A Day in the Life of The London-Paris, by Ride Captain David Sidgwick (aka Whisk)
It’s an unfortunate fact that most London-Paris days start with an early wake-up call. Groups typically start between 6am and 8am for Stage 1 and between 7:30am and 10am on the other stages. It’s important that you have a proper breakfast to fuel your day’s exertions, so don’t be tempted to forgo breakfast for an extra half hour in bed. If you lay out your kit for the next day before you go to bed then that can save valuable time the next morning.
On Stage 2 and 3 there are usually two bus pick-ups from the hotels to take you to the start, so it’s important to check your pick-up time before you go to bed. There will be a notice board in the hotel lobby with details of the bus times and usually a weather forecast to help you plan your kit choices.
Once at the start, you should drop your overnight bag off at the DHL trucks. The bags will go directly to the finish, so don’t pack anything that you will need during the day. Any additional nutrition for the afternoon or spare kit should go in your day bag (musette), which will travel in the support vehicle. You should put your day bag (musette) into the relevant speed group box before you start.
TheTriTouch will be on hand at the start and again at the lunch stop for any emergency massages or treatments that you may require. If you’re making use of their services then make sure that you know when your start time is and that you’re finished your treatment and ready to ride in plenty of time.
Make use of the time before the start to prepare your bike for the ride. You should start Stage 1 with a freshly serviced bike, but once the ride has started the weather conditions will start to take their toll on your bike. At the very least, you should check your tyres for flints and make sure that they are at an adequate pressure. If there were any problems with your bike on the previous day’s ride then it’s worth seeking out a mechanic to try to get it fixed before you start riding again and it potentially turns into a catastrophic issue! As Ride Captains, we get issued with a lovely new Vitus bike every season, but it takes some effort on our part to keep it looking and feeling fresh and clean (thank you Purple Harry for the superb cleaning kits). The Ride Captains will always clean their bikes and re-lube the chain before the start, so that it feels like we’re riding on a new bike every day.
There will be water available at the start, so you can fill your bottles, preferably with your favourite SiS mix for extra fuel. The morning ride is typically 80-120km, so ensure you have enough bars and gels to keep you going. You should practice taking on food on the go – your first group ride is probably not the best place to learn to open a bar or gel on the move if you’re not confident riding with your hands off the handlebars!
Keep listening out for the muster call for your group over the PA system. The groups will generally leave at the scheduled time and we won’t come looking for you if you’re in the toilets or on the massage tables at start time, so if you don’t want an enforced move into a faster group, you should keep an ear open! The group assembles at the start line and there will be a short briefing from your Ride Captains and then it will be time to roll.
This is probably stating the obvious, but The London-Paris is a group ride. With the number of riders on the road, it is essential that we ride together in compact groups. The route in France is generally not sign-posted and each group has a finite number of motorbike outriders to manage junctions, so we can’t afford to have the group spread out too thinly. There will typically be one Ride Captain on or near the front of the group controlling the pace and another managing the back of the group. Any other Ride Captains will operate around the group as required. There will be scheduled “comfort stops’ on the ride, so unless you have a puncture or mechanical issue, you shouldn’t make unscheduled stops by yourself. You’ll be able to re-fill your bottles using water from the mechanic’s van during the scheduled stops.
It’s worth noting that the quoted speed for each group is an average speed. It’s a cruel fact that you usually lose more from your average speed on the climbs than you recoup on the subsequent descents, so the group’s speed on the flatter roads will usually be a few km/h faster than the group average. You should bear this in mind when selecting your preferred group! Ride Captains will ask you to change groups during the course of the tour if you are in the wrong speed group. If you want to move, always check with your Ride Captain whose decision is final.
Most hills will be taken at a reasonably steady pace to ensure that the group stays together and the group will slow a little over the top to allow re-grouping, but if climbing is not your strong point then you may find that you have to dig deep to hang on to the group. Riding at a constant power output for the whole ride probably won’t be possible!
The lunch stop is usually at 80-120km into the ride. You should ensure that you take on plenty of fuel to prepare yourself for the afternoon’s ride. If you’ve had any mechanical issues during the morning then it’s a good opportunity to get a mechanic to sort them out. If you suffered a puncture during the morning and took a service wheel from the van then you should swap it back for your own wheel, which will have been fixed on the go. TheTriTouch will also be on hand for massages and treatment. Your musettes will be available for you to get any additional nutrition supplies or spare kit. Once again, listen out for the call for your group – if you’re not there when they leave then you’ll have to join another, possibly faster group!
Once you reach your finish your bike gets stowed overnight. It’s worth remembering to take your bottles with you so that you can wash them properly – it’s amazing what will grow in an unwashed bottle over a three day tour! You need to start to think about managing your recovery as soon as you stop riding. A protein recovery drink like SiS ReGo will definitely help. It’s also a good idea to pack a snack to eat as soon as you finish. You probably shouldn’t wait until dinner for your first post-ride food. On a multi-day event, it’s important to keep your energy levels topped up and not digging too deeply into your reserves too soon.
Make a note of your hotel and ensure that you are on the correct bus to get you there. For a large event like The London-Paris, the riders and crew are spread over several hotels each night and realising that you’re at the wrong Holiday Inn after the bus has just left is not a good end to your day! Once again, TheTriTouch will be available for massage and treatment at each hotel. The notice board in the hotel lobby will tell you what time you need to be ready for the bus the next day.
Make sure you have a good meal in the evening and drink plenty of fluids. Beer is an excellent isotonic drink and it’s good form to buy a drink for any thirsty-looking Ride Captains that you find in your hotel bar, but there are very few riders who can perform at their best the next day if they’ve been in the bar until 2am! Lay your kit out for the next day, set your alarm and make sure you get plenty of sleep so that you can wake up refreshed to do it all over again.