As some of you are probably aware, Cyclepods lost our director Pat McCarthy in August last year after he passed away unexpectedly. It was a very tough time for the company and everyone who knew Pat as he was such an influential part of our lives, both at Cyclepods and in his personal life.
At Pat’s funeral, we sat around discussing ways we could commemorate this great man and somebody (fortunately we’ve forgotten who) threw in the suggestion that we all cycle to Paris as part of a charity ride. Full of emotion and a hint of alcohol, we all decided that this was a Very Good Idea indeed and all verbally committed ourselves.
A week later, the ride was brought up again in conversation. This time with a slightly more nervous tone. The thought of it was daunting but we really wanted to make some sort of great statement in Pat’s memory, and now any other ideas seemed to pale in comparison! So it was decided, we would cycle from the Cyclepods offices in Westerham, Kent to Paris and raise money for the British Heart Foundation to support this great charity in furthering research and treatments for heart related conditions. We had less than a year to get ready for the ‘Tour de Pat’…
We all started taking it more seriously in January 2017 when we realised we had just 6 months to get fit enough to cycle 280 miles. One of us had only just started cycling, one had just suffered a cycling related accident and was out of action and the rest were somewhat ‘fairweather’ in our approach to cycling…This was going to be fun! Since then however we have all dedicated hours and hours of time to training for the ride, spending our weekends pedalling away furiously to reach longer distances and gain more elevation. We organised several team rides to get used to cycling as a group and our team started getting stronger and stronger both on the bikes and at our desks!
We left Westerham on Thursday 29th June, aiming to reach Paris on Sunday morning. The ride was split into 3 big days of riding – 75 miles to Dover, 80 miles from Calais to Arras, 93 from Arras to Senlis and then a simple (ha!) 31 mile cruise into Paris on Sunday morning.
Riding to Dover through the Kent countryside was absolutely beautiful and we had the best weather of the trip on this day to keep our spirits up. Unfortunately, most of the riding through France was a bit damper than we had hoped but that didn’t take the smiles off our faces. We all loved every single minute of the bike ride. In fact, if you asked us to do it again tomorrow, we’d already be on our bikes!
You can find pictures and a brief synopsis of each day on our company Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/OfficialCyclepods/ – there’s an album for each day thanks to our very snap-happy in house photographer Luc Bonnici!
The best part about the ride is the amazing amount of money we have been able to raise in Pat’s memory, at the moment we are at £3,158.77 and donations are still coming in! We are incredibly honoured to have raised so much money, we had only set our target at £1000 as we massively underestimated the support we would receive some friends, family, colleagues, clients, suppliers and others who knew Pat. It might be slightly bigheaded, but we are incredibly proud of ourselves to have completed the ride and raised such a significant amount of money.
We all want to wish a huge thank you to everyone who donated, retweeted and shared our page and helped us in this fantastic achievement.
We will be keeping the JustGiving page up for another week to raise as much as we possibly can for this great cause so if you would like to donate, please visit the official ‘Tour de Pat’ donation page here before the 14th July! – https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/tourdepat.
Tour de Pat – Day 1
Distance: 74.4 miles
Elevation: 2,631 feet
On 29th June 2017, 6 riders from Cyclepods departed Westerham on the start of a 280 mile journey to Paris!
MOST of us had been training for this moment for months, putting in hours of time to gain miles and climb hills to make sure we were prepared for the ride. So albeit nervous, we were all excited and confident that we could complete the challenge ahead – just look at the smiles!
Heading out of Westerham we had to naviagte rush hour traffic towards Sevenoaks but soon enough we were able to duck off the main roads and onto the beautiful quiet country roads of Kent!
This is when we first started to realise how snap-happy Luc was…After our first pit stop we also realised what a FAFFER he is as well! Note how he has already changed his jersey not halfway through the route…
Most of the elevation on this ride was along the first section of the route so we knew once those were out of the way we could enjoy the slightly downhill roads all the way to Folkestone.
A brief pit stop at Lympne to get ready for the final stretch of the ride, yes that is a bag full of rice cakes and energy bars.
Paul has an odd affliction where he truly believes he is Peter Sagan, if he senses a camera lens he will automatically strike a pose to reflect this!
Now to get from Folkestone to Dover, one must climb one of Kent’s most brutal hills. Ok, so that might be slightly exaggerating but trust us, it isn’t fun! But well worth it once you get to the top and can enjoy zooming over the white cliffs all the way to Dover!
Once we reached Dover, it was a quick change at the van to put comfy clothes on and store the bikes in the van before we went our spate ways to catch the ferry – 2 riders in the van with our support driver, the lovely Dave, and the other 4 of us as foot passengers. Here’s something they DON’T tell you about being a foot passenger, there is no where to get any food while you wait an hour for your ferry! The vehicle terminal however, has (I’ve been told) a wonderful Burger King.
“But it’s right there! I can see it but I can’t get to it!!”
Meanwhile, back in the van…
We really appreciated the pictures and texts Luc…tempers were almost at fraying point by now if Paul and David couldn’t get any food!
EVENTUALLY, we were allowed onto the ferry were we made a beeline to the food court and stood with our plates waiting for food and ready to rugby tackle any queue jumpers. After wolfing down some fish and chips though, and after making friends again with the Burger Bunch, we headed down to the Club Lounge baby!
Aaaahh so content!
What?? Exclusive viewing deck with sun loungers you say?!
And free champagne!!
Jane even made a new friend…
Once into Calais, half of us cycled through beautiful Calais to the hotel, while the more sensible of us jumped into a taxi and had a lovely conversation with the taxi driver about the Tour de France!
Bit of a tight squeeze in the rooms once we got all the bikes tucked in! It was only 2 hours since the fish and chips on the ferry but we already needed feeding again so we strolled across the road to check out the mysterious Memphis Coffee…
O…M…G…We would all HIGHLY recommend you all visit a Memphis Coffee at your earliest convenience!!
A most surreal experience in dining, decked out in American 50’s Diner style and with a menu that doesn’t even pretend to be healthy!
A basket of fried goods Madam?
How about a fish inna bun Sir?
Or how about the Crazy Memphis!
Luc was very close to ordering this before wimping out and getting a salad instead…pathetic!
After stuffing ourselves with food, we staggered back to the hotel for a well-deserved first night’s sleep and excited to start Day 2 of Tour de Pat in France
Distance: 80 miles
Elevation: 3,613 feet
Day 2 begins! Starting from Calais we had a 72 mile (LOL!) ride to Arras, full of croissants (spares in the van as well naturally) and coffee we hit the road (on the LEFT side people, LEFT!).
Leaving Calais we followed a beautiful flat route following a canal through sleepy French villages. After about an hour of riding though we felt the first drops of rain…
Quick stop to stand around in the rain discussing whether or not we should put waterproofs on. One eminently sensible member of the team decided to don suitable attire…
…As you can see, that was a wise move! Soon after, the black clouds started rolling in and the heaven opened.
Tell you what is oddly fun though, cycling uphill over cobbles in the rain – practically doing the Paris-Roubaix mate!
“Hang on a minute guys, I’m running low on rice cakes!”
At a mini rest-stop warmer clothing and waterproofing was adopted by other well-prepared team members…
…And new outfits required posing obviously…
Jane leading the Cyclepods peloton back on the road! The weather started to brighten up a bit by this point.
“I’m telling you mate, I can wheelie my road bike just like Sagan!”
Everyone pretend they can see the wheelie….
“Just a few more rice cakes…”
Actually, we were all getting pretty hungry by this point but had swiftly discovered that Northern France is apparently deserted! Our dreams of patisseries and boulangeries lining the streets and stuffing pain au chocolats down our gobs every hour were rapidly disintegrating…
A rare photograph of Paul caught off guard by a camera, quick everyone…
Show them how it’s done Jane!
Another ten miles or so and we were REALLY starting to get hangry. That’s angry hungry to those that don’t know. We’d covered nearly 40 miles without a pit stop by now (Paul being the only one with real food on him) and were in desperate need of food!
IT’S A SIGN!! To Westrehem everyone!!
TOP TIP: If you are cycling uphill and cannot clip out of your pedals in time, simply remove the shoe instead.
Surprisingly though it takes at least three people to remove the shoe from the pedal!
This happened because, driven mad by hunger, David screeched to a halt to accost a van full of teenagers and convince them to sell him some food. All ability to speak French had failed him at this point so it was more a case of him desperately pointing at the food in the back of the van and then at his stomach. Didn’t work….
SALVATION! Dave, our trusty support driver, had found a man with a chip van. It was like a horde of bloodthirsty zombies descending on that van I tell you. The hunger was REAL!
Ermagherd….Best. Amercain Sandwiches. Ever. With a family sized portion of chips each!
In hindsight it is NOT a good idea to ride without sustenance for 40 miles and then overdose on carbs and spend a good half hour lounging in the sun 😀
It did give us a chance to dry out our socks though…
How many Cyclepods employees does it take to change an inner tube?
First puncture of the trip down.
Back on the roads after our overly indulgent pit-stop and all the muscles were a bit too stiff and stomachs a bit too full for serious riding!
The best thing about roads in (deserted) Northern France? Riding 6 abreast!
Jane unfortunately just out of shot as ironically a car came just as we tried to take the photo and broke the line. Get a bike!
“I’m telling you mate, we look proper pro”
Look Mum No Hands!
Aha, we found one! Our first Patisserie!
“Only ten miles to go everyone” says David. LIES.
Next, we had to make our way through the delightful town of Arras, birthplace of the roundabout. Amazingly, it was only “another 2km” for the last hour of the ride….
Made it to the hotel just in time before the rain started again. We were all shattered after this ride, the necessary pit-stops to refuel along the way had been woefully non-existent misjudged – seriously though, the secret to a successful ride is frequent but short stops and lots of re-fuelling.
Because of the detour to the chip van, we’d actually done an extra 8 miles more than we thought today!
Sums up how we all felt perfectly…
We did all manage to make it to dinner though, and well worth it too!
2 days down, 2 to go!
We all woke on Day 3 with the beginnings of saddle soreness and tired muscles…just the thing before starting what we knew would be our longest ride of the trip. After a quick binge on coffee and croissants, we packed up the van and got our bikes ready. Just as the rain started…
Luc loves rain!
To get back on track we had to cycle through Arras again, because we just didn’t get to experience enough of those roundabouts last time.
All smiling though!
Absolutely chucking it down, but nothing slows down the Cyclepods Peloton!
Still loving the rain Luc?
Before we knew it we’d already done 25 miles at had reached our first pit-stop! Oh no hang on…someone forgot France uses kilometres…
Regardless, we stocked up on food. All the food. So much food. And took full advantage of the facilities. Absolutely no greater feeling than putting soaking wet bib shorts on, you really should try it!
There were some cracking views along this route…
…until these mugs turned up to cycle through the shot.
Despite the wet weather though we really were flying through this route. It was beautifully quiet and the roads were a cyclist’s dream!
“Are your shoes so wet they’re making duck noises too?”
“Yeah…have a rice cake”
“Hold up everyone, impromptu stretching session required!”
“Oh god….it might have all gone wrong…”
Don’t know if he’s laughing here or actually unable to get up.
This could actually be a Halford’s poster or something. Like a cycling version of a boy band.
Another brilliant pit-stop, just enough time to gorge ourselves on our supermarket goodies without letting our muscles get cold.
The rain stopped at this point as well so it was all looking up!
So this route was pretty much flat apart from one lovely big hill in the middle. But honestly, it really was lovely!
Looks like the boys were caught completely unaware here, no time to pose.
Why do we climb hills? So we can descend baby!!!
“Yah sendd eettt!!”
Not only is there a signpost to Senlis (our stop) but there is the first sign for Paris!!
Someone looks much happier once the rain stops!
We made it! Despite the mileage that was the most fun and actually easiest route on the whole ride, there was even talk of doing a few loops to bump the 93 miles up to a nice 100…
…unfortunately, we had to clean our bikes off in order to store them safely inside the hotel as they were all covered in mud after such a wet ride, so no time to get our centurions today!
Trust Luc to be taking pictures of everyone busy cleaning their bikes, any excuse to FAFF!
We’d later use these towels to dry off in Paris…lovely…
This guy only cared about one thing…
Yes, there was a McDonald’s right next to the hotel. You’ve never seen a more crazed bunch!
Reckon Sagan looks just like this after all his rides too.
The best bit! The Tour de France started on Saturday so we all had time to catch the end of Stage 1 before dinner (yeah, we had McDonald’s and dinner…and what?).
We know how you felt in the rain boys…
Trust these two to happen upon ordering the biggest beers in all of France. Luc had been polishing up on his French skills over the last few days, he was so delighted with himself to be able to enquire after Belgian beer in French!
This is also where we discovered Paul has NEVER had a kebab. Not ever. Not even a bit.
Nah, I’m alright thanks…
So, Paul is an organised guy right? He likes to be prepared. To ensure he is eating enough rice cakes throughout a ride he has taped a special menu to his bike frame to remind him of what he should be eating every hour.
Someone (Luc) discovered this menu when doing a late night check on the bikes.
Only Luc would have the guts to do this!
Final Day! Only 31 miles to Paris, this has got to be a doddle right? David was certainly keen, he’d been like that since 4am….
The face of true despair when you drop the last banana on the floor and that was all you had for breakfast.
“Hey Paul…Paul!…What’s on the menu today?!”
At first it was a light drizzle. Fairly bearable. We’d had worse!
Oh look! More wheat fields! Really don’t get to see enough wheat fields.
At least the bike lanes are lovely are wide on the main roads, you got that right France!
Then the rain REALLY started to kick in, we went from slightly sodden to absolutely soaked within seconds!
But nothing stops the Cyclepods Peloton!
Oh…apart from a puncture…still we’re pros at this now!
20 minutes later….
“Should we give them a hand?”
“No I love the cold and rain! Why rush!?”
Another 20 minutes later….
What even is this pose?? Dance of the Inner Tube Fairy?
“LOL guys you’ll never guess what? I was twisting it the wrong way the whole time!”
So close and yet so far! Paris is far, far bigger than it seems when you’re on a bike. In all honesty, we couldn’t really enjoy cycling through Paris as we were concentrating too much on all the beautiful traffic lights.
Having not quite made the ride eventful enough today, David decided to take us down the quieter roads of Paris…
Our official Pat McCarthy Jerseys looking good though!
Only a few near misses and squishes, it was more exhausting cycling through Paris than it was doing the 93 miler yesterday!
Oh another pretty red light! But the Louvre is right there, we’re so close!!!
WE MADE IT!
It even stopped raining so we could show off our jerseys. Which were soaked anyway. But who cares! We’re in Paris!!
You turn your back for one second and this guy is off making friends with random women…
There was some debate about whether we should lift our bikes up or not, but by this point tourists had actually started to gather and had started chanting “LIFT”. We’re all suckers for peer pressure…
Bigger tourist attraction than the Louvre for 5 minutes though!
Luc’s new girlfriend couldn’t stop taking photos off him. He was loving it….
“Hi Dad, we’re at the LUUHVRUH”
James went all ‘Allo, Allo’ finally.
Because we were all soaked to the bone and cold and tired and hungry, no one wanted to hang around long so it was straight back on the bikes and off to Gare du Nord to meet up with the van.
There was only so much room in the van for us to get changed, so someone had to draw the short straw and get changed right on the streets of Paris!
This photo captures the exact moment we told him he was stood next to a sex shop.
What do you guys fancy for food? Paul??
…so much fried food…
And it all disappeared about 10 seconds after this photo was taken!
We did it! 280 miles, 10,935 feet, 3 punctures, an ungodly amount of rice cakes, 6 incredibly proud and happy cyclists!
Thank you so much to all of our friends and family who donated and supported us in accomplishing our Tour de Pat charity ride, it was the perfect way to commemorate a great man and mentor.
Tour de Pat 2017 – In loving memory of Pat McCarthy.