The bike

To be told you’ll be riding the 2018 Cervélo R5 eTap is pretty amazing. Having the bike set up for you by a Cervélo mechanic and getting to take it for a test ride pre event was one of our highlights of the trip. Detlev – the mechanic –followed us round the entire time making any tweaks or fixes needed on the bikes.

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Getting started

After a lot of last minute cram training, that among other things saw me riding from my hometown of Bradford-on-Avon to Newport passport office for a last minute expired passport renewal only to be told the same day service is actually a next day service. A 3.30am start complete with a taxi drop off at the wrong location and the subsequent mile long totter in cleats, finally rolling out on the Cervélo R5 in a 50 person peloton immediately made the build-up worthwhile.

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Good weather… for ducks

Because without the terrible – or in this case the torrential rain – we couldn’t have appreciated the glorious two days of weather to come. Perhaps I jinxed it with my optimistic 3:30am application of suncream!

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OK, so there’s no such thing as a ‘good mechanical’ but the distinctive hiss of a rapidly deflating tyre was certainly eased by a mechanic van following the group ready to offer a speedy fix, or spare wheel… and a quick push off to get back to the peloton!

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Getting day one under your belt

I like to break things down into milestones, so getting day one under the belt was the first big tick. Shortly followed by the post ride guilt free meal – another big tick, and a slight loosening of that belt.

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The locals

Well, for the latter two-thirds, at least. I don’t know what they do to their car horns in France, but on the other side of the Channel the sound switches from; impatient slightly aggressive blast, to friendly rather encouraging toot. Then there are the cow bells, and cries of allez, and children running alongside. Every other town had someone applauding, cheering or waving. The cars still swerve, although not to get around you but to move out of your path.

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Watch how a pro does it

Arriving a day after us (I don’t know what took them so long) we got to watch the final stage of the Tour de France in the Trek Segafredo hospitality suite. Based in the hotel on the final corner before the sprint we had fantastic views of the action. You know you have a good view when you’re standing next to a police sharp shooter!

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Oh captain, ride captain!

Donning their stylish Maserati sponsored kit the ride captains policed the group, set the pace, helped out struggling riders, offered advice to those new to group riding and in general ran a very enjoyable ride. They never missed a beat... just a ferry to Calais after a traffic jam and some average speed miscalculations!

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Global event

Brasil, Ecuador, Canada, Germany, USA, South Africa, Israel, Sweden, Poland and even Yorkshire! And that is just the people I met. It was great to ride in such a diverse group and hear the various motivations of people riding. The Hot Chillee London – Paris is a truly global event.

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Traffic free roads

Riding on closed roads is something usually reserved for the professionals. But with motorbike outriders closing every junction along the way, the experience of zipping through the French countryside without those pesky vehicles getting in the way is as close to ‘riding like a pro’ as I’m ever likely to get. Particularly negotiating the Arc de Triomphe, having seen pro riders doing the same in the culmination of many a Tour de France it felt like a huge privilege to actually be able to do the same – and on the bike they’ll be riding next year!

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