Published by Lyn on 6 March 2011
Richard Trillo is on the road in France as part of the 1500km Aedas London to Cannes charity ride. Here's how the first few days went
Day 1: London to Calais
It’s a cold, steely grey morning in Greenwich park as the Aedas Cycle to Cannes 2011 crew assemble by the teahouse at 6.30 to admire our big bus and our grease monkey van, freshly wrapped in cool vinyl branding created by C2C’s designer Jess Parker.
Organised muddle is the order of the morning, accentuated by the arrival of the first riders, dropped off by wives and husbands, friends, partners, mums and dads. Extra vinyl stickers have been supplied for the other vehicles – a bit of a fiddle to get on until we work out the peel-and-fold technique.
The teahouse opens and the area is soon a swarm of riders and gleaming bikes. Team jerseys go on, group photos are taken, last-minute arrangements are made for a couple of delayed riders.
And then suddenly the months of planning and preparation are finished and at 9am a fine motorbike escort, care of the British Cycling-approved National Escort Group, takes us in an incongruous peloton out of the park through post-school-run Bexley and Swanley and down the slightly hairy A20 to Aylesford. We’re due at Aylesford Community Centre at 11am for a short break, and make it on time comfortably enough, but have to pull over en masse once or twice as impatient motorists bunch up behind the group on single lane sections.
By 1pm we’re rolling into the almost empty car park of the shed-like Stop24 service station (never busy at this time of year) where the riders grab sandwiches, Mule Bars and bananas from the picnic station set up by Anne and Vicky. We have 30 minutes for lunch and a loo break, some organised stretches and some quick physio sessions for anyone who needs a rub and a bi of firm bodily manipulation.
While the riders are busy with their limbs, the team crews are loading their bikes with practiced efficiency into the vans, blankets separating the machines and boards laid on the first level to stack another lot on top.
Then it’s onto the tunnel train – crews in vans, riders in the bus – and a short drive to a happily welcoming Holiday Inn outside Calais.
Day 2: Calais to Reims
It’s a slightly nervous crowd donning their hi-vis jackets and checking their lights just before 6am. We’ve been up since 4.45 – there’s just no way you can cover 300km without a pre-dawn start.
Our first stage ends at Dohem, where the café is open. Water bottles are icing up and the air is bitterly cold in the weak sunlight, but when the riders arrive at the end of the 52km stage (Team Bluefin has the first stage, but most of the other riders have joined in) there’s an air of elation. Newbies are thinking: I can do this!
There’s 14 minutes scheduled for the break – rehydration, urination, conversation – before Team Delancey lines up by the start flags for the stage to Savy Berlette.
And so the day unfolds as we wend through the farmlands and WW1 battle areas. Lunch is at Croisilles, with a military cemetery, a warm community hall and a little crowd of locals to cheer in the riders. By mid-afternoon we’re in Monthenault, where our French fixer is surprised to find a travelling circus has set up camp in the car park that the mayor had promised to us. The only tigers are painted on the side of the trailer, but our reserved space has been taken by a minuscule big top and a temporary paddock for a Shetland pony and a goat. No matter, Anne and Vicky set up the snacks and water tables and Dave and Laura, the physios, set up their massage tables in front of the town hall.
Reims after dark brings a welcome Novotel, a decent meal and champagne on some tables. Sam from Estates Gazette and Lil from DJ Deloitte – who are doing every stage – record an exhausted video diary. Sleep.
Read about the ride's history in Richard's first blog.
Richard will be blogging for Freewheeling France throughout the Cycle 2 Cannes ride, which ends in Cannes on Tuesday, March 8. If you're in France, keep an eye out for then en route. You can also follow the ride via Twitter or Facebook. You can also donate online.