By Jo Jarvis
In 2018, myself, my boyfriend and some of our cycling buddies took on the greatest challenge I’ve faced to date. The challenge began following the diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer of our friend and the wife of one of our cycling friends, and the family wanted to give something back to MacMillan to show appreciation for their ongoing support. So, the challenge was born – Team Paris Challenge. Many take on the challenge to cycle from London to Paris, but we decided to cycle from Pontefract to Paris… and back, with a marathon thrown in the middle for some of our team.
We managed to get lots of support and sponsorship for the challenge such as drinks being donated, malt loaf, sandwiches and sweets from our local supermarket, packed lunches from restaurants, to name but a few!
And we’re off
A team of 10 cyclists, 2 vans and a 3 strong support team set off at 4am in April of 2018 to set about this challenge! It was cold, dark and a scary endeavour knowing what lay in front of us. What we didn’t anticipate was that within the first 10 miles or so, one member had already come off the bike, the horrendous side winds the entire day, riding through floods, and getting lost! Day 1 was 216 miles, riding from Pontefract to Kent where we’d gotten lost and ended up in a Chinese restaurant at 10pm stuffing our faces with fuel before retiring to the vans to take us to our hotel for the night. The picture below is just before we crossed Dartford Bridge!
5am, we’re up again ready for the crossing to Calais. Bleary eyed, we arrived in France ready to take on day 2 of the challenge – a 180 mile day from Calais into Paris. To say my legs felt a bit stiff is somewhat of an understatement! The first 40 miles was undulating, and what felt like climbing Mount Everest into a head wind – my legs were crying. I thought about getting in one of the support vans at this point….. but I didn’t. I don’t think anyone spoke for about an hour, so I knew others were also feeling yesterday’s ride in the legs. I was lucky enough to not only have my boyfriend cycling with me, but another female cyclist – Anita who is now one of my best friends. We stuck together and helped each other through – whether it was suffering in silence together, finding places to wee in the wild away from the boys, or just having a good chuckle to keep us going! Here we are having our final pit-stop before the final trek into Paris where we arrived around midnight. I just remember ordering room service and eating pizza and chips in bed about 1.30am!
For me and many of the cyclists, this meant a very welcome rest day, phew! I don’t think I’ve ever discussed the extent of cycling sores in so many details with others, haha! For a crazy few, today was the day they ran the marathon – 5 of the 10 cyclists with shy of 400 miles in the legs from the last 2 days, and 1 of our support team took it on and smashed it! We were on hand to cheer them on along the way – I still don’t know how they did it, with some very impressive times as well. We spent the evening eating lots of food, ready to cycle back home.
Here we go again – cycling from Paris to Calais. I remember the beautiful scenery riding through France… then I remember the rain! We got absolutely drenched!! But we had some good times – a fantastic team to ride with, and our support team were amazing. One support member had ran the marathon the day before, but still made everyone breakfast sandwiches and drove the support van the 180 miles back to Calais. Quick pit stop in the toilets to get out of our very wet kit before jumping in the vans and catching the crossing back to Kent.
The final day, I couldn’t believe it – the final 206 miles back home! The wind had changed direction and we ended up with a headwind once again – talk about luck! I remember everyone being so quiet, we were exhausted and happy to be riding back home. We had so much support from all of our friends and family back home, and strangers that we passed! Some of our support team had done some radio interviews, so we had passers by wishing to donate to our cause – how lovely! It was midnight when we finally arrived back home, with our friend’s wife out to greet us all despite just having had a hip replacement, and she’d cooked us all hot beef sandwiches. It was the best meal I’d ever eaten!
The next day
Unfortunately, I’d not booked the next day off work, so with few hours sleep, I got up for work. I worked from home and had to dial in to a day long teleconference…. My voice didn’t even sound like it belonged to me, and I fell asleep a couple of hours into the call, oops! Needless to say, I took the rest of the day off to catch up on some much needed rest. I was so ill this day, despite all the calories I’d depleted over the last few days I just couldn’t eat a single thing! I think it was my body’s way of saying that’s enough now!
I’m pleased to say that we managed to raise a phenomenal £16,500 for MacMillan.
2 weeks later
Despite not wanting to even look at my bike, 2 weeks later we took on the challenge of completing Mallorca 312, a very popular sportive. We’d done this for the previous 2 years and always opted for the middle distance – a route of 150 miles. However, this time we were determined to complete the full 312 kilometres (which ended up being over 200 miles with the ride to and from the hotel) within the 14 hour time frame given. We got to the final turn off point and decided to just go for it…we were within the time limit. What I wasn’t expecting was to do what felt like the hardest 50 miles of cycling I’d ever done, I was hot, sweaty and extremely tired. A total of 13 hours 40 mins since we departed, we crossed the finish line with supporters lining the streets doing Mexican waves and cheering us on. There’s little time for pit stops when you do the full distance, but it’s a must do just to reach the final feed station – the party station!
A few well-earned beers went down nicely that night! Speaking of Mallorca 312, we’re planning on returning next year to do it for the 5th time in 2022 – but a shorter distance!