To date, the 32 keen cyclists have raised over £21,000 for a variety of charities, and this figure is still rising! The much-anticipated challenge had to be postponed for a few years due to the pandemic: it was initially planned for 2018. The cyclists were representing the group’s three colleges – Coleg Llandrillo, Coleg Menai and Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor.
The intrepid group set off from Rhos-on-Sea in a coach (with an attached trailer on the back laden with bikes and accessories) for London. On arrival, they had a planned team photo by Big Ben.
The following day at 6am, the cyclists left London for Newhaven, navigating heavy traffic and a heatwave! There were a couple of early casualties en-route to the coast, but they all made it to the ferry, and finally to Dieppe.
The first day of cycling in France consisted of a 70-mile trek from Dieppe to Beauvais on an old railway track - which had thankfully been converted into a cycle path - passing several old railway stations that are now cafes. On completion, the team bedded down in Beauvais for the night.
The following day’s itinerary consisted of the final ride from Beauvais to Paris, eventually reaching the Eifel Tower and the Champs Elysees – as the latter is the Tour de France finish – during a series of violent thunderstorms. The next day was a rather muted return to North Wales, with the team members feeling “exhilarated yet exhausted”.
Key organiser Eifion Owen described the moment they arrived in Paris: “Arriving in Paris was as exciting as I had expected: the heart rate was increasing as all the sites slowly revealed themselves, with tantalising glimpses of the iconic buildings teasing you in. The biggest grin I had was seeing the Arc de Triomphe coming into view. It is bigger than you expect, and yes, you do have to boss your way through the high-speed cars and buses. It is definitely not for the faint-hearted.
“After the obligatory ‘raising of the bikes into the air' photo opportunity, it was down the Avenue des Champs Elysees, onto the La Place de la Concorde, and over the River Seine towards the Eiffel Tower.”
Tim Peel, Rhyl College vocational & campus lead summed up his feelings too: “Whilst relaxing in a fast-food outlet in Paris, I had time to think. It was a fantastic experience overall: new friendships were made, and old ones rekindled. Much-needed monies raised for many worthwhile charities. Time to think and question about what is possible. Using the easy gear is not always the best option. Push in the highest gear possible until your legs and lungs burn, then push harder.” Tim kept people who are in the staff Facebook group up-to-date with live interviews and regular posts.