Below is a report by Katie Morris on the epic journey undertaken last month between two of the world’s most iconic structures, London Road home of Peterborough United and The Eiffel Tower. My job was easy, I sat in a van passenger seat for four days occasionally popping out to provide drinks, snacks and moral support. The amazing physical and mental effort that these guys and girl went through really had to be seen to be believed and I’m not ashamed to say that I shed a tear when I spotted them crossing the road on their final stretch to the tower. I am proud to call every single one of this amazing team my friend (even though many of them told me they wished they had never met me at various points along the route.)
A few thank yous: Cooks Citroen for loaning us the support van for free, Mister Vinyl for his amazing decoration of the van again free of charge, Fuller’s Brewery for their hospitality, financial support and sending 25 of their staff on their bikes from London to Brighton, Peterborough United for their support and publicity of the event, John Humphries for giving up his time to drive the support van and entertaining me with stories along the way.
But most of all to Matt Booth, Dave Carter, Martin Mason, Katie Morris, Mick Pallett, John Pilgrim, Chris Sharpe and Chris Slade, who completed the whole trip, as well as Fuller’s employees Andrew Archer and Nick Jones who rode with us from London to Paris. Last but not least the architect and organiser of the adventure, Marc Humphries, it was definitely an amazing feat of planning and navigating.
We woke up to pouring rain.
– “Is it still on Marc?”
We all arrived at London Road, eager and excited by the sight of our ‘Posh 2 Paris’ support van – although nerves were growing due to the constant rain, which was forming streams down the streets…
The first 10 miles made sure we were wet through. However, the excitement of all the months of training and organising were keeping us going. Seeing our van with Steve and John also helped maintain our Dunkirk sprit.
First stop was the glamour of the Huntingdon Sainsbury’s café. The looks on the faces of the good people of Cambridgeshire made certain that what we were attempting to do was pure insanity.
Drowned rats we were, however, after a refreshing hot cup of tea the momentum returned. Sprits were still high but definitely cold, and rather soggy.
Onwards we cycled.
The second stop, however, was a low point. Drenched, tired and wondering where Mr Chris Sharpe was, we ran to the warmth that was another welcoming Sainsbury’s. It could have been a Tesco (it was – ST), I just didn’t care enough to note this.
Nothing was going to dry us out and there was little point in trying as the rain was still relentless. I started to doubt if I could get through day one, let alone four of them. I’ve never been so frozen, wet and tired. The conditions were draining our energy and we barely had time to worry about the actual cycling.
Chris turned up; the mechanic, Dad (to Chris Slade and I) and all-round Mr Motivator who cycled up after repairing a flat in the stream/road.
Marc was driving us on, navigating our way successfully towards London Town.
Thankfully the rain eased. I wouldn’t say I was completely dry, but things were looking up… or so I thought. We cycled alongside a canal for the most part of the first day – which brought its own evil challenges…
This involved many dangerous adventurous activities such as battling across rivers, steering around fallen trees over paths and the glass in Tottenham lock car park.
This car park is where I took a well-earned lay down. Much needed and much gained from this experience, this would also prove to be our last stop until the hotel.
-“Marc are we nearly there?”
-“Is this true?”
-“Sladey, Marc hates me.”
After 90 miles…
There are no words to really sum up the feelings that a pretty average hotel brought to us at that moment. The sick, wet and tired feeling was quickly evaporating. I threw my bike down and celebrated/slumped down.
We were all greeted by Chris Dowsett, which was unbelievable. After one big hug I finally believed we had all just cycled 90 miles through the torrential rain, cold and wind. We had fought off trees and rivers, birds and any temptation of pubs. We had made it through day one.
-“Marc are we nearly there?”
The morning of day two, I felt surprisingly happy and positive. This may have been due to the massive free breakfast Fullers had put on for us though.
THE SUN WAS OUT.
Then we hit the hills of south London…yes they exist, just past Catford (that exists too.) The sun was now the foe, a mocking contrast to the day previous.
Marc got us through the busy roads of London, which was extremely stressful – mainly due to focusing on not being run over.
However, we eventually got onto the blissful roads of Sussex. The countryside was beautiful, however slightly uphill it all seemed to be.
As predicted, Sladey and I kept to the back but eventually joined everyone else on our lunch break, another superb spread put on by Fullers. The thought of beer was sadly too much – I downed instead a pint of water and ate many, many sandwiches. Happy days. We all sat in the sunshine, laughing… joking even.
Then Mick Pallet’s wheel quite literally exploded. This was an omen for things to come.
On the road again, Pallet’s bike resembling a penny-farthing, one slick and one mountain bike tyre, we set off towards Brighton.
-“Marc, why didn’t you tell us that this route involves the hardest hill on the London to Brighton cycle race, Ditchling Beacon?”
Ditchling Beacon is the third-highest point on the South Downs , 248 m (814 ft).
Coming from The Fens, you hear about hills. But nothing could prepare any of us for what we had to face. This was our mountain.
I am proud to say I completed every hill from L-Town to Brighton, I have no idea how I did this. It was hard, but we kept going. It was a constant mental battle – if only for the boys who were annoyed by my constant singing.
We were cycling towards Ditchlings for a long time. It loomed above us but I never really believed we were actually going to have to climb it.
So a one-mile climb in gear one went something like this…
-“Katie, you can do this. You can.”
-“You can’t – stop now.”
-“No, carry on.”
And there was the top… the most amazing and inspiring moment of my adult sporting life. Right there overlooking Brighton & Hove Albion FC.
Chris Sharpe, Martin and I reached the top without dismounting. The view was worth it, we could see for miles, and we could see the end of day two!
We had arrived in Brighton – and how we did like to be beside the seaside.
We quickly sorted ourselves out in time to get to the nearest pub for food, beer and football. We were halfway there…
Tour De France
We cycled 10 miles along the south coast of England to the ferry.
How exciting, we were off to France.
The boat was fun, and we all took the opportunity to sleep, chat and have a bit of a laugh.
Marc also comforted us in the knowledge that the hills were over and nothing but flat would greet us for the most part.
It was like heaven. Flat and smooth paths took us through northern France. The weather was lovely – sunny but not hot. The views were beautiful. We had a lovely stop at McDonalds, where we were all very excited about the ‘McBeer’…
France also brought its own challenges, however. The three days of cycling was taking its toll upon us all. I was feeling ill, a slight cold and mentally tired. The boys, mainly Pallett, were dealing with their own chaffing annoyances.
We were doing outstandingly well though. The last 10 miles of this day involved hills but they were gentle compared to the mountainous terrain of Brighton. We were all getting up to 20mph, an exceptional physical feat.
Then came the tears, I cried and cried. I’m not sure, even to this day why I wept so much. The poor French pedestrians were also rather confused. After a hug from Steve we carried on and made it to our first French hotel.
They asked the local restaurant to open its closed doors to us. Our bravery did not abandon us here either.
-“Sladey is that a snail?”
Yes, snails. Grim.
The rest of us went for a safe white sauced pasta dish, which filled a hole.
-“Please can I wear the hi-viz?”
After eight croissants, (guilt-free eating – surely cycling this far is worth it for this one, truly, liberating feeling I’ve not felt since I was eight years old?) I donned the hi-viz – in my mind the yellow jersey of the Tour De France, which cheered me slightly.
It was a strange atmosphere at the beginning of this crisp day. I doubt anyone dared to believe this would be the last morning of mounting.
-“Marc how far is today?”
-“90 miles, Katie”
This morning was my favorite morning – beautiful French villages and towns greeted us at every turn whilst funny French vehicles meandered passed us. We were finally on a touring holiday.
It would have been blissful if we had not already cycled over 200 miles…
Physically it was wearing, although our legs were like memory foam doing the hard work for us. We quite literally ploughed on; from England to France we kept our sprit.
Then we entered the suburbs of Paris – and with it the rain. Not that we cared, we could smell the end.
This was the worst moment of the journey. I can safely say that our crazy London streets are nothing to cyclists compared to Paris’ roads of death. I’ve never been so scared and I cannot believe we made it through those streets intact.
The most surreal experience of my life is cycling up to and under the Eiffel Tower. I could not believe that eight months earlier I said; “sign me up!” Here we were, texting to tell the non-believers and believers alike.
Photos were taken and beers were cracked open.
We just could not believe it, and I don’t have the words to describe the feeling of shock, overwhelming sense of achievement and pride in all of us. We had truly formed a band of brothers and sister within our group. We accomplished something together that was truly unique and I will always be proud of what we did.
I climbed into the spare seat of the van while the boys tubed it to the hotel. I fell asleep…
…After this point came football…
…Then very expensive beer and some sightseeing.
Thank you for taking the time to read this short and much edited version of our amazing adventure. We all worked really hard and each one of those men got me to the end. Thank you all.
It truly was the best experience I have ever had. It was extremely mentally tough and physically challenging. But this is one I shall look back on with immense pride and a complete honor to achieve for Freekicks, for whom we have already raised £9,500 and rising…thank you to everyone of you that have donated.
Don’t worry you can still donate www.justgiving.com/posh2paris
Until next year!