Before going to sleep, Sarah and I discussed and agreed, that although I was unable to finish the last day of the ride, that she should do it for both of us. I awoke feeling very stiff and sore – Sarah awoke feeling tired and with a sore throat and knowing that she had another 60 or so miles to go to Paris.
Breakfast was quite a relaxed affair at 7.30. The riders knew they had “only” 60 miles to cover and plenty of time to do it. Ali was feeling better and was able to rejoin the group and as I waved off Sarah and the rest I couldn’t help feeling really sad and a bit empty. I collected my painkillers from the pharmacist and when I got back I discovered that George had not been able to get the parts to repair his bike and wondered if he could use mine instead as he really wanted to finish the ride. I was pleased to be able to lend him my bike – at least my bike would do the last 60 miles even if I couldn’t ride it!
Once all the cyclists had left, I joined Heather in the support van and we set off to catch up with our group. Although I would have preferred to have been sitting on my bike rather than in the van, I got to see a different aspect to the ride. As a cyclist it is easy to take the job of the support vehicles for granted but actually trying to drive ahead and work out the route then getting back to help the cyclists was often quite a challenge. It amazed me how much distance they covered and how quickly.
We joined Sarah and her group for their coffee stop and then for lunch at Ongerous, 60k into the day’s ride. After lunch they made their way to Versailles Park along some very busy main roads. Heather and I followed them on the more dangerous stretches in the van, much to the irritation of some of the Parisian drivers. After a 15 minutes stop in Versailles, they set off on the final stretch through the centre of Paris.
The traffic was manic and we found it hard to keep the cyclists in sight as they were able to use the cycle paths. Fortunately we caught up with them just before they reached the final meeting point by the Trocadero, opposite the Eiffel Tower.
As you would imagine they were all ecstatic to have reached their final destination and there were lots of hugs and screams and laughter. Sarah was in the middle of it all and as I looked on, I felt really proud of my 18 year old daughter, the youngest in the group, who had cycled more than 300 miles over 4 consecutive days, when the most she had done previously was 52 miles!
For me though I found it so hard to hold back the tears and I felt a huge weight of disappointment. I also struggled with the fact that I felt like this when the rest of the team had done so well to complete the challenge in one piece.
The group cycled over the Seine in triumph and standing at the base of the Eiffel Tower they threw their hats in the air and cheered! Tourists looked on and took photos. Sarah and I hugged each other, laughed and cried. This adventure was over, now, what next?