Event Review

REVIEW: Action Medical Research 24 Hour London to Paris 2014

by Nick Gregory

FR Flag

Date: Friday 25th July
Distance: 250 miles 
Participants: c.40  
Start: Blackheath, London
Finish: Paris, France 
Feedstops: Every 30-40 miles on both sides of the Chanel 
CateringCooked dinner, breakfast and lunch all included
Signs: Yes, faultlessly 
Roads: Great mix of quiet and picturesque roads through rolling terrain
Support: Mechanics and Broom Wagon
Goody bag: Medal and drinks reception upon arrival 

At 1am, as I fashioned a pillow out of damp, smelly lycra and attempted to bed down and get some sleep on the floor of a stairwell on a DFDS cross-channel ferry, the reality of cycling from London to Paris in 24 hours really hit home. It was a far cry from the daydreams of swilling a glass of red in a Parisian wine bar upon arrival, accompanied by the sound of a man in a stripy t-shirt playing the accordion; or of pedalling past the famous sunflowers in the warm July sun. 30 minutes of tossing and turning later, I was 'awoken' by an angry French cleaner who seemed to be demanding that I up-sticks so that he could clean the stairs. Excellent. Half an hour's sleep it would be then. 

London to Paris is one of the most iconic challenges on any cyclist's bucket list. Along with 'coast to coast' and 'end to end', it's one of those boxes that just needs ticking. Whilst most will tackle L2P over three or more days, (like those on the other Action Medical Research routes available), it is possible to up the ante still and attempt to conquer the road to the French capital in just 24 hours. 



The word 'epic' is often used far too generously, particularly when it comes to challenges, but this one promised to be just that; a fantastic mix of excitement, fun, adrenalin, pain, pride and achievement, culminating on the historic cobbles of the French capital - the setting for so many famous moments in cycling's long and rich history. 

For many though, the ultimate source of motivation during the event, and pride after having completed it, is not in the achievement itself but in contributing to the truly life-changing work that Action Medical Research carries out. By putting themselves through this relatively short ordeal, every person who took part in any of Action's London to Paris events raised vital funds for the charity, which conducts ground-breaking medical research into conditions affecting babies and children. 

Since it began in 1952, Action has supported work around stillbirth, epilepsy, meningitis, cerebral palsy and brain cancer, as well as some rare and distressing conditions that severely affect children. The charity has had a long association with cycling, and despite this being the inaugural edition of their 24 hour ride, Action are one of the most established names in the L2P game. 


In truth, the day couldn't have got off to much worse a start, as the mother of all thunderstorms descended upon the start point at Blackheath just 30 minutes before we were due to roll-out. Credit where credit's due, Discover Adventure - the specialist events company brought in by Action Medical to deal with the safety and logistics of the event - had erected a gazebo which put in a herculean performance to remain rooted to the spot throughout the barrage, with 40 reluctant cyclists huddled underneath it. Nevertheless, with the rain coming in horizontally, any protection afforded was more psychological than physical; and once it became apparent that the rain was not going to abate we were forced to accept the inevitable. 

Squelching out of London was inevitably a somewhat painful process, as red traffic light after red traffic light hampered our progress. However, clever planning on the part of the organisers meant that the escape from the Big Smoke was relatively quick. Aided by the fact that the group remained together - with chatter and excitement at fever pitch - we were soon clear of London and making our way through the leafy suburbs of Kent. 



Bromley, Biggin Hill and Westerham passed in a blur of heads-down, flat-out effort. Before we knew it we'd reached the first of the feed stations (which would feature every 30-40 miles) at the picturesque Penshurst Place. There were bountiful supplies of water, energy drink, tea, coffee, bananas, sweets, cereal bars and energy gels to stock up with, and our very own mechanic was on hand to service any misbehaving bikes. 

By now the sun was out and everyone seemed keen to press on and make the most of it. Skirting Royal Tunbridge Wells, the route took us down through Crowborough and on to Mayfield and Heathfield. Whilst there wasn't much by way of sustained climbing, there was also absolutely nothing by way of flat riding either. It was a saw tooth profile that consisted of a succession of climbs and descents, and amassed over 6,000ft of elevation by the time we reached Newhaven.   



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Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 8 out of 10
2. Timing (correct and easy to use) n/a
3. Signage (Clear, concise, maps, profiles, route card) 10 out of 10
4. Facilities (HQ, Parking, Toilets) 9 out of 10
5. Support (Sag Wagon, Outriders) 9 out of 10
6. Friendliness / Professionalism (Sign-in, marshals, support) 9 out of 10
7. Website - ease of use (Online and postal entry, clear concise) 9 out of 10
8. The Course (Area of outstanding beauty/scenic, quiet roads, cleverly designed?) 9 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 10 out of 10
Overall Rating 92.2%

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1 Comment

24th September 2014 7:44pm ceaser wrote:

Good read. I completed the same challenge a couple of weeks ago via action challenge. (I've also done Ldn to Brussels 24hrs with them previously)

I won't be doing another one via action challenge based on my Paris experience.... Food quality was really poor. That said the route marking was 1st class I also didn't use gpx.

My main gripe with action challenge is there costs; I'm struggling to understand how they justified there charges... Out of the £1000 minimum sponsorship, they take £500 for there costs. However, on top I had to Eurostar back, £80 single supplement in hotel, car parking at O2 and a £55 taxi back from st pancras to the car slap bang in rush hour (they booked a Eurostar that arrived at 5pm)

Oh, and the food was crap as I said! They have defo done some cost cutting since I did the Brussels trip in 2011