May 17 2013

Charity ride to Paris raises over £21,000 for the Willow Foundation

Connect Plus LogoAt  CONJECT we like a challenge and when Connect Plus told me that they were organising a charity cycle ride between Leatherhead and Paris to raise £10,000 for the Willow Foundation, I decided to get involved with this worthy endeavour.

During the last couple of years I’ve become a keen cyclist, last October I completed a similar charity cycle event with ISG (another CONJECT client) when we raised over £7000 by cycling 250 miles during the “Beyond Gold” challenge.

Leatherhead to Paris Cycle Support Van

Featuring a range of 16 cyclists from Connect Plus and their service providers and suppliers, we planned to set off on Saturday 4th May and hoped to complete the journey by Monday 5th May. Our route would take us from Leatherhead to Portsmouth so that we could take the ferry to Caen. Once in France, we planned to cycle to Evreux, then onto Versailles before arriving at our final destination in Paris. The team would be supported by a transit van which doubled up as a workshop and overnight storage facility for our bikes.

Here’s my diary, detailing how I got on during this three day challenge:


Day 1 – Saturday 4th May

After a very early alarm call on Saturday morning I headed to Connect Plus’s Leatherhead depot to meet up with the other riders for a 7.00 am start. We had an early afternoon ferry to catch in Portsmouth so we needed to be away promptly and added to that, some bright spark had decided that the climb of Box Hill would be a nice little warm up for us! Still, the weather was pretty good with early morning sunshine and everyone was on time so we set off and soon Box Hill was behind us as we headed south. Little did we know that the worst was still ahead of us in the form of a short but very steep climb over the South Downs at South Harting. The stronger riders made it up and over the top, but for the first, and only time during the ride several of us were left to walk the last 15-20 metres. As if that wasn’t bad enough it then started to rain and the closer we got to the south coast the stronger the head wind became making riding conditions difficult. We eventually arrived in the ferry terminal with about 40 minutes to spare before boarding. 5 hours 17 minutes riding time, 80 miles covered and 4,750 ft. climbed. There were lots of tired looking cyclists on the ferry but after a shower and a beer we all soon settled into the 6 hour crossing arriving to Caen in time for a later dinner before bed.

Day 2 – Sunday 5th May

The day started with the first recorded puncture of the ride which was discovered when the bikes were unloaded from the support vehicle. I also discovered a small split in the wall of my front tyre, so that needed changing before we set off as well. It was an overcast day and we soon settled in to a good number of miles of flat, almost traffic free roads before the climbing started again on the route to Evreux. The real fun started some 15 miles from our destination in the form of a 13 mile long cycle path on a very slight incline. Connect Plus’s Chris Richardson announced that it was every man for himself to the end of the cycle path and that led to some high speed racing along the length of the cycle path with the occasional slow down for road crossings and other cyclists. We covered this distance with speeds in excess of 20 mph as the competitive spirits began to surface. After a puncture (our only one whilst riding), an incident with a stick in a rear wheel and a couple of drop offs due to the pace 5 off us reached the end of the cycle path in a group out front. The day ended with a tough climb to the hotel that seemed to finish most off for the day. 5 hours 48 minutes riding time, 89.5 miles covered and 3,321 ft. climbed.

Day 3 – Monday 6th May

We rolled out of Evreux at 8.00 am with a lunch appointment to make at Egis’s offices in Versailles. The start was nice and flat but again there were a few nasty surprises on route not least on the last few miles as we approached Versailles. We suffered a couple more mechanical failures (a lost spoke destroying a front wheel) and a physical injury (gashed calf following a fall) but we made it to the outskirts of Versailles in good time and the obligatory sprint finish saw Chris Richardson show the rest of us his rapidly disappearing rear tyre as he shot away leaving the rest of the team to finish the last 3 or 4 miles spread over the next 5 minutes. Photos at the Palace of Versailles were followed by another short ride to Egis’s offices where we received a warm welcome and a great lunch. This was then followed by a train ride into Paris, a wash and brush up and then a celebratory dinner together with a few well-earned beers. 4 hours riding time, 61 miles covered and 2,160 ft. climbed.

During the event we realised that we had smashed through our fund raising target of £10,000. People had generously donated to the cause and at the time of writing this article we are proud to have raised nearly £22,000. My thanks go to all of the team at CONJECT for their support and donations.  If you are interested in finding out more about the Willow Foundation please click here and if you would like to make a donation, please visit the “Just Giving” page:



CP London to Paris Ride Finish - May 2013 - FRAMED VERSION Small

About the author

Duncan Kneller

Duncan Kneller is director of sales at Conject. He joined the company in 2000 and quickly established himself as a key sales and account manager, before taking on the sales director role in 2011. Duncan has also spearheaded the company's cycling fund-raising events in recent years.

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