Phil Allsopp’s Geneva to Paris Bike Challenge

On July 20th, RAPt graduate Phil Allsopp completed a staggering 325 mile cycle ride from Geneva to Paris. Covering three full-on days, the event was organised by the Quintessentially Foundation to help raise money for RAPt and three other partnership charities. In total 50 riders took part. Here is an extract from Phil’s diary:

Day 1: Geneva – Bourg-en-Bresse – Chalon-sur-Saone, 77 miles

At 05:10 the alarm goes off. I leave my bed and get on the bus to our starting point in Bourg-en-Bresse. I scan the area, searching for my bike. Where is it among all the others? I can hardly believe that it was bought for me just four days ago, by Thomas Martin, my boss and the Joint Managing Director at Arco, where I work. So it’s a bit worrying not being able to see it.

Out of the corner of my eye I spot it, still on the mechanic’s table being put together. Phew!

After that alarming start we set off. It’s really hilly, but very picturesque – there are stunning views. We cross the River Saône and at the first water stop I enjoy a French espresso and cake, and just take it all in.

After lunch, we’re doing really good on time. By now the groups have formed – fast, slow and medium. I end up in the middle which is just fine.

The team from Quintessentially Foundation ride alongside us in the support car, shouting encouragement and waving us into villages.

The heat is unbearable – no wind, and then we come to a massive long straight road. On through Fleurie, Fuissé and la-Roche-Vineuse.

We finish the day arriving in Chalon-sur- Saône. I make the most of the outdoor swimming pool before dinner, and then it’s straight to bed for me.

Day 2: Chalon-sur-Saône – Avallon, 85 miles

Another 05:30 start. We eat breakfast and by 06:45 we’re off again. It’s raining, hard, but I refrain from wearing waterproofs. Someone tells me this will be the toughest day. The hills keep going up until I don’t think we can climb any higher, but then another hill appears. There’s a lovely descent, but then you know what’s coming next . . . another hill. Up and down, up and down.

I have a small laugh to myself; it reminds me of the early days of my recovery.

Lunch is melons and jelly babies and high energy fruit drinks. I’m already looking forward to dinner, which will be local cheeses and meat.

I complete the 10k climb and it’s flat as we ride towards Beaune. Then I team up with someone and together we get lost – adding an extra 11k on our journey.

Finally, after what seems like forever, we reach the hotel, in Bligny-sur-Ouche. I’ve already prepped Emma from Quintessentially that I snore, and find myself getting another double room to myself!

I’ve always thought it a sign of weakness to pamper yourself, but as I lower myself into a well-deserved massage I really enjoy it. I’m a Northerner, and I probably shouldn’t say this, but I think this trip is making me a bit soft, a bit more of a southerner.

After a quick dip in the pool I have dinner with the others. We have already shared a lot together and I can feel us getting really close. Someone tells me we have ascended 6000ft across the day and I can believe it.

I’m relieved when everyone agrees to a later start tomorrow. In the end that’s lucky because I don’t sleep very well as it’s so hot.

Day 3: Avallon – Sens, 80 miles

We don’t start until 08:00 today – which suits me better as there’s less rushing around. It’s still another tough day, though, and I am glad for last night’s massage.

The morning scenes are amazing – the mist lifting from the hills, and lovely country roads.

The descent gives me all I need to climb again the other side, and I weave through villages and streams to my left and then my right. We pass a small bridge where people are cheering and waving – and the cars are really considerate (unlike at home).

The weather is cooler and it’s a good day. The coast-to-coast practice ride I did last week was 220 miles, and I’ve already done 240 on this trip; a new personal best!

In the evening, when we’re all together at the hotel I am invited to give a speech. It’s in front of everyone and, for the sake of God, it comes out RIGHT. Everyone pats me on the back and says well done. I remember how nervous I was beforehand, about the trip and not knowing anyone; and now I’m here it’s fine and everyone is really friendly and welcoming.

Day 4: Sens – Paris, 80 miles

The alarm goes off at 05:30 and there’s a sense of excitement in my blood. I was worried whether I would be able to make it.

I think about my main aim – to give someone else the chance to get the support that I have been getting so freely from RAPt. I was a shell when I stopped drinking and now here I am, 80 miles away from the Eiffel Tower. I think back to when I was an alcoholic, all I did was drink, I couldn’t do anything else.

Crossing the River Yonne, I remember the speech last night, and how I prayed to God for the tears to be held back – and how it worked. But here I am and now they’re so close to the surface there’s a lump in my throat.

As we get closer to Paris, now just 20 miles away, we’re told to re-group at 3 or 4 miles away so that we can all ride in together.

We ride north-west into Paris, following the River Seine. As soon as I see the Eiffel Tower the tears come. I have earned my sponsor money, and now someone else may get the same chance from RAPt that I got.

It’s not too late to donate either – my Just Giving page is still open. If you would like to donate to RAPt, please follow the link:

Arriving Home

I get back to Hull about 8 or 9 at night. I am still so full of the trip, I decide to walk home from the station, even though my legs are killing me. It’s a warm, still evening.

It’s not just 300 miles I did, this is the second best thing I’ve ever done in my life. The first was getting my kids back. I’ve been sober for over 5 years, and I can’t believe this has happened to me. The whole month’s been mad – as well as everything else I’m moving into a new flat tomorrow. What a journey!

RAPt thanks Arco

Phil was greatly helped on his magnificent adventure by his employer Arco, the UK’s leading provider of safety clothing and work equipment. Not only did colleagues generously donate towards Phil’s fundraising target, but Joint Managing Director Thomas Martin very generously, and unexpectedly, purchased a brand new bike and equipment to support Phil on his journey.

Asked about their involvement, Thomas said: “Phil is a remarkable person; we are privileged to have him working with us. He has taught us so much, and it was such an obvious decision to help him on this journey, AND on his own journey. ”

As well as supporting Phil, Arco takes corporate social responsibility very seriously. A perpetual 1% of annual pre-tax profits is donated to charitable causes, which last year amounted to over £120,000 to share between 230 charities and community organisations.

Arco staff are also encouraged to take two paid days’ leave per year, to participate in charitable or community work, with Arco match-funding all monies raised.

The Regional Sales Offices and other trading divisions of the company also receive an annual budget to spend on their choice of charitable activities.

Every year Arco runs a Christmas card design competition, for the children of staff. As well as seeing their design printed on the corporate cards that get sent out, the winners also see Arco donating £250 to a charity of their choice.

This September will see the second Arco Fun Day and Dragonboat Race event. The first such event raised in excess of £32k for competitors’ chosen charities.

For more information please click here to visit the website, or contact Arco on:

Quintessentially Foundation

Quintessentially Foundation is a wonderful organisation, raising funds through various initiatives and exciting events.

RAPt is incredibly fortunate to have been chosen as one of their partnership charities for 2012/13. As well as raising much needed funds for RAPt, we are also very grateful to them for enabling Phil to have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and for making him feel so welcome on the trip.

To find out more about Quintessentially Foundation, and to get involved or support them, please click here


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