Almost a week on from finishing the 2023 Club Peloton Cycle to MIPIM, I have taken the time to reflect on my experience (now the adrenaline has settled) and an eventful 7 days, to say the least.
In March 2020 I was getting ready to take on the Cycle to MIPIM, after months of training in the darkest and coldest days of the year, when only a few days after collecting our kit at the Club Peloton rider briefing, we were told the ride was cancelled due to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic. An obvious decision in hindsight, but a huge disappointment nevertheless and a lasting feeling of deflation after so much preparation.
So, you can imagine my reaction when I woke early on Wednesday 8 March to a blanket of snow on the streets of Streatham, only a few miles from Herne Hill Velodrome where we were due ride from later that morning: “WILL I EVER GET TO CYCLE TO MIPIM!”
As nervous riders gathered at the Velodrome, we soon learned that there wouldn’t be any riding on Day 1 due to the snow and we piled into the coach to Calais. Another obvious decision on the part of Club Peloton, but one that also served to prolong the nerves – and the resulting sense of anticipation was palpable as we readied our bikes the next morning outside the Calais hotel. I don’t think I’ve ever been so ready to get on my bike and churn through some miles.
We set off through northern France, part of the ride which I had been warned would be fairly uninspiring from a scenery perspective, but it was reasonably flat and allowed the peloton to start to find its rhythm. I rode all but one stage in the first two days, riding the coach for the late-night, puncture-riddled stage into Soissons when the mechanics ran out of spare wheels in the pouring rain – but the growing bonds and camaraderie shone through as those of us not riding huddled outside the hotel to cheer in Team HTA.
Picture credit to Club Peloton/Matt Alexander
Days 2 and 3 have to be some of the worse riding conditions I’ve ever experienced; almost non-stop rain, 40mph cross winds and riding at an angle to compensate. Stints at the front of the peloton were short lived! But looking on the bright side, we thoroughly tested which of our cycling gear was waterproof rather than water resistant.
By Day 4 the weather had started to improve, with it our moods, and the highlight of the day was a coffee and cake stop at a stunning Chateau. Macarons and mini muffins will now be the baseline standard for my coffee stops in future.
I had also been forewarned that every rider has one or two dark moments on the Cycle to MIPIM, whether it’s caused by fatigue, weather or injury. Mine came on the morning of Day 5, when I rode the first stage to test my left knee which had been giving me some trouble the day before. The route from Chalon Sur Saône to Pont De Vaux was relatively flat and the sun was trying to break through, but I struggled throughout with a constant pain in my knee and growing feeling of dread that I’d be riding the coach for quite a few stages or even days. Possibly also a result of a poor night’s sleep the night before, but I was almost in tears when we reached Pont De Vaux as I thought my ride was done.
My saviours came in the form of Claudia, Joe and Rhiannon, the amazingly talented and ever-cheerful Club Peloton physios. After two pretty intense sports massages, an hour or so using the massage gun on the coach and a nap, I felt like a new man as I re-joined the peloton at Faramans and rode the rest of the day into Valence.
The last two days of the ride from Valence to Cannes were exactly what everyone had hoped for; warmer weather, scenic landscapes and HILLS! 6,285m of climbing across 378km of (mostly) smooth French tarmac – the highlight being Col d’Ayen in the region Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. It’s a fairly chunky 7.2km long and average gradient of 4.7%, but the views across the Gorges du Verdon and climbing above the mist more than made up for any strain in the saddle.
As we descended into Cannes on the final stage, accompanied by our amazing team of French motorcycle outriders and some of the local gendarme, it was an odd mix of emotions. An immense feeling of pride from what we had achieved individually but also collectively as a newfound team (both on and off the bike with fundraising), but also a strange feeling of sadness that I wasn’t going to be cycling the next day – my body had become used to the 5:30am wakeups and 12-hour days in the saddle! But that swiftly melted away when we rode onto the Promenade de la Pantiero and were greeted by not only colleagues and friends, but also cold beers, hugs from our teammates and medals from the Club Peloton team.
Team Vectos SLR at the finish – Picture credit to Club Peloton/Matt Alexander
Will I cycle to MIPIM again? Almost certainly. Why? Over the course of the ride, but also the training, I’ve met a fantastic group of people and built new friendships all centred around our shared experience and, importantly, raising funds for the fantastic charities which Club Peloton supports. Coram, Cyclists Fighting Cancer, MSA Trust and the Tom AP Rhys Pryce Memorial Trust are all inspiring organisations and I’m so pleased to have played a part in supporting their work. We’ve raised nearly £220,000 this year, but there’s lots more to do – please click on the link at the end of this article if you would like to sponsor me.
Finally, I have to give thanks to a whole host of people. The entire Club Peloton team faced the same weather conditions, illnesses and even earlier starts than the riders, but were amazing throughout and no request was ever a problem – the drivers, the catering team, the physios, the photographer (who would often appear in a field of crops or perched on a ledge for a stunning shot), the outriders and of course the core team of Chris, Nick, Megan, Sarah, Kate and Theresa.
To all of my sponsors, those who sponsored me in 2020 and in 2023, a massive thank you – you are helping us change the lives of young people by supporting Club Pelton and the Cycle to MIPIM.
A big thank you to the main event sponsors Knight Frank for their support (including a ride to the airport in the Knight Frank taxi) and to the team at Connected Kerb for the stunning Le Col kit.
In team Vectos SLR, our amazing Ride Captains Jessica Taylor (Evolve), Jerry Tate (Tate+Co), Franck Robert (Buro Happold) and Mike “5% more” Axon (Vectos SLR) steered us through thick and thin, with an eclectic Spotify playlist, unwavering positivity and the odd Percy Pig when needed.
Thank you to my fellow riders in Team Vectos, as well as every rider in the peloton for their brilliant support and comedy moments. Chapeau to everyone – can’t wait to ride with you again soon.
Lastly, but by no means least, I have to thank my amazing wife and daughter for their patience and support over the last four months. Through weekends of long training rides / tired Dad in January and February, and for holding down the fort whilst I was away for the cycle.
Click here to sponsor me if you haven’t already!