The cycle of a lifetime: Paris2Nice
By Team World Vision Ireland
Day 1 of Paris2Nice completed! The 9 members of Team World Vision rendezvoused in Paris yesterday evening with teams representing charities from all over Ireland. 64 nervous riders in total!
The morning started with breakfast at 7am and by 8 we were all on our bikes ready to start the 750km to Nice.
Today’s stage took us from Paris to Montargis. A relatively flat 136km cycle which took us past the Eiffel Tower, through the city and then due south. It was a good opportunity to get used to cycling in a big group and at 28 degrees with no wind, perfect cycling weather.
We arrived in Montargis just before 5pm, tired and saddle sore but very glad to get day one under the belt. Looking forward to dinner and a good night’s sleep... although the hotel has agreed to put on the All-Ireland Final replay, so who knows what’s in store!
Day two of Paris2Nice took us from Montargis to the town of Nevers. At 144kms it is the longest day of the challenge and with heat of over 30 degrees we felt every single one of them! The morning was a fast spin out through sleepy villages with almost no-one in the roads but ourselves. The 64 riders participating in the cycle are broken into 6 groups of between 10 and 11 people, each with a guide. Team World Vision is split between Team 1 and Team 4 so we’re keeping the side up!
As it was our second day together in our groups everyone is getting to know each other better and there is a great feel-good factor developing. There are riders representing charities from all over Ireland, each with their own reason for taking up the challenge. The highlight of the day was lunch which we ate in the beautiful village of Sancerre. Perched on top of a hill overlooking its world famous vineyards, it was worth the steep climb in the scorching heat, even after 90kms on the bikes!
The rest of the day brought us further south through a lovely rolling landscape of farms, vineyards and sunflower fields, but with a few nasty climbs at the end just to make sure we didn’t get too comfortable!
Day 3 started in the dark with a 5.30am wake-up call! After a bus ride to avoid Lyon we took on our first Tour de France style switchback climb up the Col de Columbier. There was a real sense of nervousness in the group, particularly as the temperature continued to rise as we got closer to the beginning the of the climb.
It was very steep, and it was very hot, but Team WV put in an amazing effort and every one of them made it up and over the top! The pain of the climb was rewarded with an amazing downhill spin into the beautiful village of Grignan with its medieval castle and narrow winding streets.
The second half of the day brought us deep into the vineyards and for the first time we got a glimpse of the infamous Mont Ventoux. This mountain is a category one climb which often features as one of the toughest days in the Tour de France. Each year on Paris2Nice riders have the option of taking on this daunting challenge on Day 4. It is 22km of constant climbing with no let up on gradients which reach 12%.
And if you thought that wasn’t hard enough there is a further 110km to ride to our next destination after the descent...
Let’s see what happens tomorrow!
Day 4 started an hour earlier than the main Paris2Nice group for five members of the WV team. They decided to take on the mighty Mont Ventoux. Nicknamed ‘the beast of Provence’ and with a relentless 22km climb up to 1,912 meters this mountain has gained notoriety as one of the toughest but ‘must do’ climbs for many cyclists.
After a quieter than usual breakfast and a pep talk from the P2N guides our brave teammates left Carpentras for the 15km cycle to the village of Bedouin where the climb begins.
The rest of the team had a very welcome extra hour in bed before setting off on what is arguably the most scenic, and maybe the second toughest stage of Paris2Nice. Carpentras to Aix-en-Provence.
With around 125kms each day snack stops are a very important part of each stage. They give riders the chance to refuel on bananas, jellies and protein bars, fill up the water bottles and take a short break from the saddle.
After a tough morning climb our first snack stop today was in the impossibly perfect village of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse with its cliffs towering over a crystal clear river bordered by small cafes, a medieval church and the smell of fresh bread.
A further 30kms of mostly climbing brought us further south into Provence and to the hilltop village of Bonnieux. It’s panoramic views of Mont Ventoux made us wonder how our teammates were getting in the other side of the valley.
An incredible descent down through a steep gorge had us heading for home and after one last long drag (climb) we arrived at our destination, Aix en Provence. If you ever get the chance to go here, do. It’s a gem of a small old university city with town squares, fountains, and bustling narrow streets.
After we’d parked our bikes, showered and were heading out to dinner, we were greeted by five huge smiles cycling up to the hotel. Exhausted but elated, they had conquered Ventoux. Chappeau!!
Today was probably the toughest day so far. At 127kms it wasn’t the longest day or didn’t have the highest climbs, but after the exertions of yesterday everything hurt, and energy levels were low!
We all had dinner in the old town of Aix-en-Provence last night, but the cobwebs were blown away with an early morning very steep climb out of the city.
The magical scenery and extra coffee stop mid-morning perked everyone up again and got us going.
An outdoor picnic style lunch fuelled us up for the second half of the day, which was needed as there were a few more hills to climb before we spotted the Mediterranean for the first time in the horizon. It felt great! We haven’t reached our destination yet, but we are very close. We stay in St. Maxime tonight and tomorrow’s last stage will take us back inland before the final stretch to Nice.
The magnificent weather we’ve had so far may be coming to an end though. An ominous forecast for heavy rain is due.... fingers crossed!
Team World Vision did it! At 16.30 today they crossed the line on the Promenade Des Anglais in Nice after 762 long hard kilometres. There were some tears, medals and some very sore legs!
The last morning started with a beautiful ride out of Sainte-Maxime along the Cote D’Azure but all too quickly turned inland again and up one of the steepest ascents of the week.
Once we were over the top, we had a lovely spin down the other side and into the Esterel nature reserve which is a stunning red rock landscape that would remind you of Australia or the Grand Canyon. Our last climb of Paris2Nice was up to the top of the park and from there we had amazing views of the Mediterranean and the towns that stretch all the way to Nice.
After lunch we took the coast road through Cannes, Antibes, Juan Les Pins, Cannes Sur Mer until we finally arrived at our goal, the Promenade Des Anglais, where friends and families who had flown over specially were there to greet us. Quite an emotional moment.
Mercifully the rain and thunderstorm that was threatening all week to greet us on our last day never materialized and we were welcomed in radiant sunshine.
So now the cycling is over, and the war stories will be told over our celebration dinner tonight. A huge thank you to each one of our amazing team World Vision. You are all amazing and have raised over €20,000 so far with still more coming in. Congratulations and well done!
We’ll be dining it all again next year so let us know if you’d like to take on the Paris2Nice 2020 Challenge!