Anglian Home Improvements like to try and support our colleagues achieve some wonderful events in the name of charity, so when we heard Chris Daines was going to be cycling from France to London for the Dallaglio Flintoff Cycle Slam, we found it hard not to help. We generously gave Chris £200 for the cause and recently caught up with him to see how the ride went. Here is his story.
Back in October last year I was fortunate enough to find myself at a Rugby World Cup event in London where Lawrence Dallaglio was a guest speaker. I happened to get chatting to him afterwards over a couple of beers and discovered he was in to cycling. Being a keen cyclist myself we chatted further and he mentioned that he was doing a charity event with Freddie Flintoff and a few others cycling from Greece to London over 5 four-day stages and that there were a few spare places if I was willing to help raise money. I signed up straightaway for the 2012 Dallaglio Flintoff Cycle Slam (www.dallaglioflintoff2012.com) and paid my entry fee to cover all costs, together with a friend who also managed to blag his way on board. The whole event was designed to take place in the year of the London Olympic Games with a route starting at the birthplace of the modern games in Athens and ending in the Olympic Park in Stratford, London
The stage I had signed up to was the last stage where we would join Lawrence, Freddie and the other core riders (including footballers Graham Le Saux and Lee Dixon) in Nancy in France and start the 4 day ride to the Olympic Park in London. Training wise I was in good shape having done quite a few long rides as well as my daily commute on the bike, a 32 mile round trip.
In terms of why we were doing this it was to raise money for 3 great charities. Firstly, the Dallaglio Foundation is supporting Cancer Research, UK’s cutting edge project on prostate cancer genetics that will help to build a new era of personalised medicine. Secondly, the AF Foundation, set up by Andrew and Rachael Flintoff, is a children’s charity raising funds to build, develop and improve Child Rehabilitation & Physiotherapy Units throughout the UK.
Thirdly, Virgin Unite. A contribution of all donations will be made to the not-for-profit foundation Virgin Unite to support their programmes that help young people in the UK to increase their employability and entrepreneurialism.
One of the hardest days of the Dallaglio Flintoff Cycle Slam 2012 according to all the core riders who had started in Athens! We ended up with a day of over 170kms, hailstones, rain, 3 degrees temperatures and head winds that made the cycling twice as tough as it should have been. It really did feel like a constant day of uphill.
Our group left the town of Nancy at 7am. All of us were feeling the physical pain of the day after the first hour and knew it was going to be a tough one. It was great to have Servais Knaven (Paris-Roubaix winner 2001 and Tour De France stage winner) with our group for the day. He was a real team motivator and helped us with cycling tips. He also gave us a bit of an insight as to how Team Sky prepare for the sprints and keep the likes of Mark Cavendish on form. He’s been the Sport Director at Team Sky since 2011 and is respected right across the cycling world.
It really felt like we were getting nowhere and in the afternoon, about 50km’s from the finish, we almost had to stop cycling and take cover as the rain got so heavy. We had also lost a lot of energy by this time due to the low temperatures.
We finally made it to the town of Chalons-sur-Marne in the Champagne region of France at 5.30pm. It was a really long day in the saddle and we all felt the aftermath of an incredibly tough day.
We were very lucky to be invited to Bollinger that evening and enjoyed a tour of House Bollinger and a lovely meal laid on for all the riders.
Another tough day but no way near as bad as the day before! It was another big day with 160kms to ride and the headwind just made it so difficult once again. The rain stayed away which was great and the temperature, although cold, wasn’t as bad as the day before.
We set off at 7am in the Champagne region of France and before we left the area we had a stop off at House Bollinger for a quick breakfast glass of bubbly and photo call with the groups. As we rode out of this town we had amazing views and we passed every famous champagne brand’s vineyards.
It wasn’t just the headwind that was a physical grind on us but also the 3000 meters of climbing throughout the day. Great thing about climbing is the downhill on the other side!
We arrived in Saint Quentin at 5pm and found a really nice bar in the centre of town. It was a big night of fines for many people and drinking penalties were served in force by Mr Dallaglio, rugby tour style! We were so tired by the end of dinner and many bodies were aching but tomorrow was our last day in France.
A slightly easier day with only 120kms to ride and a little less headwind. We were however hitting the famous Roubaix cobbles!
With another early 7am start from Saint Quentin we motored through the day with some help from cycling pro and Roubaix specialist Roger Hammond. By the time we hit the Roubaix cobbles we had a little knowledge but as I think most riders would agree, we were a million miles away from the high speed attack of the cobbles in the way it’s supposed to be done.
We finished in Roubaix at the famous velodrome stadium around 2pm where we got in a couple of laps then boiling hot showers, literally boiling. Then a bus to Lille station then Eurostar into Ashford, UK, for a night kindly hosted by Pizza Express. Ready for the last day of the last stage!
This saw us begin the route to London from outside the Halford’s store in Ashford. A few jaded faces from a massive night of pizza’s, beer and wine that Pizza Express kindly laid on. There were many narrow lanes and a few climbs on the way. One of the climbs was over 18 and caught a lot of people out. A few people falling and a lot of people having to walk up!
We teamed up at the Woolwich Ferry early afternoon and there was a real excitement amongst riders. It was great to get into London and slowly start to see the buildings in the distance where the finish area would be as we travelled in as one big group.
Very soon we could see the Olympic Park and the finish area. As we arrived at Olympic Park there was a bigger than expected crowd cheering us on and a great atmosphere to finish an epic event. Lawrence and Freddie cycled through to the finish line with about 100 riders on either side of them. Everybody was over the moon to be back and bring the amazing adventure to an end.
I have managed to raise £2,500 so far, close to my £3,000 target and I really appreciate the help that Anglian have given me in achieving this. For anyone else who would like to make a donation please go to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/ChrisDaines