Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Hotchillee London to Paris 2014

London to Paris 2014
June sees the annual HotChillee London to Paris event and I was fortunate enough to get an invitation to ride again by Skoda  to ride as part of their team (big thanks).  

This will be the third time that I've participated in the three day event, previous years riding in Group 4 (2013) and Group 6 (2012), you can read about those experiences by clicking the 'London to Paris' tag in the tag cloud to the right of this article.

In 2014, decision was to train to participate in Group 3, which has an average speed of 27km/h (17mph) for the three days.  I'd focused my training between Jan-May on this; focusing on aerobic capacity and hillier rides to develop the engine needed to sustain this average across the ride and the good news is that my fitness was spot on.  

The key observation was on the climbs I ended up mid-group, with riders who benefit from smaller frames, lighter weight or simply physically stronger, whipping up the bigger climbs much more quickly.  Walking away from the event a little voice in my head was telling me to get to work on dropping some weight, so that's the next target.

Rolling Roads

As usual, organisation was exceptional on the event with all the small details taken care of for such a large event.  The big upside is the rolling roadblock from the moment you leave Imber court in Surrey all the way to the Eiffel tower.  Highly organised groups of motorcycle escort riders are constantly whizzing past at high speeds to stop traffic for the peloton as you roll through roundabouts and junctions, it's quite a buzz to ride in that way.

Each year, there is always a character in the French motorcycle escorts.  This year, we had a rider who had a huge Honda Gold Wing type bike and he had a full PA system on it which he'd blast out as we rode along.  Key moments were hearing tunes like the 'theme tune from Rocky' as we rode up and crested a climb, made for some truly memorable and hilarious moments.

Anyhow, onto the day stages and some key bullets captured at the end of each day.

Day one - London to Folkestone (161KM/100miles)

London to Paris 2014 Stage One Ascent Profile
  • Nice weather which made for great riding conditions.
  • Peloton was slightly better drilled than G4 on day one but still messy at times with less experienced group riders moved up and down the pack causing a lot of disruption at the back of the peloton.
  • Poor road conditions leading to constant peloton movement as people cried 'hole'.  Being near the back is painful on the first day as nervousness, poor group riding experience and road conditions leads to start/stopping all day long if you're near the back.
  • Climb of the day was 'The Wall' where the KoM was held (see the ride stripe on the graph).  Went up it much quicker this year than last year.
  • Seeing the 'drone' TV camera flying above us was pretty cool, although group one riders got a little bit too distracted and ended up having a crash.
  • Hilarious dinner where the choice of meal was Meat or Fish accompanied with Mash or Pasta + Natural Yoghurt (note, meat or fish was unspecified).
  • Had a nice quiet hotel room in Calais (last year a rock festival was on) and slept really well.
  • Fellow rider Matt Exley from Team Skoda riding in G1 retained the amateur yellow jersey.
My Garmin Ride stats:
  • Mileage- 104 miles/166km
  • Ride Time -6hrs 04mins
  • Ascent - 5,725ft/1,714M
  • Avg. Speed - 17.1mph/27km/h
  • Avg. HR - 146bpm
  • Calories (estimate) - 3,332
  • Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 55 (Medium) 

Day 2 - Calais to Amiens (170KM/106 miles)

London to Paris 2014 Stage Two Ascent Profile
  • A dry morning which was welcome.  Previous two years have had poor weather on day two, particularly 2013.   Had a natter with Triple Crown winner Stephen Roche as we readied for departure.
  • You know you are in France straight away due to the driver courtesy and superb road conditions. No more crys of 'hole' - just decent roads to ride on and drivers who pull right over when they see the peloton coming.  Stark contrast to the UK.
  • Peloton positioning at the front became the big issue to prevent the concertina effect at the back.  A big bunch of riders from the iCAP team were determined to roll out of each stop on the front, so some fun had trying to disrupt that.
  • Saying that we had a nightmare exit after lunch on day two and were last out.  The front put the hammer down and we went 45kmh for first 5km or so and it was hard work as the peloton ebbed and flowed trying to keep up, it was brutal on the back as brakes went on then hard accelerations followed.  Still all good fun.
  • Thankfully as the climbs arrived the peloton blew up my fellow G3 Team Skoda rider ' - Tony 'Top Guns' Byers - and I were able to move up the group back into a decent position.
  • Soon after setting out, it rained and we had a succession of punctures in some key sections.  At one point we were slowed then held at the side of the road in a downpour whilst the mechanics dealt with the nightmare scenario of multiple flats at the same time.  Everyone was cold by this point and getting going again was quite tough.
  • The mad French outriders did their bit today, playing suicide with oncoming vehicles and keeping the group going wth the music.  Eye of the Tiger - Yes!
  • There were a couple of crashes in the group, mainly down to slippery roads.  One rider was hurt and taken to hospital but returned to finish the event.  Concentration can be easily lost in a large group.
  • The peloton slowed down a lot in last 20km due to riders off back which meant our average speed dropped as ride captains worked hard to keep people in touch with the group.
  • The leg massage in the evening was agony!  Still no pain, no gain.
My Garmin Ride stats: 
  • Mileage- 104 miles/166km
  • Ride Time -6hrs 09mins
  • Ascent - 5,269ft/1,606M
  • Avg. Speed - 16.8mph/26.9km/h
  • Avg. HR - 135bpm
  • Calories (estimate) - 2,861
  • Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 50 (Medium) 

Day 3 - Amiens to Paris (170KM)

London to Paris 2014 Stage Three Ascent Profile
  • For many the first 100km of day three was one of the highlights of the three days.  The peloton not only worked well, but rode well.  We absolutely whizzed through the first 100km with an average of 21mph/33.6kmh, taking advantage of the terrain.  It's moments like this that you get to experience the impact of a peloton in protecting from wind.
  • Having positioned well in the front of the peloton, I jumped on the front for around 10km and boy did I know it at that pace in the wind.  Very happy to go back in the bunch afterwards I can tell you.  
  • The peloton was slowed heavily around the 100km mark as the groups were catching each other up and due to the way the road closures work, you have to be slowed to hit a specific time window.  It led to our average speed dropping for the whole day, particularly when combined with the 50km procession into Paris which ambles along at 12mph-14mph with such a big peloton.
  • As we went up the climb of the day (red stripe on the profile pic) the now infamous French outrider rode by me with the Van Halen track - 'Jump' playing full blast.  What a moment!  He managed to trump that with 'God save the Queen' as we rolled into the lunch stop.  Quality.
  • After lunch the heavens opened and we rode in Paris in heavy rain, a far cry from the two previous years in beautiful sunshine.  It led to lots of punctures on the route into Paris and some slippery cobbles on the Champs Elysees.
  • As we rolled towards the Eiffel Tower the Skoda team all combined (12 riders) and we rolled in as a single unit, rider Matt Exley taking the amateur yellow jersey for the three day GC in group 1.
  • From there it was slug a bottle of champagne, get a medal, load the bike on the DHL truck and off to the hotel to get our wet kit off, have a bath and then party!  Another L2P in the bag.
My Garmin Ride stats:
  • Mileage- 108 miles/172km
  • Ride Time - 6hrs 50mins 
  • Ascent - 4,144ft/1,263M
  • Avg. Speed - 15.8mph/25.2km/h
  • Avg. HR - 134bpm
  • Calories (estimate) - 2,720
  • Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 38 (Flat/Medium) 

My Garmin Ride stats (For the three day event Group 3)
  • Mileage- 315 miles/504km
  • Ride Time - 19hrs 04mins 
  • Ascent - 15,138ft/4,614M
  • Avg. Speed - 16.5mph/26.4km/h
  • Avg. HR - 138bpm(Aerobic Endurance)
  • Calories (estimate) - 8,913
  • Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 48 (Flat/Medium) 

If you're planning to ride the HotChillee London to Paris event, here's my quick summary and tips: -
  • You'll have a great time, meet lots of new people and remember the experience of riding into Paris in a huge peloton forever.
  • Training is key.  London to Paris is not a flat route as many people often remark.  You have over 15k feet/4.6K M of ascent to do over the three days and the biggest hold up for the event is people that haven't trained to go up hills.
  • Nutrition planning is key.  You get access to food on the event via a good breakfast, lunch stops and evening dinner.  You might not need as much energy food as you think and you should have completed two or three hundred mile events in advance of riding the event to gauge what you need as fuel.  People often carry too much in my experience.
  • Get your bike sorted technically.  Lots of mechanicals can occur en route through people rocking up with poorly maintained bikes.  Put on new tyres, a new chain and get your bike serviced before you ride.
  • Be honest about your ride speed when selecting a group.   You should do your training on similar ascent profiles to the L2P to get a real gauge of your average, it's no good training on flat roads or you will end up being in the wrong group.  As you can see from my consolidated stats, it's very close to the expected average and would have been spot on 27kmh if the peloton was not slowed on day 3.  You need to be training with an ascent profile of 50 ft per mile on average.  If you ignore this you'll get the 'spot of shame' as a ride captain demotes you to a lower group.  The speed is an average so you'll be riding faster than that on the flat stuff (22mph/35km/h) when combined with the climbs.
  • Book your bike onto the Purple Harry bike cleaning service.  Each morning your steed is spangly clean giving you more time to rest, eat or socialise.  It saves time and means you roll out ready for action, particularly good if it's been wet the day before and your bike is full of road debris.
  • Get a massage if you can at the end of each day.  Specialists from The TriTouch are on hand to ease your aching muscles.  It hurts like hell when your legs are sore but always does the job when you get back on the bike.  They can get busy so make it your priority to be on the list.
  • Say 'hello' first when you ride with someone.  The ride can be very sociable if you start a conversation and you get to meet some really interesting people.  Had loads of great chats about bikes plus work, with lots of banter on top.
  • Book on the after ride dinner and awards night.  HotChillee always put on a good party and it's a great to blow off some steam with your fellow riders, as you can see from my pic below picking up the Champagne for amateur yellow jersey winner - Matt Exley.  Went to bed at a reasonably sensible time ready for the early train back to London the next day.
You can see the video summary of the event below.  I'd like to thank Skoda for the invitation to ride with them and for all they continue to do investing in all areas of cycling from the UK scene through to the world tour.  The sport needs committed sponsors at all levels and they continue to invest heavily. 

London Paris 2014 - Event Video from HotChillee on Vimeo.

Big credit to the photographers on the event for the use of the pictures.  You can see the individual decks taken by each of the photographers by clicking on the links below: -

1 comment:

  1. The pics of fields with bikers racing in the background are amazing! If I owned them, I would love to enlarge and mount them in a frame and hang them on the living room wall.