2nd September 2019

Lycra on and
ready to pedal. 

Lycra on and
ready to pedal.

At Cygnus we are passionate in supporting the local community and this year we have entered various events to raise all important funds for one of our chosen charities; the MK Hospital Charity and more specifically the new Cancer Care Unit. From running, cycling to obstacle courses, our latest venture was the London to Paris cycle ride.

The road ahead.

When we were approached to consider entering a team for the London to Paris (L2P) ride I was a little hesitant. Being a novice road cyclist, the distance seemed rather daunting. However, not one to shy away from a challenge, we decided to put forward a Cygnus team.

We reached out to several client partners to invite them to join us. The response was really positive, and we started to form a collective team from Cygnus and our valued client partners.

So, the training began. Team jerseys were worn, nutrition was advised and regular cycle rides in spare time, became the norm. I thoroughly embraced the exercise but also the rolling countryside around us, stumbling across villages and areas I’d not encountered before, it really made me appreciate what a picturesque part of the country we live in.

The journey ahead of us was an epic one; the start line, the Princess Alice Hospice in Esher in Surrey, would see us begin the 290km, three-day cycle to Paris. The trip was meticulously organised by the Ocean Cycling Club – their 5th expedition in as many years. Accommodation was booked and a support team would shadow us and offer mechanical or medical assistance, should it be required!

The challenge would see us pedal through Dorking, Hawards Heath and Newhaven in the UK, before crossing the Channel and landing in France. There we would start in Dieppe heading through Neufchatel-en-Bray, Gournet-en-Bray, Beauvais, Chambly, Saint-Denis and finally arriving in Paris at the Eiffel Tower.

We had 3 days of cycling ahead of us, with around 100km to cover each day. I was certainly looking forward to the camaraderie whilst cycling along-side a remarkable group of people.

Day 1 – A nervous start in lycra

Thursday June 27th saw the start of our exciting adventure and the start of France’s hottest heat wave in decades…! Unperturbed we arrived at 8.00am at the Princess Alice Hospice keen, eager and a little nervous to begin. Kitted out in padded shorts (a must) and plenty of suntan lotion the adrenaline was pumping and spurred on by the cheers from the fantastic support, realised this was suddenly happening. There was tremendous encouragement along the route and after 6 hours and several pit stops, we arrived at Newhaven port for our ferry crossing. Once in France we had a short cycle ride to our hotel in Dieppe for a well-earned rest, a small beer and an early night!

Day 2 – the heat is on

After a good night sleep and breakfast to refuel us, we set off at 9.00am. The heat in France was definitely higher than it had been in the UK, so lots of water and suntan lotion was crucial along with regular pit stops. The Brittany countryside was beautiful and the comradery within the group kept us all buoyant and positive. The Cygnus team consisted of 9 of us, the wider team was an impressive 34, quite an awe-inspiring site to be seen pedalling through the villages absorbing the scenery and culture of northern France. After 6 hours in the saddle, we arrived at Beauvais, our second destination and the final evening before our impending arrival in Paris. Our beds and pillows were a welcomed sight and I can safely say we all slept well.

Day 3 – the beginning of the end

Again, a goodnights sleep and substantial breakfast we made our way from the hotel at 9.00am. We knew we were only hours away from completing our incredible journey, so the excitement was high. The roads on this stretch of our ride were immaculate. Not a pot-hole in sight and with breath taking scenery I felt spoilt on our final stretch.

Around 3.00pm we arrived in Paris, negotiating the cobbles and traffic at the Arc de Triomphe was an experience I won’t forget for some time, nor the welcoming site of the Eiffel Tower and our finish line. The 40+ degree heat that welcomed us was overwhelming – a big thanks to all the support team for keeping us hydrated. Emotions were running high and an incredible sense of achievement by all. We had great support waiting to share the moment with us along with the fellow riders as we all celebrated together.

I can safely say I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and definitely would cycle it again. Not only did I see parts of the UK and France I’d not seen or experienced before, the icing on the cake was the fact we are close to raising £4,000, and counting, for the MKHC.

I welcome challenges of all shapes and sizes that take me out of my comfort zone and push me physically and mentally and it gives me great satisfaction knowing I can do this whilst helping a very worthy cause. At Cygnus our core values include collaboration, accountability and fun and every day we work hard but play hard too – this was all summed up in the L2P cycle ride. I would encourage anyone considering this or any other fund raiser to grasp the opportunity and go for it! Roll on next year’s event.

Ride safe.

Author: Martin Carmody