Every year Captain Chris Hall leads hundreds of Virgin Atlantic people on adventures around the world. These vary from a gentle ramble on the Surrey Hills to the extreme Cycle South Africa and even a rather exotic Sail Caribbean. The premise is simple; have fun and do good. Along the way, the adventurers push themselves to the limit, learn about the local communities in the places we fly to, raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for our partner charity WE.org, and they have an awful lot of fun. Laura Macshane has just returned from the latest trip, a cycle ride from our training centre in West Sussex to the Eiffel Tower. This is her report.
5.30am is a hard time to get up for anything. And when it’s to careen through the not so gentle hills of Sussex, desperate to get to the ferry at Newhaven on time, it feels particularly early.
But that’s how a group of 38 Virgin Atlantic people and their friends and family began the 2017 Cycle Paris Adventure, along with a crew of 10 incredible support people. The goal: to bike from Crawley to the Eiffel Tower – 180 miles over 3 days. And so, at 5.30am on the 14 of July (fittingly, Bastille Day in France), we rode off from the Virgin Atlantic Base as the sun rose behind us.
The first leg to Newhaven was hard, to put it lightly. This was the only time-critical part of the ride – we didn’t want anyone to miss the ferry. So we pedalled hard and fast for three hours, some got separated and lost along the way, but we all made it! Once on the ferry, we had a well-deserved rest and were given delicious homemade sandwiches and granola bars by the amazing support team.
Once into Dieppe, we made our way along the beautiful Avenue Verte. Previously a disused railway, it’s now a wonderful cycle path and very popular for those doing the famous London (or Crawley) to Paris bike ride. With gorgeous scenery all around, we rode at a leisurely pace to our first overnight stop in Forges-Les-Eaux.
The next day was a whopping 10 hours to Cergy on the outskirts of Paris. Faced with steep, never-ending climbs; sore legs and sorer bums; and multiple punctures: the support team were instrumental in keeping our spirits high. If the cyclists were the muscle, the support team were the heart of this Adventure. They brought our luggage to each hotel; provided delicious snack and lunch breaks; and had every tool you could imagine to fix any bike emergency.
On the final day, another bright and early start to complete our last leg – riding into Paris! Having left the calm of the Avenue Verte, our route got more precarious. Imagine a group of 40-odd cyclists in matching red jerseys weaving through traffic at Place de la Concorde – not the safest thing in the world! But we all made it to the Eiffel Tower, alive and intact, and ready to cheers our achievement with the Prosecco waiting for us (other huge thanks to the support team for this!).
The Adventures motto is to “have fun, do good”. This Adventure was long, hard, and sweaty, but one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. As well as doing something I never thought I could, or would, I made wonderful new friends and had loads of fun along the way in true Virgin Atlantic style. As for the doing good part, we’re all proud to have raised a whopping £13,571.25 and counting for the Virgin Atlantic staff campaign and other charities.
Visit our Community pages to learn more about our partnership with WE and the work they do