Thank You

Thank You

Firstly, may I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2016.  Despite the best laid plans, this year has been a little bit crazy and I haven’t had time to write up a single event and have mainly relied on my Facebook page.  So you’ll be thrilled to hear I have decided to give a run-down of 2015 in a single blog!  I am sure this will be too long and self-serving!  However, just before you stop reading, I really really need to offer my most sincere thanks to all of you who have supported or helped, either with donations to Blind Veterans UK or by bullying me to get up hills or complete challenges where I have been close to failure! Thank You!

At the end of 2014, I decided I had pestered folk too much and so was going to scale back my fundraising.  In fact when I failed to get a place in the ballot for Ride London but succumbed to peer pressure to enter (as the poster boy of Blind Veterans UK)

Poster Boy

I took a charity slot but paid the fundraising target myself.  As I took on more events, I did send out the Justgiving link and you were just fab!

So, despite my best intent of not pestering you all, this year we have raised to over £2,400 this year for Blind Veterans UK  

Just giving 2015

which brings the total raised to £13,585! 

Just giving

 

A staggering amount for an old fat bloke on a bike!  I couldn’t have done it without you! 

Thank you! 

 

So that is the key message!  However, if you want to read what I have been up to, in order to provoke such a response and some specific mentions then read on!

However,  this is seriously long – you may want to get yourself a brew  . . .

January

Was a relatively light month with a key highlight being a trip off to Cirque du Soleil.  Nothing to do with cycling but what a fantastic show – if you haven’t been, I wholly recommend it!  At the end of the month I then did my first ‘Tour of Sufferlandria‘. 

Sufferfest is a company that provides high intensity low volume cycle training videos.  These are designed to stretch you to build power on an indoor trainer.  The ToS is a virtual stage race consisting of 1 – 2 hrs high intensity training each night with 12 heavy sessions in 8 days.  This was really tough but nothing compared to what was to come . . .

To add to the fun, the last day also coincided with my first sponsored run in a number of years, supporting Jonathon Scott in his fight against Mouth Cancer . . . Now there, is an inspiring man!  More later!

February

Saw me taking the bike outside in anger for the Wiggle No Excuses ride around Huntingdon.  The day was wet an blustery with a number of mates from Team Branocs and the Royal Engineers Old Boys Cycling Group (REOBCG)  riding together.  Unfortunately, I had foolishly commented about my lack of punctures the day before and after going through 4 tubes and one tyre ended up at the back, escorting a couple of Tail End Charlies.  On the plus side, they likely wouldn’t have finished with my coercion! I did, however, miss the pies!

March

The first half of March was spent in the cycling mecca of Alpe D’Huez skiing with Ben and an old mate Chris Green!  I do tend to collect inspiring friends and Chris is up there with the best, we first met at university and have crossed paths numerous times across at least three continents since.  His mid-life crisis involved signing up for 9 months in Afghanistan, giving up work to become a ski god and writing a book!  Spin Zhira should be published to Kindle in the New Year – It’s a pretty inspiring read.  Anyways, Chris took us under his wing and developed Ben’s skiing exponentially, whilst exposing me as an old fat bloke with knackered knees!  It was, however, a fantastic trip and gave Ben a great role model for his potential career in the forces!

Whilst I was off skiing, I was having my bike serviced at Cycles UK  . . .  It appears Specialized have a pretty thorough exchange service, so when Stu got concerned about some cracks in the paint, it was farewell to ‘Ruby’ and hello to TP (Theseus’ Paradox)

 

 

The end of March was spent doing the ‘Spring Classics Tour’ at Indoor RevolutionIndoor Revolution is a WattBike studio in Braintree run by Dean and Luke.  They do a great job at keeping us fit and motivated in the off season and the Spring Classics was their version of the Tour of Sufferlandria . . . only harder!

April

Seems to have been a reasonably barren month for events with the high spot being the excellent St Georges Day Dinner on the 25th which saw a dozen knights descend on Castle Hedingham resplendent in fake (and in one case real) armour and swords to eat and drink way too much!  Kudos to Andrew Temperton for keeping this fine tradition going!  On the cycling side it was mostly training for the challenges on June

 

May

Was a sad, sombre and somewhat humbling month due to the loss of a couple of great men.

It started well with the frivolities of the Army Navy game, which we attended in REOBCG colours and gathered a few new members

but took a tumble on 15 May when Jonathon Scott finally succumbed to the Cancer he had been fighting all year.  Scotty was an ex Marine, who I met in hospital the prior October when he had had his tongue, throat and Larynx removed due to mouth cancer.  Despite this, he and his fantastic family refused to give in and continued to fight and motivate folk to raise money and awareness.  Team Jonathan had already done one sponsored run in Feb and two days after his death we met up again in Regent’s park for the ‘Superhero run’.

Kate, Ellie, Cameron and William all turned up to cheer us on, together with half a dozen of his ‘Royal’ mates from the Falklands.  It was a great event and humbling to see the family being so strong.  There was even a message from Jonathon urging us to run and have fun!

Special Kudos here to Sarah Smailes (yet another inspiring woman!).  Sarah is Jon’s Physio, and the driving force behind Team Jonathon.  Despite the hideous impact of his cancer, she has never seen a problem, just a solution waiting to happen.  Sarah has continued to celebrate his life and fight to raise funds for and increase awareness of Mouth Cancer and to encourage us to continue running (and you know how I feel about running!!)

A week later we had another kick when we learned that a good friend from Singapore, Nick Tsinonis, had tragically died from a heart attack whilst training in the gym.  This was a huge shock but I was fortunate enough to be able to join Annie (Anne-Lize), ‘Theo’ (Dionysios) and Dino (Constandino) at Nick’s funeral in Singapore the following week.  The sheer number of attendees and depth of feeling showed what a huge impact he had on those around him and was quite humbling. Despite the crap circumstances, it was a privilege to be a part of this and great to witness Dino lift the cup at his rugby final a couple of days later.

 

As a result of the short notice trip to Singapore, I did have to miss the Tour de Sapper (North) but huge thanks to Chris Pattinson for the loan of the bike and Almeric Ong for the guided rides around the heat of Singapore!  What a country to cycle in!

 

June

At the start of June we had Scotty’s funeral.  This was a ‘Royal’ funeral with Honour Guard, Bugler and Colours. This was equal parts laughter and tears, just like all military funerals with tales of mischief and misbehaviour alongside huge respect and love.  Ellie, Jon’s eldest, stole the show with an amazing humbling and brave eulogy, which left the crowd of hardened marines laughing with tears of REspect rolling down their faces!

It never ceases to amaze me how some of the most crap situations can be the most inspiring!  Seeing the impact these great guys have had on those around them and the strength of their families is something else!  Never a sign of giving in, just knuckling down and making the most of a crap hand!

Ride London

Back on the Bike

Two days later I headed to Cardiff for the inaugural ‘Velothon Wales‘  This 120km ride featured a flat and very fast first half, led out by Phil C and his son followed by two significant and eye watering climbs (The Tumble 10 km @10% and Caerphilly Mountain peaking at 26%). This was a great ride and a fitting tribute to Nick and Scotty and made all the better by meeting up with ‘Team Pie’ from the Unite and Bike ride to Paris as well as many members of the REOBCG (Royal Engineers Old Boys cycling group – a virtual cycle group for ex sappers with members across the globe!  I couldn’t wish for a better and more supportive group of mates! – If you’re a Sapper and you cycle ping me for an introduction!) 

 

The next week,I was lucky enough to catch up with the gorgeous Gracie Elvin from OGE and Laura Trott from Team Matrix when stage 2 of The Women’s Tour started in Braintree

The next day, we headed down to the Isle of Sheppey for Chase the Sun. 

After a strong start, our team split in two and the John, Dan and Dave raced off to finish in just over 15 hrs (I just didn’t have the legs to keep up).  Meanwhile, I pootled around and lost some time helping out some folk until I met up with Darren, Matt and Russ, three mates from the Corps (I hadn’t seen Russ and Matt since Bosnia in 1995!)  This created all kinds of problems for our fantastic support team (Mark I, Dave S and Vicki S) as they tried to support two groups up to 100km apart!  However, they did an amazing job and motivated me to push on when things got tough!  Thank you guys!!

Darren and I left Russ and Matt and attempted to make up time which made for a somewhat emotional and knackering ride.  There were three of us in my group but Rob never seemed to take a pull!  It was only at the end, we discovered his longest ride before had been 80 or so km!  Huge kudos for him keeping going!   We ended up riding 350 km and climbing 3000 m but missed the cut off by a country mile! 

High spots include the descent of the Cheddar Gorge in the pitch dark!  Thank gawd the goats weren’t out!  Huge kudos and thanks to Darren for dragging me around and Mark and Dave for their awesome support!  Really wouldn’t have made it without them!  The strava file is here

It was a really hard ride this year and so it took me at least 15 mins before I signed up to do it again in 2016!

July

One of the great things about the forces is the camaraderie and sense of humour!  Darren realised I was crap at hills and so the only option was to book me on as many hilly rides as he could!  The next being just a couple of weeks later as we took on the Wiggle Mendips 100. This featured three significant climbs with Deerleap and Burrington Combe making the Cheddar Gorge seem simple!  I really am crap at hills!  but do kinda like them – Once again – Thank you Darren:)

Strava is here

August

Is generally when you start to ease off after Summer.  However, this year it proved to be a pretty crazy month with four decent events!

I kicked off with the London cycle and Ride London,  These closed road rides take you around the capital and the Surrey Hills.  Once again the REOBCG were out in force and it was amazing how many folk I bumped into that I knew.  It also gave me a chance to join David S on his first official Century!  We did lose a couple of hours due to an unfortunate incident on Leith Hill (RiP buddy) but it was great to ride down the Mall with Dave and meet his family at the end!

I then headed off to North Wales for my first ride with Ed at Cav’s Rise Above sportive.  This was another great ride with a couple of decent lumps including the Horseshoe Pass.  Ed is also a mountain goat but was kind enough to wait at the top of the hills and take picture as I dragged my fat sweaty carcass over the top!  As a result, we were able to get some great pictures of the countryside . . . not to mention some great action shots as I summited the Pass alongside Cav!  (He really is tiny!)

Team Branocs then got back together for  The Only Way sportive in Colchester.  This was a lovely hill free route and Henry’s first Century (and likely last)

23 Aug was Sufferlandria National Day   – and what better way to celebrate a fictional day for a fictional country than 3 hrs on a Watt bike! – Oh and I also had a quick trip to the Oval to watch England win the Ashes

September

After the excesses of August, It seemed to make sense to have an easier month in September. However, that wasn’t how things panned out.  

At the start of September, I got a mail off Team Sky inviting me to join them for a training ride in North Wales before the Tour of Britain!  Apparently I had won this after posting about the Rise Above ride??  Despite having the ABF ride booked for the Sunday I drove up to visit my folks and onto Wales to join them.  The weather was fantastic and they looked after us really well!  We got a load of gizzits (Rapha tops don’t fit me) and spent time with the mechanics and staff before meeting Sir Dave and the team.  After a team brief, where I was announced as the new GC lead, we set out for a ride out with the team, escorted from and back by Sky Jags!   You should have seen Sir Dave’s face when he saw the size of his new GC lead! Needless to say, I didn’t beat Pete Kennaugh on the climb!

That night I drove nearly 300 miles to join Jacqui for the ABF sportive in Bedfordshire!  This was my second catch up with Martin and Rob from Team Pie and a great ride until Rob, channelling his inner Yorkshireman, decided to save his brakes and used mine!  Unfortunately, I am twice his size and he hit the ground hard!  We then spent 2 hrs with the ambulance whilst they sorted him out (you have no idea how painful it is seeing a mate have all his cycling gear cut off!!)  By this time I was firmly the Lanterne Rouge, so swept up the stragglers again and got them back to Five Bells in one piece (Rob was ok, just badly bruised and concussed!)

The next week, my habit of winning stuff continued when I ‘won’ a few places to ride stage 8 of the Tour of Britain.  It was a great ride with Dan and Dave and we also caught up with Team Sky who kindly gave me a pretty cool signed top

My final ride for Sept was the inaugural Tour de Sapper (South) In Weymouth.  Twenty or so of us descended on Weymouth for a couple of evenings swinging the lantern, justified by a ride around Dorset.  Paul had planned a great route with some nice lumps, a circuit to the Bill and racked up the nostalgia with the start and finish at the Bridging Hard!  He even managed to arrange for some stunning weather!  All in all a great weekend, made better still by the singalong at the Black Dog . . . I’m not sure the band knew what had hit them!

I cannot write about Sept without mentioning another of my inspirational mates.  Vicki Bailey has done a number of performances featuring sport and particularly running as a medium.  Last year she performed at the Fringe doing 26 Marathons in 26 days.  This year she topped that with a performance called Running beyond language.  This was a 26.2 HOUR run, in Kuopio in Finland in complete silence!  She really is mad as a fish but a huge inspiration, whenever, things seem a bit tough!

October

I finally finished my (real) cycling exploits in October, with the Tour Ride Worcester.  This 100 mile ride only featured just over 2km of climbing, however, this was concentrated in three or four particularly steep hills.  Once again I over-cooked the start and the packed last few months finally caught up with me so I was running on empty!  Huge thanks again to Darren for dragging me around as it was tough (but then again it wasn’t running, it didn’t last 26.2 hrs and it wasn’t in silence!  so who am I to complain :)

I was also fortunate enough to be invited to a couple of special memorial events in Oct and early Nov.  Firstly, I joined Blind Veterans UK at a memorial service in Westminster Abbey and then parade with the Queens Gurkha Engineers at the Cenotaph in London.  Both were very humbling affairs and provided some fond memories.

November

I said I wound up my ‘real’ cycling events in Oct but the best laid plans failed once more and I had one final challenge to undertake.  I have been doing a lot of training at Indoor Revolution and spend a fair bit of time doing Sufferfest cycling vids.  As mentioned before, these are high intensity, low volume training sessions, aimed at building power.  At the end of Nov, I joined 14 friends and we undertook a quest to become Knights and Dames of Sufferlandria.  This required us to ride 10 of these sessions back to back with just 10 mins to change and feed between each one.  This was pretty tough!  It’s hard enough to ride a bike for that length of time but there is no let up on a Wattbike.  The whole team absolutely nailed it and around 11 hrs later, we all finished and have been anointed as Knights / Dames of Sufferlandria!  

You may call me Capt (Retd) Sir Ian Slack RE BSc(Hons) MInstrRE KOS :)  A mythical knight of a mythical country but a pretty pleased one at that!

Knighthoodcertificate.pages

I do have to mention my family and thank them for their patience!  All these events have taken me away from home a lot and when I have been back, I have spent a lot of time training.  I have tried to spend time with them and have managed a few trips with them from time to time but I am sure I have been a grumpy git and a pain to live with so Thank You; Sally, Tom, Ben & George!  (By the way . . . we need to talk about next year :))

Ben, Sally, George & Tom

Ben, Sally, George & Tom

Having said that, Ben & George have also been pretty busy and have learnt to Kayak in the last 2 months and have just qualified to paddle the Olympic Course!

If you have managed to survive to the end, I am amazed and impressed as this is a pretty major and I’m sure tedious tome!  Once again Thank You for all your support and immense generosity!  Sometimes failing on the best laid plans isn’t all bad and for a non fundraising year, we have raised a huge amount so Thank you!

2,017 km, and 64 hrs more than last year - with over 2,300 km on the Wattbike / Turbo!

2,017 km, and 64 hrs more than last year – with over 2,300 km on the Wattbike / Turbo!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year!

Thank you!!

 

Slacky / Ian / Shirley / Shrek . . .

xmas_1

100 Years of Service

Firstly thanks to all of you who have supported my fundraising in the last year!  We raised a a huge amount to support Blind Veterans UK’s work and we are hugely grateful!

100 Logo Final NICK

This year is the 100th anniversary for Blind Veterans UK and so I will continue to raise funds and continue to do what I can to support theirsuperb work!

I have one ridiculous challenge in planning at the moment but am not ready to put that in print yet so in the meantime, I plan to ride Velothon Wales and the Prudential Ride London 100 with some guys from the Royal Engineers Old Boys Cycling Group (REOBCG) for BlinREOBCG Round blackd Veterans UK

The REOBCG is a fantastic virtual cycling club, which has given me huge support and friendship throughout the past year.  I am humbled to have made so many new friends through the club and we have a couple of events throughout the year.  Last year we had Tour de Sapper (North), this year we add Tour de Sapper South and with the Ride London team, we now have a TdS London!

I will post more in due course but if you wish to donate my page is here and if you fancy joining the team – You can do so here

 

 

Just giving donate

Thank you!

I’ll write more soon!

Slacky

Unite and Bike for Heroes

Just under a year ago, I decided to enter this event to commemorate the Centenary of the start of the Great War.  As you will know, if you have followed my blog, I was fortunate enough to serve with the Royal Engineers for a number of years until being medically discharged in 1997. A large number of my friends and colleagues have been impacted by loss in conflict and I have lost several friends and this seemed a fitting tribute to their memories.  I had also recently been bitten by the cycling bug so it was a perfect fit.  I also decided to dedicate the year to raising funds and awareness for Blind Veterans UK and you can read more about their work and my motivations elsewhere in this blog.

I have had a superb year and have achieved a number of firsts (for me) with several highs (and a couple of hiccoughs) and have made many new friends along the way. I have had wonderful support and met many inspirational folk, so was very excited as we approached this ‘final’ event in August.  However, I had not appreciated just how emotional the trip would be and what a superb end to the years fund raising.

And so it began – Stratford Intl to Folkestone – High speed train

The trip to Folkestone by train was unremarkable, as were my first impressions of the town when I arrived.  Folkestone was gearing up for a big centenary parade on the 4th, with Prince Harry in attendance and there were bands rehearsing and police cordoning the front off, so I just had a gentle cycle around whilst waiting for the rest to arrive.

The first evening was a genteel affair, getting our admin packs and getting to know one another.  A few of us met up over a couple of drinks (and a mediocre) meal and friendships started to form

Day 1: Emotional! – Folkestone to Ypres 110 km

(click names for Strava links)

Day 1 Map

 

We left Folkestone early on the 4th August, mostly having been awoken by the seabirds and noise of the preparation for Harry’s visit.  The weather was perfect for the 17 km dash to the ferry in Dover but the group was split up by the slight hill en route to the ferry (a 1km beast, hitting 12% just 5 km into the ride).  Boarding was uneventful and we made our way to the deck for the short trip to France.  Unfortunately, the ferry was delayed by an hour which challenged some of the timings for the first leg.  In Calais we regrouped and set off for Ypres.  The ride was very flat and easy riding across beautiful countryside interrupted by the odd very quiet village (all of which seemed to be closed, a recurring theme for the ride).  The highlight of the ride was the lunch stop where we had our first taste of the superb food laid on by Ashley.  Clearly, this was not going to be a chance to lose weight!  The cross over into Belgium was unremarkable and the onward journey flat and smooth.  Unfortunately, Dave came a cropper due to the somewhat alarming 45 degree level crossings!  Luckily he was able to continue and the bike was ok.  I also nearly wiped out on the cobbles as we entered Ypres.

Rebecca, who was also raising funds for Blind Veterans UK had arranged to lay a wreath for Harry at the Menin Gate as part of the Centenary Last Post ceremony and had very kindly asked me to join her.  We arrived just in time and made our way through the huge crowd, still in sweaty lycra to join the ceremony.  There was a huge crowd, with representatives from the Kiwi Embassy, the Legion Riders and 1st Edgmond Scouts to name but a few.  The ceremony was very solemn and as we marched back from laying the wreath, all I could see was the sea of red eyes as people gave their silent respect.  Afterwards, as we spoke with the other folk paying their respects, the dust did get the better of me, and a few tears were shed.  Later that night, after supper, we returned with Sallyann to light a candle for Lights out across Europe.  When the Menin gate went dark, it got a little dusty again!  This was to be a recurring theme for me throughout the week.  The magnitude of the loss and the sacrifice made by so many is commemorated so well, that it is hard not to be moved!

Plans for an early night, however, were scuppered and I stayed up until the small hours swinging the lantern and chatting about mutual friends with the Kiwi Defence Attaché, Lt Col Mike Beale

Day 2: Humbling! –  Ypres to Arras – 110 km

Day 2 Map

The ride for the second day was slightly more challenging with a couple of decent hills, particularly towards the end.  The weather was great again and the heat did start to tell a little bit.  The route to Arras passed by a number of key memorial sites which we spent time exploring.  I was fortunate enough to catch Stewart and Tracy before they set off to mark the route and they recommended we see the crater at Hill 60.  I didn’t know what to expect but it was a site well worth visiting, being a Sapper, I was able to empathise with the work the Engineers had undertaken to breach the defences and the sheer volume of explosives to create the crater.  The other sites were equally impressive in their own rights, each with their own characters and stories to tell.  Towards the end of the day we climbed a decent hill passed the Loos Memorial to the Vimy Trenches.  Though grown over with time, it did give an indication of what life must have been like for the young soldiers.

We had all watched documentaries and done some research before the ride but seeing the thousands of grave stones,  the ages of those lost, the names on the memorials, the number of countries represented and the number of graves with no names was hugely humbling. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission have done a fantastic job in preserving these sites and they are a fitting tribute to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.  What was even more alarming was the number of smaller memorials.  Being on bikes, we were able to notice the smaller sites, and dedications in the villages we rode through.  There were times of introspection as we rode but also times when we chatted and learnt more about the stories and challenges of those taking part.

Our stop for the night was in Arras, a lovely town, despite the cobbles and we had a pleasant evening in one of the bars catching up and enjoying just a little too much Leffe.

Day 3 – can’t use Humbling again so will settle for ‘Rule #9 – Badass‘ – Arras to Amiens – 100km

Day 3 Map

This was our shortest days ride.  However, some truly foul weather, some nice hills, some geographic challenges and a lot of time spent at memorials made it quite a long day.  I continued Day 3 bringing up the rear.  I was happy to do so, as I had been suffering with a knee injury before setting off and was happy to spend time at the memorial sites.  The foul weather, and French habit of moving the markers meant there were a couple of navigational issues and a fair number of punctures to help out with.  Adrian, the mechanic following on was kept busy and braved the weather to sort out bikes as we stopped.  I had not seen many Sapper graves on Day 2 but found several at the Arras and Sheffield memorials and spent quite some time paying my REspects and searching out folk from my various home towns.

Unite & Bike A very wet Arras

 

A very wet Arras

The Thiepval Memorial was particularly moving.  Here we met up with a party of Chelsea Pensioners, touring the area.  Rebecca and I spent some time chatting with Jerry and Harry, a couple of Fusiliers and Alex Murray a fellow Sapper who had served in 28 Amph Engineer Squadron.  Despite the damp, the dust got the better of me, unfortunately whilst being filmed by a crew recording the Pensioners journey.  Hopefully that will end up on the cutting room floor!

Once again the ride finished over the cobbles, this time around Amiens and after supper we visited the light show at the Cathedral – Another overwhelming day!

Day 4 – Introspection and punctures Amiens to Compiègne – 102km

Day 4 Map

Day 4 was largely about relocating to Compiègne for the final 130 km push to Paris.  The weather was glorious again and the ride steady with only a couple of hillocks and so lots of time for introspection and unfortunately a lot of punctures!  In addition, my Lake cycling shoes, my pride and joy succumbed to the weather and walking around memorials.  Fortunately, the company were extremely understanding and were able to order a new pair on warrantee.

The key monument was the Australian Cemetery at Villers which surprised with a few points.  It really brought home the sacrifice of troops across the Commonwealth, many of these guys would have travelled for weeks to lose their life in days in the battlefields, they new nothing about.  There were also several graves for children (19 yrs old) who had died after the armistice was signed and finally, we found a grave for an Edwin Slack from my home town’s Regiment. I have since done some research and cannot find a direct relationship but it did still bring about some introspection!

Garmin proved it’s worth again in finding the hotel and we spent the evening eating, drinking and preparing for the ride to Paris.

Day 5 – Euphoria and crashes  – Compiègne to Paris – 135 km

Day 5 Map

Alex, the expedition leader, decided that we should stagger the start on the Friday so as to arrive in Paris as a group.  As back marker, I was in the first group off, so had an early start for once.  The weather was good once more, with mist coming off the fields as we headed out to the Le Wagon de l’Armistice.  This was the site where Marshall Foch took the German surrender on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  Unfortunately, due to the early start, the centre was closed, and that, combined with the absence of the carriages (destroyed in 1945 by the SS) meant this was quite a short visit and we were soon on our way.

The initial nice weather was replaced by rain during the morning and the crash and puncture count soon started to rise.  However, all the groups made steady progress. Again, we were challenged by markers being removed and so there were a few back tracks.  Mid morning, the faster group led by David caught us up and I took the chance to have a bit of a burn with the speed snakes before lunch, which was great fun but I settled back in with my group for the afternoon.  By this time the winds and rain had started to pick up and there were a couple of nice climbs which tested tired legs.  As we came into the outskirts of Paris, the wet roads took their toll and there were a few more crashes and punctures.  The final 30 km was quite eventful with the city traffic building up but we all met up at the Louvre in more or less one piece.  The finale of the ride was a ride around the wet cobbles of Paris taking in the Champs-Élysées, l’Arc de Triomphe before finishing under the Eiffel Tower with Champagne and photos.

The evening was taken up with a celebratory dinner and beers in the shadow of the Tower. It was a great evening, sharing laughs and stories with the friends we had made during the week.  Even the very mediocre food at the Dinner (vegetarian option, rice, potatoes and beens) couldn’t dampen the mood and I was somewhat humbled (again) to be mentioned by Global Adventures for my back marking, tyre changing, first aid, mechanics and crap singing in the rain skills. Even more humbled when An’ji and Team Seafarers gave me a cup for the same . Thanks guys! It has pride of place in my lounge!

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On the Saturday morning, I took a moment to visit l’arc de Triomphe and lay one final cross before heading to Gare d’Nord for the trip home.

The Riders

 

 

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There were 27 of us taking part in the ride from a wide cross section with many different motivations.  However, over the week, we formed into a strong team and I built huge respect as their stories came through.  I cannot introduce everyone but a few stories come to the fore

Richard was commemorating his Grandfather, Spr George Foster RE who served with 92nd Field Coy RE  and his Grandma who had worked as a munitions worker

Rebecca was doing the ride, in memory of her Great Grandfather, Sgt Harry Hackett Grenadier Guards, who was killed in the war on 22 April 1918. She brought with her a number of pictures and letter he had written, describing life at the front and his experiences during the Christmas Truce.

Peter and Graham (Team Bloke) were searching for and commemorating the memorials of some of 102 soldiers, sailors and airmen from Horcastle, their home town, who died in WW1.  The found and recorded the 27 on our route and will commemorate them at a  WW1 event in September, and;

Arwell, my room mate, and probably most inspiring of all, who was raising funds for SSAFA in recognition of the support he and his family had received whilst caring for his 19 year old stepson Joe who had lost his leg serving with the Welsh Guards in Afghanistan.  A more pleasant, happy and friendly chap, you couldn’t hope to meet, despite the hell he must have suffered through

It was very humbling and a huge honour to be amongst such a stirling group.

The Staff

I couldn’t write a blog without mentioning the team  from Global Adventure Challenges who organised the event.  Quite simply they did a superb job. The accommodation and logistics was pretty much faultless, the route was well thought out, with just enough of a challenge for all capabilities, without destroying those new to riding and the attitude, humour and compassion superb.

Alex led the team and established the water stops.  He had a huge knowledge of the area and gave sound advice to all involved

Alex our Leader

Ashley ferried the luggage around and fed us each lunchtime.  The food was superb, varied and local – No need to take so many supplies next time I go

Ashley the wonder chef

Adrian, the fixer, swept up the rear and stripped out the signage.  I spent a lot of time with Adrian who was superb company and kept ALL the bikes on the road!

 

Unite & Bikefirst picks_86

Stewart and Tracy were the route markers and didn’t see much of the rest of us until Paris.  They were up at the crack of dawn and often back after midnight, laying out the markers.  There were a few occasions where folk got lost but this was generally  due to locals moving signs (why???)  I was fortunate to chat with them most mornings as I tend to get up early and got some great tips and advice off them both

Tracy and Stewart

I would certainly go on another event organised by them – Thanks guys!

***

Finally, I must thank all those who have supported me throughout the year.  I got a huge amount out of the trip to Paris and am glad I was able to do it. However, it means so much more to have been able to raise so many much needed funds for Blind Veterans UK.  I am sure it has been painful for all of you and I hope you do know how much I appreciate your support.  I will probably blog some more and will certainly do a wash up on Finally Seen Sense 2 but Thank You!

That being said, I am still a little short of my somewhat ambitious target so if you have liked what you have read or want to shut me up, there are links to donate on the page :)

Very Many thanks

Stay Safe

Ian / Slacky

xx

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