byNicola Cowman & Muriel Richardson
The Paris2Nice cycle challenge takes place from September 15th – 20th. Muriel and Nicola from Carne’s Dublin office are taking on this 6 day challenge to raise money for Chernobyl Children International and Laura Lynn Children’s Hospice, two charities that are particularly close to the wider Carne Group. If you would like to support their endeavours and support these two fantastic charities, please visit the Carne GoFundMe page.
Back to the Beginning
Our journey really began last April when we signed up to the challenge, bought bikes, and set out a training schedule for the months ahead. The long hours in the saddle over days, weeks and months, have all lead to today, when we fly out to Paris to take on the challenges that lie ahead.
Friday 14th September – The Calm Before the Storm
"Team Carne" lands safely in Paris. After picking up our bikes, which were flown out earlier in the week, we get settled in. In the afternoon we join some of the other cyclists in our group for a spot of sightseeing. This seems easy so far!
Day 1: Saturday September 15th, Paris to Montargis 125km
Our journey begins
Day 1 and everyone in our group is in high spirits and looking forward to the journey ahead. The route takes us out of Paris through small villages. Our destination is Montargis, nicknamed the “Venice of Gatinais” owing to its 131 bridges.
Day 2: Sunday September 16th, Montargis to Nevers 145km
Sore Hands and Feet
Day 2 takes us deeper into the Loire valley where we cycle through small villages towards Sancerre where we stop for lunch. The route involves lots of hills but we arrive into Sancerre on a real high, being the first two in our group to cross the line. After a lovely lunch in Sancerre we hit the road again encountering more afternoon hills. We reach our destination, the town of Nevers, after 7.5 hours in the saddle. Both of us are feeling the effects at the end of a long day, with sore hands and feet.
Day 3: Monday September 17th, Montelimar to Carpentras 90km
If we could ‘switch-back’ time
We are up at 5:30am for a bus journey to the start line in order to bypass the busy city of Lyon, arriving in Provence at Montelimar. We experience switchbacks for the first time ever and cycle 95km in 32 degrees of heat! Our legs and bodies ache again at the end of a long day... and tomorrow is meant to be even harder!
A long day in 32 degree heat
Day 4: Tuesday September 18th, Carpentras to Aix-En-Provence 125km/164km
When the going gets tough...
This is the hilliest day as the route heads on a wonderful quiet road over the Col De Murs to bring us to the ochre red coloured town of Rousillon, where Samuel Beckett spent the Second World War. Our destination is Aix-en-Provence - a truly lovely town that has been linked with many great artists. However, to get there we encounter our toughest day, with huge climbs and very challenging descents. Lunch brings a welcome reprieve with fabulous views overlooking Provence.
Day 5: Wednesday September 19th, Aix-En-Provence to St. Maxime 127km
An Uphill Battle
We have a fabulous day taking in some wonderful scenery en route to St Maxime on the shores of the Riviera. The route involves ‘climbing’ from early morning to late evening and we are almost 8 hours in the saddle! Our group leader Claire guides us through the route. Claire happens to be the sister of one of our colleagues in Carne, John Skelly, which makes us think of our comfortable office back in Dublin. Nicola suffers her first fall but is soon back on the bike and battling uphill once again.
Day 6: Thursday September 20th, St. Maxime to Nice 110km
The Final Frontier
As we set out on our last day we cycle along the coast and then head inland through the magnificent Cap Esterel overlooking the Mediterranean. Our last few miles are along the glamorous resorts of Cannes and Antibes, with wonderful beaches. Then onto the famous Promenade des Anglais and into the wonderful resort of Nice. We finish on the Promenade des Anglais and are greeted by the Paris2Nice welcoming team – it’s a feeling of elation and exhaustion. And then we raise a glass to toast each other’s success!
We had a fantastic team of fellow cyclists which made a huge difference. And we got to know each other very well, sharing more information about our bodies than would normally be the case with people you just met.... sore bottoms were the topic of a lot of conversations! We laughed our way up and down mountains! More mountains and hills than we care to remember but coming into Nice was surreal, a huge amount of emotion and pride for completing it.
Bodies are sore today but the aches will heal in the days ahead. As for the overall experience.. When you put yourself in a position of unknown, you learn things about yourself that are exciting and hugely rewarding.
If you would like to support Muriel and Nicola by making a donation, you can do so here.