Four years ago The London-Paris was an unknown entity in my world, my introduction came off the back of an idea I'd been mulling over for a while - to ride from London down to the Pyrenees' to compete in the Etape. Being both logistically and navigationally challenged, these ventures are usually best left to someone else to organise.
When a club mate posted this idea on our club forum, I jumped at the opportunity, with the first part of the journey being The London-Paris 2008. While we weren't going to cover every mile from London to Lourdes, we took a large chunk out of the country on our bikes. We rode for 7 days, 3 of which were part of The L2P. It was a shock going from the protection of a controlled peloton where all you needed to think of was turning the pedals and not dropping off the wheel in front of you, to pedaling for hours on the front of a three up time trial. The highlight of our little jaunt to the Pyrenees' was stumbling upon a Michelin Star restaurant in a remote village. We stopped for a 4-course lunch in the middle of an 180km ride, washed down, as one should, with some lovely red wine. What followed was a 40-degree ride along a dirt road before we found the main road south. Imagine riding into a hairdryer for 3 hours with fois gras, steak and goats cheese churning away in your stomach. When we finally agreed to call it a day, I insisted on riding into the next town to find a cool cafe with an ice cold Coca Cola before I would get into the car. The L2P was the beginning of a great journey, both of which gave a taste of the Tour de France. This year L2P is going to be the end of a journey, one in which I hope to raise money for UK Youth, one of The L2P elected charities. At the end of May, the 29th to be exact, the pro riders will cycle their final stage in Milan, having raced 3496km over the length and breadth of Italy, a double ascent of Mount Etna, grinding up the Zoncolan and getting a good dusting on the Strada Bianca of the Colle delle Finestre. On that very same day, a group of us will be tracing the route of the 2011 Giro d'Italia, riding all 3496km in 21 days. When everyone else steps off their bike in Milan, their journey will be over, for me I still have a few more stages to finish.
After what I imagine will be 3 days of eating, sleeping, followed by more eating and sleeping, my bike will be on the start line for The L2P 2011 to take in the last 520km of my 4000kms in under a month. Why didn't I call it a day in Milan? You can ask me on the way to Paris, I'm sure by then I'll have a very clear answer to that question. You can follow my progress on http://racingwoman.wordpress.com and if you would like to invest in the future of our children (even if it is the cost of one bottle of wine), my fundraising page for UK Youth can be found here: http://www.justgiving.com/Peta-McSharry0