Glorious sunshine greeted the 300 riders on the London-Paris 09 Cycle Tour as they reached the finish line under the EiffelTower on Saturday.
The heatwave was a treat for the riders, who had battled their way through flash floods, thunder and lightning over the 320km, three-day ride.
Taking part were Olympians James Cracknell and Elise Laverick, former Tour de France winner Stephen Roche, ex-England footballer Geoff Thomas and British Cycling’s Team Sky manager Scott Sunderland, as well as a host of amateurs.
Ex-pro Sunderland, who will help lead British Cycling’s assault on the Tour de France in 2010, said: “It was great to take part with riders of all abilities and to see… [them] really looking to accomplish something. There is a real buzz around the event, with people making friends and respecting each other.”
The London-Paris ride, staged by global sports event company HotChillee, is the closest non-pro riders can get to the Tour de France experience, with rolling road closures and full logistical support.
Ex-British champion and cycling commentator Brian Smith said: “The reception riders get and the emotion that they feel when they ride into Paris is very special. This is what the sport is all about.”
The green machine – team gtf: the green machine – team gtf HotChillee
Team GTF, riding in aid of the Geoff Thomas Foundation, in front of the Eiffel Tower
Geoff Thomas led a team of 20 riders who were raising money for his foundation. “It was a proud and emotional moment for me as we rode into Paris together,” he said. “We had a challenging three days, with many of our team members pushing themselves to the limit to raise money for the foundation.
“I’d like to congratulate [organiser] Sven Thiele on staging a fantastic event and say a huge ‘thank you’ to him for selecting the Geoff Thomas Foundation as the main charity partner for the 2009 tour.”
At the finish in Paris, Thomas’s former Palace team-mate and Sky Sports football pundit John Salako said: “I was a professional footballer for 20 years and this was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done and probably the most rewarding as well. I absolutely loved it. It gives you an idea what it must be like to ride a pro event.”
Hell’s Kitchen contestant Grant Bovey was riding in the ICAP DebRA team. He said: “The tour was exhilarating and riding into Paris with 300 riders was awesome. It was a lot harder than I thought but very rewarding. I believe that life is all about memories and this was a very special one.”
Grant bovey (centre) and the icap debra team: grant bovey (centre) and the icap debra team HotChillee
Hell’s Kitchen contestant Grant Bovey and the ICAP DebRA team
Bovey’s team-mate Russ Lindsay, who is agent to stars like Simon Cowell, said: “This was an amazing experience. It was great to have three days of not answering phones and making friendships with other riders. It was an extraordinary time.”
HotChillee’s Sven Thiele said: “We started out six years ago with just 13 riders and it’s exciting to see how the event has grown into an important date on the cycling calendar. Our ride is challenging, pushing riders to the limit, but it is totally inspiring to see the commitment and determination which gets them across the finish line in Paris.”
Team Science In Sport took the overall title, while the squad’s Andy Tinsley took the Egg Design yellow jersey, his team-mate Andy Guy was named King of the Mountains and SIS’s Tim Lawson shared the COR-FS green sprinter’s jersey with James Waite of Team Pearson.
The C37 red climber’s jersey went to James Stuart, of Team Prologue, while Olympic rowing bronze medallist Elise Laverick, of Team Pearson, won the pink women’s jersey.
River cycling in the london-paris 09 cycle tour: river cycling in the london-paris 09 cycle tour HotChillee
Riders faced flash floods, thunder and lightning over the 320km, three-day ride