Ride to Meet
Gem and Col ride through
France to meet cycling legend Mark Beaumont as he
completes his world-record circumnavigation of the
Our friend Mark Beaumont - "Monty" had been
the world since 5th August 2007. On Feb the 10th, we
realised that he was guaranteed to arrive back in Paris by
Friday the 15th. We hastily bought ferry tickets, booked a hotel
between Dieppe and Paris, got in touch with a friend in Paris,
looked at Google maps and ripped three pages from our French
road atlas [we'll come back to that].
Thursday 14th of February we set out from Bristol around 5:30am to catch the
11am ferry from Newhaven (near Brighton) to Dieppe [170km from Paris]. We
arrived into Dieppe at 4pm local time and had two hours of sunlight to get to
our hotel for the night, in Forges les Eaux, 120km North of Paris.
chilly in Dieppe. Very chilly. I’d managed to leave my lycra knee warmers behind
in Cambridge and so the first hour and a half I was dying from the cold. The
locals thought I looked hilarious, with most people turning and laughing or
pointing. It was so cold we stopped and bought a second pair of gloves each at a
hyper market. This was a good plan! Whilst Gem was inside buying gloves, I put
on all of my remaining clothes to try and retain some heat as the sun had gone
down by this point. It was so cold we struggled to keep our average speed above
25kph [we normally cycle at 28 for this sort of distance!]
it to our hotel soon after and relished the opportunity to change into
non-cycling clothes and warm up with a nice Leffe in the bar. Unfortunately [in
a way] it was Valentines night – Saint Valentin – and so all the restaurants
were booked out except from the most expensive. So we had to endure a marathon
seven course meal lasting three and a half hours with a lot more wine than we
had planned – great meal, shame we had to get up at 6am the next day and ride!
on the road by 7am, after paying the hotelier and staring in amazement at the
locals in the bar sipping their Leffe’s!! Needless to say, it was even colder
than the previous night as the sun had not yet risen and we had to battle to
keep our temperature up let alone our speed. We were now struggling to break
stopped in a nice village around 9am for the first croissants of the trip and
they were very very tasty. We continued on getting slightly warmer, but not by
much – freezing fog is horrible to ride through. The riding at this stage was
lovely, through very agricultural areas with beautiful rolling hills which
helped to keep us warm.
getting reports by this stage that Monty was nearing the finish line and one
[false] report told us that we were likely to miss him! We eventually got
through to Bobby Burt who was in Paris and he told us we were still on target to
get there before Monty, as long as we kept our pace up.
we crashed! Gem slipped on an icy/muddy, off camber roundabout and I had to
ditch my bike to avoid a pile up. We were both unhurt, but my gears suffered a
battering and skipped a bit for the rest of the journey. Battle scars!
navigation had been going really well until we got to the outskirts of Paris.
Then it became apparent that I should really have ripped out the “centre of
Paris” part of the road atlas. I’m not going to go into detail about this part
of the journey, but the gist is as follows:
We know roughly
the direction to go but there isn’t a road going that way.
We take a dual
carriageway because the only other option is a motorway.
directions. Man says straight, straight, right.
This takes us
onto another, faster, more dangerous dual carriageway.
directions. Man says, straight, straight left.
This gets us
onto the fast lane of a 6 lane [Parisian] motorway.
I find this
hilarious. Gem is less impressed.
We see the Arc
I say “it looks
about 2 minutes away.”
15 minutes later
we roll up to the band of Monty supporters.
And so we
arrived! We were told Monty would be along in about 15 minutes. 15 later we are
told 20 minutes. Monty arrives at 3:30pm and an idiot scooter driver gets in the
road. 18,000miles just to get stuck behind a scooter!
quite a media frenzy/emotional moment but the main man still has time to thank
everyone and gave us respect for our “impressive” cycle – what a guy!
Mark to get on with the formalities and met our rocket scientist friend Kevin,
who Gem studied with at ENSICA. We all enjoyed some hot chocolate to warm up,
and some mussels and club sandwich to fill our tummies.
Kev’s for a quick wash and then out to the Radisson SAS in the west of Paris. We
met all the team of race support who had been helping Monty around the globe.
Toasts are said, glasses are raised and pats on the back are delivered.
evening was a very special event. Many kind words and in general a really warm
and happy feel to the night. I should mention Una, Mark’s mum at this point. She
was a real inspiration, masterminding a lot of the logistics from the family
home in Fife. In her own words, this was truly a “parallel journey”.
lovely food was served by the Radisson and some excellent speeches were made. A
letter of congratulations from Prince William was read out, bringing a regal air
to the night.
enjoyed the evening as long as we could until we had to run to catch the last
tube back to Kev’s 5 star pad to catch the best night’s sleep I have had in
years. We awoke to some beautiful sunshine and yummy croissants, pain au
chocolat and pain au raisin. Kevin then took us for a leisurely stroll along the
Seine towards the station. Thanks for everything Kev!
the train to Rouen and had a nice lunch in the sun before setting out for the
final 60k back to Dieppe. It turns out there is a massive hill on the road out
of Rouen and also Dieppe is not sign posted from there. Luckily, when Gem went
to ask for directions in a small shop, not only did the shopkeeper photocopy a
map for us, but one of the customers jumped into their shiny Audi and escorted
us to the best road. What excellent service the French provide!
gave us some of the best riding of the trip, with excellent sunshine, lovely
green countryside and the end in sight! Unfortunately I made one final
navigational booboo and we took an unnecessary 6km detour over a huge hill.
Sorry gem! We enjoyed one more Leffe and then scooted back to the ferry port to
get back to Newhaven and then arrive into Bristol for 3am. What an excellent
Fastest circumnavigation of the globe by bicycle, covering a distance of 18,297
miles in 194 days and 17 hours. Well done Mark!
cycling, Mark was raising money for the following charities:
Cyrenians, Rainer, Tusk and Community Action Nepal. To donate to these
charities, please visit Mark’s