce headwind refused to go away and this had cost us all of our earlier advantage. We tried desperately to push on, to get the average back up, but at one point the wind was so strong we found ourselves pedalling down a steep hill at just 14mph, less than what we needed to average if we were to make it to Paris inside 24 hours. I started frantically crunching numbers in my head – hours, minutes, average speeds, seconds – while around me I knew faces were filling with doubt. I tell myself that this is the point in the film when everything suddenly become OK. Right then and there, it begins to hail.

At around 5:00pm, after an hour of delirious head-down riding, we look up and see black turn to blue. Behind us, the blanket of storm cloud comes to a halt; someone, somewhere, must have decided that enough was enough.

The final 60 miles to Paris were, for the most part, dry. Austin endured a brief bout of hallucination (for which I was for a time extremely worried), but other than this there were no real incidents of note in the last 4 hours of riding. It did of course, feel more like 10 hours, but at this point it did not so much matter because I had convinced myself that we were going to make it. (I realise this makes the final leg probably sound easier than it was, but it would take a much more talented writer than I to explain the complex range of thoughts, feelings and emotions endured during this time). Looking around, I find myself in the suburbs of Paris.

At exactly 8:24pm French time, the entire team sweep onto the unpleasantly cobbled Champs-Élysées. The rough ride brings our attention back to the pain in our bums – a feeling masked for the past few hours by a combination of extreme muscle fatigue and mental tiredness. The Arc de Triomphe comes into view dead ahead and we come to a stop at a red light, just 100 meters away.
“YOU’VE GOT TO BE JOKING…”
As we are waiting for it to turn green Dafydd discovers he has a puncture. After 283 miles and not one problem with any of the six bikes, the team can’t help but let out a slightly feeble laugh.

Green! ‘Click click click’.
“NEEEEOOOOOOWWWWWW”
We dash off towards the Arc, plunging like Kamikazes into the eight lane roundabout, weaving our way to the monument at its centre. It is 8:31pm. 23 hours and 31 minutes ago we left London, but it feels like days.

Thank you ALL for your support, it has been incredible. Also, thank you Seb for giving me a bike to ride and thank you Yan for giving us a bed in Paris.

Until next time…

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austin

I wish I could say I loved every second of the ride and that the thought of all the wonderful people who donated money to the worthy cause gave me strength in every turn of the pedal.

That may have been the case for some of the seconds during the ride, unfortunately there are many, many seconds in twenty four hours. At least three hundred. For the majority of those seconds I did not love cycling, the generous people who donated, the worthy charity, my fellow riders, tiny puppies or jelly (I usually love jelly). In my lucid moments I cursed everyone and everything that ever existed or ever would exist.

But time heals all wounds, and I now look back on the twenty fours with a warm nostalgia.

The ride started well, the torrential downpours that had been thrashing London seemed to cease just as we departed Marble Arch and with a belly full of pasta and high hopes we set off strong. The traffic in London was a pain, we kept getting split up but as soon as we got into the ‘burbs and were able to pick up the pace and things were fine. We started cruising at around 18mph on the second leg of the England stage to make the earlier ferry and I felt good. The cats eyes of the A2 were oddly serene, guiding us like a runway into the darkness and to Dover where the ferry would bring some rest, warmth and a chance to carb load.

After eating what seemed like my own body weight in pasta on the ferry I put my head down to get some rest. What seemed like an instant later and the lady on the tannoy was telling us that we were making our final preparations before we docked in Calais. Getting back on the bike wasn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t horrible. After some dilly dallying in the port it felt good to get moving and get warm, the elements seeming to be holding off.

The elements didn’t hold off. First came the rain, then the wind. It was fair to say I was fairly les miserables.

A welcome break came around 8am, when we stopped for a coffee. I was quite sleepy, but the caffeine helped as we set back off.

The next twelve hours seemed to last twice as long as the first twelve, but I seem to have half as many memories. The wind and the rain got worse, it hailed, the it rained some more. It was sunny for at least ten minutes in between the rain. It was always windy.

It soon became abundantly clear that the stomach bug that I had two days prior to the ride combined with the lack of a good rest the night before were taking their toll. My mental state really started to deteriorate. At some point mid-afternoon I started to lose it a little bit – apparently I tried to rest my elbows on my handlebars and nap whilst cycling, and I distinctly remember being in the living room of my parent’s house at one point (I was actually cycling onto a roundabout with my eyes closed). It all seems quite funny now, at the time I wasn’t overly amused and I think my team mates were more than a bit concerned by my well being.

60 miles to go, vomit hits

Luckily Roy (the man in the van) gave me a can of relentless on the last but one stage. This was both a terrible and brilliant idea. Terrible in that downing a can of gut-rotting, fizzy rocket fuel caused my already fragile stomach incredible stomach cramps, brilliant in that the stomach cramps kept me awake and alert. At least I wouldn’t cycle into a car thinking it was my parents sofa.

After that, Paris drew ever closer, but it wasn’t until about 45 minutes before we finished that I thought we would actually make it. At this point a discussion started as to if we should take a 3 mile detour to go up the cobbled cyclist destroyer that is otherwise known as the Champs-Élysées.

We didn’t take the detour, I was deeply glad of this.

After some sneaky navigation down some one way streets we turned on to the wide avenue leading up to the Arc de Triomphe. Writing this I wish I could say I felt jubilant at the sight of it, but in truth I think I was too physically and emotionally drained to feel anything except a slight sense of terror trying to negotiate my way across the crazy roundabout.

It wasn’t until much later on, when I was fed, showered and had endured several bouts of cramp, lying in bed it fully dawned on me what we had done. It felt good and I fell asleep almost instantly.

I have to accept that this account portrays me as a whiny little girl, and to be fair for around 23 and a half of the 24 hours that would be fair estimation. But I finished it, and now I never again have to ride more than the four or so miles to work each day…

…until the next time one of us has a bright idea.

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11 days on

Just a mini-update for you all, while the team perfect their race reports and Dave continues to work hard on the final edit of the film…

We have now raised a combined total of £5839.96 for Kenya Education Partnerships and One Laptop Per Child. Thank you thank you thank you!

The individual accounts of the ride are still to come, as well as the big film of course, so stay tuned, but in the meantime have a few more photos courtesy of Seb Lomas. We’d like to thank all of you brave souls who braved the weather to come and wave us off, especially John Wright (wearing his own LtP24 jersey in the second photo) who gave us endless support and advice ahead of the ride.

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some photos have emerged

Here are some images Dave has pulled from the hours of video footage he took during the 24 hours. Hurry up and make the film Dave, everyone is waiting!

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