A chance to reunite (in lycra) with nearly all of my Lejog pals was too good an opportunity to pass up and so at 11.00 on a beautiful September morning...one year since we all pedalled across Great Britain...we are each stood at the London Eye in Waterloo ready for a 300 mile ride to Paris. This time there are no first-time nerves, none of the awkwardness of unfamiliarity, we know each other well now and have all bonded since our shared experience a year ago. Some of us have continued to ride, some not so much and one or two (Craig the whippet) have gone on to complete amazing cycling achievements. The day started with some initial disappointment, on the train ride to Waterloo, we received word that Bryan had gone down with a viral infection and would no longer be joining us. As Bryan was to be our support for the ride, (driving the catering van, setting up lunch and tea stops and generally ensuring all of our gear is ferried from one place to another) this was a blow. However in an amazing last minute show of reorganisation and sacrifice, Andy (of the comedy Horn) chose to train it to Barnes, pick up the van, collect Bryan's Son, Ben and swap roles for the weekend, giving up his chance to ride to ensure that the rest if us didn't have to as well. Well done Andy and thanks to Ben too for stepping up at such short notice. Thanks to Maria's diligent planning we all met as arranged and loaded up the van. Shuffled about a bit, shared a few jokes and eventually set off across the broken glass strewn streets of central London. Progress was slow, with 12 riders each trying to stick to the one in front through traffic jams, congestion, roundabouts and busy junctions until we worked our way out of Vauxhall, Clapham and tooting and into the relativly quiet streets Coulsden before heading straight south. For the most part we are following the route set out by Donald Hirsch http://www.donaldhirsch.com/dieppeparis.pdf That takes us on a quietish ride from London to the ferry town of Newhaven from where we plan to take the overnight ferry to Dieppe, catching our first nights sleep in private cabins on board. The ride went well without rain or headwind and we wound our way through Surrey and west Sussex to our first lunch stop at the top of Turners hill. As we crested the hill onto the village green we were met with the splendid sight of Andy and Ben's lunch stop, set out on the green and adorned with bunting and golden faced balloons. We were all terrifically hungry and filled ourselves on hot soup, bread rolls, pasta bake, chocolate , pudding pots and all manner of snacks and drinks. There were food heaters, hobs, tables, bins, plates, cutlery...everything we needed. it was an amazing spread cobbled together by the now absent Bryan and fully appreciated by each of us. Maria doing her bit for the Stroke awareness campaign The too tempting assortment of food and goodies made for a much longer stop than was planned but eventually, with bloated stomachs we mounted our bikes and headed off along the undulating hills through Crawley Downs and onto Newhaven. The Donald Hirsch Route takes you across mostly small country lanes, some of which follow the classic London to Brighton route, winding off occasionally to track across to Newhaven and sometimes just to take in sights like Coulsden common Coupled with this quiet route, the unfamiliarity of riding together made the going slower than average and this gentle pace afforded an opportunity to chat and get to know the newer members of the group. The weather was kind without a hint of wind and despite a warm temperature, the sun was filtered by covering clouds.. perfect riding conditions. After a slightly longer than expected first leg we found ourselves dropping on a long swooping descent into Newhaven, with the surprise bonus (to those who are used to a Brighton route) of missing the south downs entirely. By 8.00 we were sat in the Ark pub, Newhaven, enjoying beers, some dubious pub fare and waiting for dark when we would slip onto the late ferry to Dieppe. Embarkation of the ferry was pretty straightforward despite the amount of luggage and gear we needed to move about. The passport control office was accommodating and customs passed up the opportunity of searching 12 sweaty cyclists in favour of waving us past and onto the ferry. Whilst the ferry offerd us smooth sailing (from within the darkness of our cabin the sense of movement was almost undetectable) it didnt come without its drawbacks. No sooner had we bedded down and dropped of to snatch the much needed 3 hours sleep that the crossing provided, than we were awoken with a prolonged health and safety announcement...in French and English. To shorten the availability of sleep still further, we found ourselves fighting against the rotation of the planet and losing an hour in time difference. The result was that, after finally settling down just after midnight, we were awoken again at 2.30 for disembarkation. Today our numbers dropped from unlucky 13 to a now sweaty and Dirty Dozen, tomorrow would be a long day, with an extremely early start...starting in total darkness.