Evesham Wheelers members Patrick Twist and Helen Russell recently joined 230 fellow cyclists to ride 500km from London to Paris over four days, to raise funds for Cure Leukaemia. Here is a short report on their journey.
On the first day the riders nervously assembled in Greenwich Park. Amongst recreational  and club cyclists were a number of well-known sporting faces including West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper Ben Foster, former Crystal Palace winger John Salako and former Birmingham City defender Darren Purse. They had agreed to participate to support fellow footballer and leukaemia survivor, Geoff Thomas in his efforts to raise over £1m this year to fund a network of leukaemia research nurses in the UK.
We left London with the support of a team of motorcycle out-riders who secured our safe passage out of the capital. Once into Kent we followed a well signposted route that took us all the way to Folkstone to board the Eurotunnel and arrive in our overnight stay in Calais.
The next morning we all gathered for the first day of riding in France which would all be on closed roads. This was an amazing experience as it meant that we didn’t have to stop at every junction and worry about traffic, which meant that we could enjoy the riding even more. 
There was a choice of three groups to ride with based on speed and the route took us from Calais to Abbeville and then onto Beauvais before the final leg into Paris. One of the highlights was riding through the Somme area, past the WW1 cemeteries and through the poppy fields. This put our complaints about saddle soreness and aching muscles into perspective.
The final day took us into Paris and as fans of the Tour de France it was amazing to cycle into the French capital on closed roads, over the cobbles to the Arc de Triomphe and along the Seine to the Eifel Tower. The French were so welcoming along the way, waving and cheering us one and welcoming us into their villages with hand-made signs. Even as we rode into Paris people cheered us on and the other road users didn’t seem at all put out by being stopped whilst over 200 cyclists took over the Arc de Triomphe island. The Eifel Tower was a welcome sight as it marked the end of our journey and the start of the celebrations. However, whilst most riders were having a celebratory beer and taking the obligatory photo in front of the Eifel Tower with bike held aloft, Helen was thinking about her next challenge. This was because as part of the One Day Ahead challenge the next time she will be in Paris she will have taken the long route as she will be cycling the whole route of this year’s Tour de France to raise even more funds for Cure Leukaemia. Next time she gets to Paris we will definitely have earned some champagne!