Organising a 1500km charity ride for 80 cyclists

Nick Hanmer organises the annual Cycle2Cannes charity ride, which in 2011 had 83 riders covering 1500km in six days. Here, he talks about what goes into making it all happen.

A year in the making... Photo: Cycle to Cannes

A year in the making... Photo: Cycle to Cannes

Cycle to Cannes started when cycling enthusiast Peter Murray first cycled to Cannes with 16 friends and colleagues for the annual MIPIM property industry convention in 2006. They were raising money for Tom’s Trust and the Multiple System Atrophy Trust. A year later, more than 50 colleagues accompanied them, and the ride has grown since. The money raised from the ride since its inception broke the £1m barrier in 2011.

Ride stats and logistics

– 83 riders supported by three team vans each (all sponsored by a different company);
– two crew cars;
– a sponsored double-decker bus and luggage trailer;
– a grease monkey mechanic’s van with two specialist cycle mechanics;
– 8 eight motor bike outriders;
– the ride has to clear the roads as it progresses, so the local police are formally notified of the entire route.

The 1500 kilometres of London to Cannes is split into stages of roughly 50km – a distance that takes approximately two hours – and the six days of the ride are composed of two to six stages each, with each team riding for two of those stages each day. Riders can choose to do more stages, and each year 15-20 ride the whole distance. Riders leave their day bags in the bus and, when not cycling, they travel in the bus from stage to stage, while their bikes are transported in the team vans.

Accommodation is in hotels with dinner and breakfast – people pedalling 300km a day need good food and a comfy bed.

In return for the support and organisation, riders pay £1499 to cover their costs, and have to raise a minimum of £3000 for the five charities that C2C supports: Tom’s Trust, the Multiple System Atrophy Trust, LandAid, Article 25 and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. From 2012, fundraising will be directed towards children’s charity Coram.

Nature calls between Aix en Provence and Cannes. Photo: Cycle to Cannes

Nature calls between Aix en Provence and Cannes. Photo: Cycle to Cannes

Making it all happen

The route: I do a reccie trip every year with our French fixer, which takes three days. We need a fairly direct route using the quietest roads possible with a decent surface. We go over last year’s route, calling in at the hotels, checking out village halls for toilets and car parks and finding boulangeries who can take advance orders.

Insurance: We have event insurance, and that includes third party liability, so if a rider takes out a pedestrian our insurance covers that, but each rider has to have his or her own bike and health insurance which will cover them if they fall off.

Accommodation: Hotels are based on previous experience and instinct. We’ve found the Accor chain – Ibis, Mercure, Novotel – are generally pretty good and offer good value. We need a place that can take the whole group and invariably out of town, with large car parks for our vehicles and bikes.

The Channel crossing: In the past, we’ve used the ferries, partly because they can be a good deal cheaper, but this year we used the Eurotunnel and we won’t be going back to the ferries. With a big group, there’s always so much waiting around, and it feels like a bit of a bottleneck to be squeezing through on day one.

Group shot of riders and crew after making it to Cannes in 2011. Photo: Cycle2Cannes

Group shot of riders and crew after making it to Cannes in 2011.
Photo: Cycle to Cannes

Tips for organising a multi-day charity ride in France

1 Have a local fixer with a fixed price contract.
2 Have a plan for bad weather: police can stop the ride if they issue a code Orange for poor conditions.
3 You must have transport for all your riders in the event they cannot cycle.
4 You need adequate first aid cover to deal with most situations, because an ambulance may be a while arriving on back roads.
5 Hire a satellite phone for emergencies (about £10/day).
6 Unless your group is small, a PA system is extremely useful for marshalling riders.
7 Stick to the plan: don’t delay at stops and if stages are delayed (most average 25kph), then reduce length of stops to catch up.
8 Have enough credit: be prepared for emergencies where you may suddenly need major funds.
9 Take physios: if you can organise it, a physio or two in the crew make a huge difference to first-timers and those who aren’t quite as fit as they thought they were.
10 Super-tip: learn the skills of mutual benefit. Much of what you will need to obtain for the ride is produced by companies who need publicity exposure and have things to give away. Fulfil your side of the bargain and they’ll be only too happy to help.

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