01 Jun 2016



CEO Simon Lester recently completed the London to Paris cycle in aid of two fantastic charities. Here is Simon's grueling account of his phenomenal achievement...

"After last minute preparations, final checks and safety briefings, we departed London at 07.00 last Thursday morning. The pressure was on to get to Folkstone in time for the Euro Shuttle to Calais the same afternoon and after a cold start we were bathed in sunshine all the way through the picturesque Kent villages where locals came out to greet us and cheer us en route. We experienced riding in a tight pack with 5 groups of around 60 riders in each group. A full support team accompanied us with each group having its own medic, bike mechanics, ride captains and best of all, 6 motorbike outriders who managed to maintain a rolling road block the entire way! The pace was really quick on the first day averaging 28kph for the entire 120k so we were all left wondering how we would cope the next day with 180k to cover. Each day, (or Stage as it is known in the cycling world), included some timed race sections and timed steep climbs just to spice things up a bit, but overall we coped well and the Ride Captains were happy. I experienced my first puncture at 80k which I reckoned would earn me about a 15 minute unscheduled and welcomed rest, sadly the race mechanic fixed it in about 90 seconds and I was on my way before I could eat a wine gum!


Day 2 was another early start rolling at 07.00 for the 180k to Amiens. This was always billed as the toughest day but on reflection I’m not sure I agree. Thankfully the weather was kind with near to perfect conditions all the way. Our group was now used to each other and the atmosphere was almost carnival-like to begin with. We had a large group of Brazilians singing away all morning which helped. I experienced the power of the peloton on the race section where we were tight and fast for 20k hitting a top speed of 51kph on the downhills. In a peloton you really have to trust the guy in front, behind and either side of you as they are never more than 3 feet from your wheels and at that speed it was utterly terrifying, but exhilarating at the same time! At the 100k point my lower back went into spasm and the medics worked hard to numb the pain and strap up my back. This became the ritual for every stop after that and the signpost for Amiens was a very welcome sight, we finally got to our hotel at 6.15pm so a very long day indeed.


Day 3 was the last 180k to Paris. We were rolling again by 07.00 and there was always so much to do in the hour before departure. Filling water bottles, checking tires and gears, arranging the day’s nutrition and deciding on the right gear for the weather was all part of the early morning ritual. I also learned the importance of opening the energy bars BEFORE we left so that I could eat them on the go rather than just feel them as I did on the first day! Again the weather was perfect despite the forecasts telling us it was going to be a very wet day. All the groups met 40k outside Paris for our final lunch stop and then the final ride as one huge peloton into the centre of Paris. At this point spirits were high, we were on the final straight, the hard miles behind us and now we could just enjoy the last 2 hours, what could possibly go wrong……………!


The call came to assemble for departure at 2.45pm. All the motorbikes that would clear our path to Paris were ready, engines revving and lights flashing. Suddenly, the loudest clap of thunder I have ever heard came crashing all around us. We reached for our rain jackets and prepared for the worst. I asked the Ride Captain if the departure would be delayed and he just laughed, so we all laughed back, although this was no laughing matter! The next two hours were an experience I will never forget, the storms in a weird way added to the excitement (and the danger) but it was our moment of glory and nothing could dampen our spirits!


The French know how to organize a cycle event and we had to pinch ourselves as we went round the now car-free Champs Elysees, all traffic held back in our honour. The wet cobbles presented us with our final challenge but we were enjoying the moment too much to really care. My focus was now on being able to find my family who had travelled from London, waited patiently in the rain and were ready to receive us, cameras in hand. Suddenly, I picked them out and screamed their names with all the remaining energy I had left as we rolled past in procession to the finish line. The rain disguised my tears of joy and relief and I couldn’t wait to cycle back to the hotel afterwards where the welcoming party was waiting.


Having trained for nine months to complete this challenge, I wasn’t about to take off my hard earned medal so I wore it to dinner that night, much to the amusement of everyone in the restaurant! I had trained meticulously for the physical challenge but had not given any consideration to the mental challenge which in some ways was tougher. Moments of self-doubt combined with extreme exhaustion made this an emotional experience for many, the feeling of euphoria at the finish was understandable. More importantly, with everyone's help we have raised almost £10,000.00 for two fantastic deserving charities and I can assure you that all the support will really make a difference. Thank you for all messages of support and encouragement and for those who dug deep when it really mattered.


A big thank you to my cycle trainer Jay McStay of M1 Performance who skillfully planned each of the 150 training rides, I would never have completed this without you. Thanks to the Hot Chilli Ride Captains and crew who were incredibly attentive and caring throughout and a big thank you to my fantastic riding partners Nigel, Paul & Warren who made the experience so enjoyable, love you guys!


Finally, thank you to my amazing wife and family, including of course my parents, who have been so supportive and were there to greet me on the finish line, it meant everything!

With sincere thanks and appreciation.

Simon Lester"

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