A team of riders from Stewarts cycled the HotChillee London to Paris ride at the end of July in memory of partner Danny Turnbull, who passed away in April last year after a long battle with cancer. The team covered a total of over 500km over the three days, raising thousands of pounds for The Back Up Trust in the process. As you can read below, the distance, the heat and the seemingly endless hills made it an arduous though thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile trip.
On the hottest day of the year, the #RideforDanny team set off on their epic 500km cycle ride to Paris. The 169 km (1,891m ascent) day started near Hampton Court before 6am. The dreaded early start ended up being the best part of the day as the temperatures were just about bearable that early on. The first 100km flew by as the riders worked their way south through Surrey and turned east shortly after crossing into East Sussex, arriving at Kidds Hill (aka the Wall) on time. After tackling the steepest climb of the day they stopped in Lamberhurst at The Chequers Inn for a well-earned lunch.
The team were under real time pressure because they had to make it to Folkestone by 3.30pm to catch the ferry in time. They set off after lunch at quite a pace, causing a number of falls, including Kara Smith’s now infamous takeout of the entire peloton up a short, steep hill. The weather conditions that afternoon were brutal. Many fell ill with heat stroke and enjoyed a ride in the sag wagon (otherwise known as the fun bus). The rest of the riders soon realised that the only way they could survive the heat was by drenching themselves in water and keep going. Fortunately, they made it to Folkestone just in time (and soaking wet) only to discover that their ferry was delayed!
After a brutal day one in extreme heat, just a small matter of 180km lay ahead of the team on leg two from Calais to Amiens. To put this in perspective, the pros riding the Tour de France only had to ride 171km before their stage finished in Amiens this year.
The team set off from Calais at around 8.30am (when temperatures were already boiling) and worked their way south through Guînes, Licques and then hit the steepest and longest climb just 35km into the day. This left barely enough time to warm up after the previous day’s efforts and another 75 km before they stopped for proper refueling at lunch in Frevent.
Temperatures were in the mid to high 30s for most of the day and the hand-cyclists recorded as high as 44 degrees on their Garmins. The only way to keep heatstroke at bay was for the riders to stop regularly and drench themselves in water and re-apply sun cream. Jenny Duggan was even lucky enough to find a shower to keep her hydrated over lunch whilst the rest of the team enjoyed another delicious ham and cheese baguette.
After lunch, the skies clouded over and there were even a few welcome(ish) spots of rain. The last stretch took them through Autheux and Naours before rolling into Amiens after 7pm – a long day in the saddle! On this final stretch into Amiens, the team was joined by an unexpected participant: a local dog, who managed to tag along with the ride for a few kilometres. Fortunately, Ride Captain “Bull” came to the rescue, chasing the dog up and down the road, bringing lots of needed laughs at the end of Day 2.
The team set off well prepared for their third and final day, equipped with sandwiches they had made over breakfast at the hotel. Having already eaten half their sandwiches on the way to the start line, the team were ready for the final 177km and 1,542m of climbing. The weather was warm and humid again, the legs were tired but the team were determined to have a good day in the saddle with the finish line now in sight.
The day’s riding started at 7am from Amiens, with the prospect of 130km to ride before lunch with a big climb at 90km. They headed through Conty, Fontaine Bonneleau, Bresles and to Auteuil, where the biggest climb of the day awaited them. En route to lunch, the group were joined yet again by further unexpected participants, this time in the shape of some cows. However, fear not, as the aptly named Ride Captain “Bull” came to our team’s rescue once more.
After lunch all six of the teams riding from London to Paris grouped together to form one long peloton (350 people) riding the final 44km into Paris together. As the team leading the peloton, the Stewarts riders were keen to show off their skills, beginning with an elegant fall from Lauren Pethick as they set off. The blisters, heat rash, numb toes and aching muscles were all forgotten as Susie, Danny’s wife and the hand-cyclists led the massive peloton stretching back at least 1km, all the way past the Arc de Triomphe and to the Eiffel Tower.
Well done to all of our team that took part and have done such a great job of raising money for Back Up in memory of Danny Turnbull.
The team couldn’t have completed the ride without the guidance, expertise and occasional push from the wonderful Ride Captains from Hot Chillee: Juliette, ‘The Bull’, ‘Goose’, ‘dt’, ‘Steely’ and ‘Dimi’, thank you for keeping our team safe.
Thank you to everyone who has donated so far, if you would like to donate to the team’s corporate fundraising page, please click here.
The Back Up Trust is a charity that supports those affected by spinal cord injury, delivering a range of services to help build confidence and independence. It is a charity Stewarts has long supported and one for which Danny served as a Trustee and Chairman for a number of years. For more information about the work the Back Up Trust does, please click here.
The Stewarts riders included: Mo Bhaskaran, Julian Chamberlayne, Rebecca Coates, Hugo Costa Liziário, Stuart Dench, Andrew Dinsmore, Jenny Duggan, David Healy, Hugh Johnson, Muiris Lyons, Eleni Nicolaou, Tom Otter, Paul Paxton, Lauren Pethick, Lucy Robinson, Kara Smith, Voirrey Ward, Ryan Webb and Stewart Young.
Danny Turnbull was a Personal Injury partner at Stewarts, and sadly lost his battle with cancer in April 2017. Danny was instrumental in opening up the London to Paris ride to hand-cyclists. Danny served as a Trustee and Chairman of The Back Up Trust for a number of years.
In 2012, a team of Stewarts’ partners and staff, including Danny on a hand-cycle, completed the ride raising funds for the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.
Ride organisers HotChilllee put together the following video tribute to Danny showing clips of that ride. For more information about the ride, Danny’s involvement and how he inspired those at HotChillee during the 2012 ride, please visit the HotChillee website here.