Our first day began early. We all met up at Clifton College just after 7 am, and spent the next hour or so chatting and getting ourselves ready. There was lots of nervous excitement. After a group photo, we waved goodbye to family and friends and set off, heading for Ashton Court and our long ride to Poole, Dorset.
Sarah and I opted for Group C (the “slow” group) and we were joined by John (the headmaster), Ali, Adrian and Kieran. Our support vehicle was driven by Heather.
We were led to believe that Day one of our Bristol to Paris bike ride would be 76 miles – it actually ended up as nearly 90! As the most Sarah and I have cycled is 52 miles this was quite a jump in distance. But it wasn’t so much the miles as the hills that got to us – so many and so steep at times!
Ali suggested our team name – Team Escargot! We worked well together, taking turns to lead and providing lots of support on the hills.We found that taking lots of short breaks made it easier to keep up a good speed and stay together as a team.
I found the straight roads relatively easy but as soon as we got to a steep hill I slowed right down and often dropped back. Sarah amd Ali also found the hills tough. Sarah had cramp in her legs at about 50 miles and at about 60 miles my legs too started cramping – causing me to leap off my bike Thankfully it eased and I was able to continue and catch up with the others on the next hill.
But Ali won the award for the most drama on this ride. At about 80 miles she chose to ride through the water of a shallow ford (rather than take the path to the side) – it was very slippery and her bike skidded causing her to slide straight into the water! She was completed soaked from head to toe, but luckily only bruised her thigh and nothing was broken.
The last 10 miles were tough and it was getting late. We got within sight of the hotel in Poole only to get stopped by a bridge swing. After a 10 minute wait we finally cycled into the hotel car park, to the cheers or the other two groups who had got there quite a while before us!
Sarah and I were so tired, we would probably have just slept after our shower, but we knew we had to eat to refuel for the next day, so we joined our fellow cyclists for a chinese meal. By 9.30 we were in bed, asleep within a couple of minutes of our head hitting the pillow.