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Riding the LONDON-PARIS in Group 4? Ride Captain Top Tips

Group 4: Rachel “Zappy” Przybylski 

Rachel’s first London to Paris was as a client in 2007. She’d only really just got into cycling, was part of a mixed racing team and basically got dragged round “it was so hard!”.

She came back far better prepared in 2008, helped out the Ride Captains a bit that year as they were slightly short handed and then was asked to join the squad. She now has 13 London to Paris rides under her bib-shorts. 

Hotchillee Ride Captain RACHEL_PRZYBYLSKI

What’s the Ride Captains’ role on the road?

You’re there to think about all the things that the riders either don’t want to think about, forget to think about or are totally unaware of so that they can just focus on riding on their bike and having a fun, safe and enjoyable ride. 

Describe the Group 4 experience in a single sentence

It’s all about getting to Paris as a team. It’s probably taken a lot of hard work and grit for the riders to be there, we always have a real mix of experienced riders and relative novices but we gel together, support each other and get the job done. 

What average speed will Group 4 be aiming for?

25 kph 

That’s a bit faster than I manage on my own, should I be worried?

Not necessarily as, if you’re comfortable following a wheel and sitting in a group, that really helps. However, if you’re not happy in a group and constantly dangling off the back, it makes life far harder because of the yo-yo effect in a big group. For this reason, we tend to put stronger and more experienced riders near the back and bringing slower riders up into the middle. 

How important are group riding skills and how can I learn them?

As I’ve eluded to in my answer above, really important so, if possible, try to get along to some of our monthly rides or organise some group rides of your own. 

https://www.hotchillee.com/hotchilleehandbook-group-riding-tips/ 

Any big faux-pas that will put me on the wrong side of the Ride Captains?

People riding on the wrong side of the road, crossing the white line and not thinking about their and other riders’ safety. If I’m tapping out the pace on the front and you’re next to me, do not half-wheel me! Make sure your bike is serviced and well maintained. 

What training milestones should I have ticked off beforehand?

You need to have done 100-miles and some back to back long days to know what they feel like in your legs. The seeding ride we just did was only 100km and, although my group managed 26kph, another 60km on top of that and doing it again the next day is a big step up. Refer to the plan linked below to see where you should be and be sensible about what group you ride in. It’s better to start in a a lower group and step up if you feel good than the other way round – I always end up collecting riders from above and below. 

https://www.hotchillee.com/no-nonsense-london-paris-training-plan/ 

The LONDON-PARIS by Tour de France - official experience

What happens if I’m struggling to keep up?

If you’re continuously falling off the back or letting gaps go, although we’ll do our best to give you a helping hand, you can’t for safety reasons ride on your own at your own pace so you will have to take a break in a vehicle and maybe even drop down a group at the next opportunity. 

What happens if I have a puncture or mechanical will I be left to fend for myself?

No but it’ll probably mean some time in a vehicle while the mechanic sorts it out for you. You can really help to mitigate against this happening by having a full service and fitting new tyres before the event and getting into the habit of giving your bike a brief pre and post ride check each day.

https://www.hotchillee.com/hotchillee-handbook-bike-maintenance/ 

How important is on the bike nutrition?

It’s essential and will make be one of the biggest factors that’ll determine if you make it to Paris. 

You need to be eating and drinking little and often right from the start of each day, not waiting until you get hungry or thirsty – you’re not eating for that moment but for 10-20km down the road and even for the next day – you can’t eat too much!

Practice this in training. If you struggle getting bars out of your jersey pockets and unwrapping them while riding, get a seat-tube bag/box and put pre-unwrapped and cut up bars in it. Don’t hesitate if necessary to ask a Ride Captain to unwrap a bar for you – we’d much prefer that than you not eating.

https://www.hotchillee.com/hotchillee-handbook-top-ten-cycling-nutrition-tips/ 

What’s happens post-ride each day on London to Paris?

Be really focussed on getting clean, re-fuelled and re-hydrated before getting distracted by socialising and remember you’ve got another big day or two to follow – stay away from Sven at the bar until Paris!

https://www.hotchillee.com/hotchillee-handbook-rest-and-recuperation/ 

Any tips on kit and clothing?

You can’t pack too much extra clothing in your main luggage – we’ve had every type of weather from heatwaves to day long deluges – if in doubt, put it in.

Final words of wisdom 

Gareth (Group 3 Lead Ride Captain) and I always debate which of our groups truly is the “Group of Champions” but both groups, in terms of camaraderie and pure enjoyment are superb – we are the real champions though 😉 

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