Day 1

After we got to the hotel in Paris we got checked in & were given another label for our bike, this label instead of listing which hotel we are in each night just has our name on and is attached under the seat so as people ride up behind you they know who you are. I found my room and am sharing for the week with another Simon, which as we have ridden together today has provoked various comments already about seeing Simon in stereo etc.
Both the American & Canadian wounded guys have designed commemorative cycling kit & Wayne from Wounded Warriors of Canada was soon doing a roaring trade! After a few beers to acclimatise & an opportunity to meet / renew friendships we were piped into a function room at the hotel for a briefing. We are really fortunate to have 2 serving British Army musicians with us making up the ceremonial party for each days wreath laying. The rule with the piper is though if you hear him playing and aren’t stood beside him you need to be as something is about to happen!
We had briefings from Shaun & Jo from The Help for Heroes challenges team and from Discover Adventure the company that support these rides ( more about that later) then Bryn spoke about what the charity is doing in terms of supporting capital projects like Tedworth House & Headley Court, supporting other charities including canine partners, combat stress & others & individual support, Bryn then asked someone else to get up & speak & John Alan Butterworth who did very first ride in 2009 and is back this year to ride it with fellow Paralympic silver medallist Helen Scott. Both Bryn who mentioned last weeks tragic event at Woolwich & John-Alan just confirmed what a great charity this is. After a few more beers& having the chance to chat with some of the guys from Canada& the US it was time to head to bed ready for the big send off.
After some key related difficulties this morning I has a heart breakfast of croissants & tea before we headed down to the underground car park to collect our bikes which had been driven over from London by DA.
A couple of miles in Paris’s rush hour saw us cross over the Place de la Concord , used every year for the final stage of the Tour De France cross the Seine and arrive at L’Hopital des Invalides which does exactly what it says on the tin. Well it used to. Designed in the 1700’s it was a hospital for serving soldiers injured in France’s wars, it predates our own Royal Hospital & was used as model for it.
After a brief musical interlude from a French military band whose most popular number proved to be Delilah by Tom Jones!
We were very fortunate to have HRH the Duchess of Cornwall to set us off and she spoke to a good number of the riders before the start. After setting off we negotiated the Paris traffic again this time with help from the Paris police on motorbikes! It was about then that it started to rain, and it rained, and it rained. Despite the best efforts of just about every cycling clothing manufacturer we soon all ended up very wet but no matter how wet I was the guys on the handbikes are literally inches off the floor.
The lunch stop was very welcome and as always the food was excellent but despite the food it soon got very cold standing around so were soon back on our bikes and pedalling again. We rode for a spell this afternoon with Ben who was using a handbike and after using just a few of 20 gears his bike had soon reached the top and began what became a very rapid descent at speeds touch 40 miles an hour. The handbike a can really shift. A few waters stops & a briefing from the fantastic guys from the Guild of Battlefield Tour Guides who really help being the history to life including this afternoon talking about a WW1 battle where 3 VC’a were awarded. If the tour guides hadn’t tween there we would never have known. We even managed the first cemetery visit to see where one of the VC recipients & 17 comrades are buried.
The last stop today was at the Armistice clearing for a wreath laying ceremony but right now my eyes and closing and we have a 6 am breakfast call before 88 miles to ride tomorrow so for now I’ll sign off. I’ll update the post with pictures & web links when the wifi is working properly.
Thanks
Simon

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