Whats it Like?

Ollie Vassie, the 2012 Group Leader, completed his first London to Paris Cycle Challenge for STUBS in 2011, aged just 19.
Here's his story:

Starting at St Pauls

When I first agreed to take part in this cycle challenge, I wasn’t sure if I could do it – let alone how I would do it as I didn’t even own a bike! My rugby season had been cut short a few months before due to a leg injury and as a result my fitness had started to decline. Therefore I was very concerned as to whether or not I would be able to cycle the 286 kilometres.

My training consisted of borrowing a friend’s bike and going out on the road with the guys, and using a stationary bike at home, whilst I saved up for my own road bike. The training went well and I saw my fitness levels improving, and with donations coming in from family and friends, I was even more motivated and determined to complete the cycle challenge.

The day of the cycle challenge arrived very quickly and undoubtedly I was very nervous. Before we set off I crammed any available space on my bike and pockets with sweets and energy bars, afraid of running out of energy. The group was buzzing and we were all eager to get the first day (which turned out to be the hardest) under our belts.

Heading out of London

Cycling away from St Pauls Cathedral I had a huge adrenaline rush, we had finally started! The roads in London were busy and we weren’t used to cycling through such heavy traffic and some parts were stop-start. However, we eventually left the bustling Capital and found ourselves on quieter, longer roads. We made good progress and after a lunch break we carried on before hitting the south downs. This was a very difficult part of the day, with long steep hills to climb, and tight narrow country lanes. Our nerve and fitness held though and we soon enough saw the sea and had a gentle cycle down to the town of Newhaven.

Almost there

The next day I woke up with a sore bum, tight legs and an aching back, and I was only at the start of the second day! However, we were to be cycling along the Avenue Verte, a disused railway track that had been re-surfaced and was now a cycle track. After the ferry crossing from Newhaven to Dieppe, we made good progress and made the most of the quiet and flat Avenue, maintaining a high pace throughout. Leaving the Avenue Verte we carried on, stopping every so often for a well-earned breather. We finally came to the last main road before reaching the hotel. We were very excited until we saw what lay ahead. A very straight, long road, which had numerous “wave” like hills. Reaching the top of one hill we were met with another. We were tired and starting to lose focus. However we had a job to do and we all pulled together and showed great determination, spurring each other on. We felt a huge sense of achievement when we reached the hotel in Gournay en Bray and enjoyed a large dinner prepared for us by the kind staff!

Our destination - the tour Eiffel

The next morning, with our bodies rested from the day before, we set off on the last leg of our journey! The day passed quickly, with only 67 miles to go and high spirits, we cycled through glorious weather and scenery, before beginning to cycle back into another bustling and busy Capital! Overjoyed at the fact that we had made it to Paris, we daringly cycled around the Arc de Triomphe (not recommended!) before touring the Champs Elysee and then finally reaching the finish line – le Tour Eiffel!! We celebrated and took pictures posing with our bikes, feeling extremely proud of ourselves and knowing that what we had done had helped raise money to support our injured servicemen and women. The celebrations continued and we enjoyed a meal and night out together in Paris. With smiles all round (and sore heads!) the next morning, we made our way back to London, knowing we had made a difference.

On reflection, this was an unforgettable experience, and one I would recommend to anyone. I am looking forward to leading the 2012 cycle challenge and I hope that we can raise even more money than the previous year!