Having been away in Rome when the inaugural Paris 2 Swansea training ride was held last Saturday, I was keen to meet up with my fellow riders this weekend and get some much needed cycling under my belt at the same time.
The training rides are organised by the guys at Action Bikes in Swansea and Sarn Helen Cycle Events, whom also happen to be the cycling brains behind the planning of the actual Pedal Paris 2 Swansea bicycle challenge route.
The disappointment of not being able to make the first training session was thankfully outweighed by the excitement of meeting my follow riders for the first time today, so I made darn sure that my trusty 7 year old Focus Variado Expert racing machine was in tip top condition for the ride!
Having not been in the saddle for more than 15 miles on one ride during the last 3 months, I perhaps foolishly made the decision to ride down from my home in Clydach to the our meeting point outside the Action Bikes shop in Swansea, safe in the knowledge that it was “only a 20 mile flat ride training session”. Surely my nuts and buttocks would be up to that?
Unlike the majority of other Sundays in 2014, I actually left the house in glorious spring sunshine – what a refreshing change!
When I arrived at the shop I was met with a familiar face in the form of Adam Lake – a fellow Swansea City fan and Clydach resident whom I’d celebrated our Capital One Cup Final victory with. A good start… even though Adam didn’t recognise me!
As more and more cyclists arrived it immediately struck me how friendly and chatty everyone was – a vital ingredient for any team event.
The main man Richard ‘Dicky’ Smith went out of his way to introduce himself to everyone and offer up his special Science in Sport strawberry concoction as an energy booster for the ride ahead.
It was also great to see so many cyclists of different abilities present – from beginners to seasoned club riders and it made for a great team session with everyone sharing their cycling tips and experiences to date.
It was also nice to finally meet Lucia Smith the fundraising manager at Maggie’s Cancer Centre, whom is the driving force behind the charity side of the Paris 2 Swansea ride which is of course in aid of Maggie’s Cancer Centre in Swansea.
A very chirpy Sunny Bamra made sure that everyone was in high spirits and his Welsh wolly hat was very appropriate given the small matter of England entertaining Wales in the Six Nations later that afternoon. We won’t talk about the result though 🙁
When our numbers had swelled to in excess of 20 we were soon on our way along the promenade en route to meet Badger and Clare at The Wave HQ in Gowerton for a live radio broadcast – and a great opportunity to promote the Paris 2 Swansea charity ride to the masses.
We’d hardly clocked up 2km when official ride photographer Neil Collier whipped out his camera and started snapping away. It was good to know that Neil was taking lots of pictures as when this whole adventure is over it’ll be great to look back at where we all started this potentially life changing journey.
A right turn up the cycle track at Blackpill took me back to the days of my regular lunchtime rides from County Hall (oops sorry the Civic Centre) to Gowerton. It also reminded me of the dangers that stray dog leads and walkers bring to the party when cycling along such a path!
Riding along the track gave me an opportunity to chat to some of the other riders like Stuart Gammon, who like me was looking forward to the life changing challenge that lay ahead in August. It was also good to catch up with Dicky for a proper chat about the charity ride and to learn that he was also a Swans fan.
The news that former Swans legend now turned club ambassador Lee Trundle was also planning on doing the Paris to Swansea ride was a welcome boost, if only for his banter! I’m sure any fellow Swans fans on the ride will milk every photo opportunity with LT10 – I know I will.
Before we knew it we’d arrived at The Wave and were greeted by the booming voice of Badger – a survivor of last year’s Barcelona to Swansea ride – and Claire who welcomed us all into the studio in readiness for the live broadcast.
At this point Neil reminded us all that he was indeed a former X-Factor contestant and duly took up his position in front of the mic ready for the live broadcast. The way we all crowded around the studio mic reminded me of the band aid video!
Shortly afterwards we all congregated in the car park to allow Claire to take some pictures of the lycra clad team. In fairness to Claire she resisted the urge to stand on the roof of an inconveniently parked Ford Galaxy and choose to use the fire escape stairwell instead – much to everyone’s disappointment 😉
Whilst we were all in the car park it was decided that our return journey would take a slight de-tour to Verdis for a cuppa and some ice cream if it took your fancy!
The ride down to Verdis along the promenade provided us with an opportunity to practice some cycling skills such as the paceline or train as it is probably better known. This basically involves each cyclist in the train taking it in turns to lead the line and then drop back after twenty spins whilst trying to keep the gap between each bike to a minimum.
Given the glorious sunshine you can just imagine how busy it was the closer we got to Knab Rock and in particular Verdis – meaning an end to our cycle train! Oh well it was fun while it lasted.
The break at Verdis gave me another opportunity to chat to some of the other riders such as Port Talbot Wheeler Julian Brock and two newbies to road bikes – Cheryl and Linzi Young, whom had only learnt to use the gears on their brand new road bikes the yesterday! Respect to you both.
I took the opportunity during our coffee break to chat to Lucia about some local celebrities whom had been rumoured to be taking part in the Pedal Paris 2 Swansea Bicycle Challenge, such as Lee Trundle and Mark Jermin – as the involvement of a high profile name could only be a good thing for the fundraising effort.
Our chat reminded me to once again ask Alex Mills of ‘The Apprentice’ fame if he would be interested in doing the ride (as I had previously done). Alex was the first ever Welsh contestant on ‘The Apprentice’ and is a very keen cyclist. Well I was always taught that if you don’t ask you don’t get…cheeky I know 🙂
Whilst standing there looking out over Swansea bay in all its sun drenched beauty, it made me think about how special this whole cycling adventure was going to be and I felt glad to have already met some great like-minded people that I could share it with.
The final leg of our training session saw us return to the Action Bikes shop after a very enjoyable few hours on the bike.
After popping into the shop for the customary “Signing up” picture, it was time for Adam and I to bid farewell to the other riders and head back home.
By the time we got to Clydach it’s fair to say I was blowing out of my backside but I didn’t care one bit as I’d loved every minute of the ride and meeting so many new people at the same time.
Realising later that I’d done approximately 37 miles today was a brucey bonus.
Apologies to those of you who were on the ride but didn’t get a mention – this is either because I didn’t get an opportunity to speak to you personally or because I forgot your name sorry.
I must also apologise to those of you whom I bored senseless with tales of my love for cleats NOT. This is one particular aspect of cycling I really must get my head around! But that is a challenge for another day.
Until next time… keeeeep riding!