London to Paris Cycle, July 2016 – Day 3
As the market stall owners arranged their wares in the Grand Place of Arras, the team gathered in front of the hotel for their morning briefing.
As Tom explained the route, there were concerns expressed about the climb of the day after lunch. The route on this day is relatively flat to begin with but trends uphill, with some long, flat (but exposed) sections in the afternoon, and then begins the climb. From here it’s pretty much downhill (with one bump) to overcome to our destination, Compiegne.
The team had nothing to be concerned about, all of them had climbed harder hills in the previous two days but there were some sore legs and bums to contend with (judging by some of the groans as people sat on their saddles for the cobbles as we left!).
From the town, the route leaves on open roads through farmland. The sun was already warm, with a gentle breeze for the first ten miles.
Some of the roads in this part of France are simply stunning, with beautiful rows of trees either side and pretty impeccable tarmac.
Our first stop of the day was at 22 miles, at the British War Cemetery at Sailly-Saillisel.
Silence descended upon the group as they wandered around the immaculate graves of young men and boys who sacrificed themselves in the Great War.
Sailly-Saillisel houses 700 burials and commemorations of the First World War, at least 300 of which are unnamed or unidentified. As the team would discover, this is just one of the countless cemeteries in the area that echo the history of the land through which they were passing.
Our visit was particularly powerful as two of the team, Josh and Louis, were the same age of some of the younger soldiers named within the complex.
A further six miles on and we stopped in the town of Peronne for coffee. Well, most of the team chose coffee…but a couple of beers miraculously appeared on one of the tables…we won’t name and shame…
We pushed on to lunch where Ben had laid out a vast array of breads, cheeses and other delightful items near the village of Cizancourt. Despite being over halfway, it was clear that some of the group were still apprehensive about the climb that was still to come in the afternoon.
First however, we had some glorious, flat sections as we skirted around the town of Roye and headed south. Ben had pulled over the van at the start of one of these sections – six miles of unhindered tarmac under a series of striking wind turbines.
The team set off, with Lisa, Josh, Stuart and Annie pacing them out over the six miles of time-trial bliss.
Karl went it alone, tucking in over his handlebars as his legs powered him along.
Jeanie, Brittney and Lucy were flying along too!
From the end of the flat, windfarm section, the team reached the town of Lassigny and regrouped. Between them lay the main climb of the day, which could be seen in the woods in the distance.
The climb is a well-known Strava segment, so a few of the group found their rhythm and gave their best shot at claiming the King Of The Mountain title.
Upon arriving at the top Jeanie remarked, “I don’t want to sound big-headed or anything, but I actually thought we were going downhill at some points on that climb”. Whether or not the rest of the team agreed was unclear, but the laughter that ensued confirmed that the team had bonded over the last few days and were certainly more confident climbing hills!
The team had an exhilarating descent before another small bump, then trended downhill and flat for the final six miles into the town of Compiegne. Another day was complete and they refuelled in the only sensible way – an all-you-can-eat oriental buffet!