Yvonne cycles from CAPITAL to CAPITAL

23 September 2011
The Capital to Capital cycle challenge team arrive in Paris
Our CAPITAL to CAPITAL team cycled 320km from London to Paris as part of an amazing fundraising challenge. Senior Events Coordinator at Children with Cancer UK, Yvonne joined the team.

In 2004, Yvonne was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).  She joined the Children with Cancer UK team while still being treated for leukaemia. Thankfully, she completed her treatment and is now in remission. Yvonne now looks after our trekking and cycling adventures and everyone who takes part in these fundraising adventures - and thought she'd give it a go herself!

Yvonne's cycling challenge"I was asked to promote a bespoke event for the charity - the CAPITAL to CAPITAL Cycle. We needed to recruit a team of people and cycle with them from London to Paris in September 2011. This in itself was a challenge for me but one that I was very excited about.

Cycling has never been something I had been interested in, not since I was a child anyway. I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was in my teens and I didn’t even own a bike. Cycling has become popular in recent years and London to Paris as an open challenge for the charity was very successful.

After months of perseverance and persuasion, I had a team of 25 Children with Cancer UK supporters about to embark on what would certainly be one of the toughest challenges of my life.

Day one - 73 miles to Dover The first day was certainly the most difficult. We were to cycle 73 miles from Bexleyheath, Kent, to the Port of Dover.

All throughout my correspondence with the team, I had emphasised the importance of training and day one certainly proved that training is necessary. We also learnt what the word undulating really meant – extremely hilly!

Pete, our tour leader and Ian our UK driver, set off in the car 10 minutes before us to start putting up the arrows which would direct us to Paris over the next three days.

Ilan, our mechanic, would always be behind us in the van making sure we got to where we were going. He'd also be there in case of any bike emergencies or to give us tips to help us get the most out of our cycling experience.

The weather remained on our side although it did look like it was going to pour with rain at any moment. We stopped twice before lunch, which was in Wye at a lovely village pub.

We continued on and tackled some more very long and winding hills and lovely English country lanes until we reached our final snack stop before we reached Dover. From here we could see the sea and this was where I realised what I had just achieved.

Knowing that there was only seven miles of 73 left was an amazing feeling.

It had been a long, hard day but the sense of achievement far outweighed it all. Day one was the day that was worrying me the most. We just had to get to Dover; we had a ferry to catch. If any of us was struggling then we would have to sit in the van that was following at the back of the group as there was no way we could miss that ferry crossing.

Cycling in to Dover and seeing the top of the P&O ferry through some buildings was a relief. It had been a long, hard day but the sense of achievement far outweighed it all.

We had to cycle on to the ferry and off at Calais where we were met by torrential downpours. This made it more difficult as not only were we cycling on the wrong side of the road, but we could barely see anything and we were extremely tired.

We eventually met the coach that would take us to Dieppe where we would be setting off on day two.

Day twoWe woke up to grey, drizzly weather but a lovely wholesome breakfast, which would set us up for a shorter, much more relaxing day of just 54 miles.

We were told that the day would feature fewer hills and be a lot easier, which was a nice prospect for us all. Christian, our French driver, set off in front of us to begin signposting where we were heading.

The rain lasted until just after lunchtime but despite this the day did feel much more relaxed as we weren’t under any time constraints. We passed lots of pretty traditional French homes and I noticed that no two houses were the same.

There were also a lot of dogs, most of which didn’t seem to like cyclists as they barked quite aggressively, from behind fences every time we cycled past! It was very picturesque and exactly what I imagined French countryside to be like, having only ever visited Paris before.

We were told that there wouldn’t be as many hills but we seemed to go up and down quite a few throughout the day which we weren’t expecting. This didn’t spoil the day however, as the atmosphere and the surroundings were too nice for anything to ruin it. They were by no means as steep and as long as the previous day, but there were definitely undulations a plenty!

The day ended, after climbing quite a big hill, at a hotel in Gourney-en- Bray. The weather had turned warm and sunny and it was a lovely positive end to a very pleasant day.

We had done over half of the journey and we knew that there was just one day left before we reached our ultimate destination in Paris.

That evening after dinner, I spoke about the charity and it reminded us all why we were there and what the months of fundraising and preparation would mean for children with cancer. It gave everyone the motivation they would need for the third and final day.

Day threeWaking up knowing that months and months of organisation, training and preparation was finally going to become a reality, and that we were going to arrive under the Eiffel Tower on Monday 12th September, left me emotional and extremely excited

I had honestly never expected to cycle the whole way to Paris. But I knew I hadn’t made it just yet as there were another 70 miles to go. I went in to the lobby to wait for the team before breakfast.

I looked out of the glass doors and all I could see was the trees blowing around and I could hear gusts of winds. This worried me as cycling in wind is never an easy task.

We set off at 7am, while it was still quite dark. It was Monday morning so the roads were due to be slightly busier due to work traffic. We coped fine though and before long, we were back on to country lanes, which in any other weather condition would have been a dream.

Day three was going to be tough before weather came in to the equation. We had to cycle 19 miles before our first snack stop, then another 17 mile and then a further 7 miles before we even got to lunch. Factor in 35mph head winds and 50mph gusts from the side on open planes, and it all gets much harder!

There were certain points when I thought that I could walk faster than I was able to cycle due to the winds but I decided to persevere and it paid off. Hills I didn’t think I would be able to get up, I did and so did the rest of the team thanks to the camaraderie and encouragement from everyone throughout the day.

We were told that the closer we got to Paris the busier the roads would become - and they did. It was quite manic as we were arriving around the evening rush hour. The roads were indeed foreign to us all and thankfully the stronger members of the team all looked after and protected those who weren’t feeling so confident, like me!

We were due to stop 3 miles before the Tower to change in to our Children with Cancer UK t-shirts. But before we reached here, we started to glimpse the Eiffel Tower through buildings. The excitement certainly started to mount.

Cycling along a cycle path in Paris, with 25 other Children with Cancer UK supporters was amazing. After we had re-grouped and changed, we set off. Cycling along a cycle path in Paris, with 25 other Children with Cancer UK supporters was amazing. We were certainly attracting attention as we rang our bells and literally stopped traffic so that we didn’t get split up.

Arriving at the Eiffel Tower was really special.

I had never imagined that I could actually do it and I know many of the other team members felt the same. It was really emotional arriving at the end. There were many points throughout the three days when I didn’t think I would make it with the team, but I didn’t want to give up.

It’s an amazing feeling to work towards something and it be a success and that's why I believe doing a challenge, especially if it’s something outside of your comfort zone, is a great thing to do for charity. You not only help an extremely worthy cause, but you also improve yourself and open your mind to new experiences you might otherwise not get to do.

I would like to say thank you to each and every member of the first CAPITAL to CAPITAL team.

They were the people who have made this event a success and helped to raise vital funds so we can continue to fund life-saving research in to the causes, prevention and treatment of childhood cancer and work to protect young lives through essential welfare and campaigning programmes.

Take a look at Yvonne's Capital to Capital Cycle on You Tube

Here are some quotes from other members of the C2C Team:We were lucky to be part of a super, supportive and motivational team and all for a fantastic cause.“We were lucky to be part of a super, supportive and motivational team and all for a fantastic cause. I believe the weekend will have not only helped those in need of the charity but also helped each and every one of us to become a better person.” Deborah Atkinson

''A fantastic life changing event'' Nigel Hinze

“I thought that the 'team spirit' was absolutely fantastic. Everyone was thinking about - and supporting - all those around them. It was an honour to cycle with such a great group of people.” Steve Davies

““It was good to be part of a group that was really focused on giving and it brought it home to me when I arrived back home what we had just done - realising that so many will now benefit in some way.  There is something missing in my life today. Again it was all down to the planning, support and determination of everyone – a memory that will be with me for ever.” Steve Homer

Read more: More cycling adventures | Other challenges

(September 2011)

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