In the second article profiling winning GC teams on the HotChillee LONDON-PARIS, we speak to Nick Archer of DHL about his company’s involvement with HotChillee, why and how DHL puts a LONDON-PARIS team together and some race winning tips.
Can you introduce yourself and your role at DHL?
I’m the vice president of operations in the UK of our supply chain business where we work total end to end supply chain for major clients across the globe. This includes everything from raw materials for manufacturing through to end products to the consumer at their home address. Anything under your sink, anything in your kitchen, anything you’re wearing, anything in your garage – I’ve probably played a part in how that got to you at some stage!
Why did DHL decide to enter a team for the Hotchillee LONDON-PARIS?
We play a very small role in what is a wonderful event by providing logistical support such as moving the bikes and bags around. We’ve been doing this for ten years now and it’s an honour to play a part in such an atmospheric and welcoming event that has literally raised hundreds or thousands of pounds for charity. In exchange for this we get a number of places and, as part of this, it makes sense and is fun to include a couple of race teams.
As a company, along with the opportunity to raise money for charity, the days of corporate hospitality where you’d take clients to Twickenham or Wembley are over. There’s a huge corporate social responsibility to what we do so if I can weave in an event such as the HotChillee LONDON-PARIS and take customers and colleagues on such an incredible journey, it’s massively rewarding.
Personally, I’ve been involved with bikes all my life – I’m a child of the seventies who’s always fettling with or riding bikes. So, being able to take part in a cycling event like the HotChillee LONDON-PARIS is a dream come true and, for a forty year old, a taste of what it must be like to be a pro cyclist.
There are quite a few L2P rides, why did you choose Hotchillee?
I’m in a business that’s wired to deliver excellent service and my job is to ensure that my customers don’t have to worry about the nitty gritty of logistics and can instead focus on their main goals. It’s the same for riders on the Hotchillee LONDON-PARIS. Everything is taken care of, there’s nothing to worry about and all you’ve got to focus on is riding your bike.
How to you go about recruiting and choosing your riders?
I will start sending feelers out about who wants to do this in late September and try to get people really fired up about it. I’ll target people who are deserving of a place, maybe are already cyclists but also those who might not currently cycle but want a challenge and a chance to take part in the event of a lifetime.
We’ll then set them up with a coach, training plan, nutritional advice and equipment, including using the Cycle to Work scheme – we do everything we can to support their journey and make sure they’re in the best shape they can be for the event.
At the other end of the scale are the more experienced riders and the competitive types and for them, with the race element, the Hotchillee LONDON-PARIS has that added edge and spice. Of the 15 or so riders on “Team DHL” we’ll have two race teams of four and these pretty much self-select based on capability and a desire to race.
We’ll all start our base building though October and November and, as well as meeting up for rides both on Zwift and in real life, motivate each other using Strava groups. We go through it all as a team which really brings a sense of cohesion to those going on the event. It’s a great opportunity to really bring a group of people together with the final event just being the wonderful cherry on top of an amazing cake!
So, how competitive is it?
It’s as competitive as you want it to be but it’s all good natured. The race sections each stage are only typically 10-20 minutes so they’re really manageable, break up the day a bit but don’t detract from the overall friendly and social feel of the event. You’re brilliantly managed by the Hotchillee Ride Captains so, although you can give the sections a real blast, it’s not elbow to elbow cut-throat racing.
What were your winning tactics?
We’ll start studying the route and as soon as the road-book is published. We’ll look at how long they are, the terrain – maybe even using Google Street View and get as much information about them as we can so that we can prepare. Then, on top of our base training, we’ll tailor our workouts with the GC sections and their demands in mind. As well as the fitness requirements, it’s about being comfortable racing and riding in a bunch so we might include a few crits or chain-gangs as well.
Was it all heads down racing or were you able to enjoy the scenery and maybe some socialising in the evening?
Definitely the latter. The racing is only 20-30 minutes maximum each day. The rest of the time you’re clipping along at a wonderful pace in a well managed group through the wonderful French countryside. You have regular stops, a civilised roadside lunch and of course a few beers in the evening.
Was it a close competition?
It was really fun and good natured but you were always really excited about checking the day’s results when they came online. It’s always close, usually coming down to a handful of seconds and that’s what makes it great fun. On the final day you might find yourself marking a particular rider on another team and, although your tank is empty by then, you still give it your all.
What did it feel like riding into Paris knowing that you’d won?
It’s truly magical but, going back a couple of days, riding out of London is fun in a fast moving bunch. You’re then into beautiful countryside and the day goes so quickly. You wake up in Calais and it’s incredibly special again as you’re on French roads now and you’re really starting to recognise the people you’re riding with and getting to know them. The buzz though of riding into Paris s a group is hard to beat and such a tremendous achievement for all involved.
One top tip for teams gunning for the 2021 event?
Give your riders some great team kit, it looks brilliant in the bunch, will make your riders feel like pros and hopefully help them to ride a bit like one too!