In my ongoing quest for adventure, earlier in the year I asked Twitter if anyone fancied cycling to Paris. Inspired by @ChallengeSophie who seems to zip back and forth across the channel at wild abandon, it seemed like an easy enough task. Get on a bike, pedal in a forward motion in the direction of France, hope for the best.

The first person to reply to my Tweet was Alan Eagle. Although we didn’t really know each other all that well, having followed one another’s running exploits online for years, it felt perfectly natural to agree to cycle to another country together. Alan is also ginger, so by default he is a really cool person. We set a date and agreed to undertake the challenge. What could possibly go wrong?

Rhalou bicycle

As the date approached, with an imminent house move, cash flow issues and the glaring lack of a bicycle keeping me awake at night, I started to question my decision to cycle to Paris. I called Alan and tried to backtrack. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I’ve got it all sorted, just meet me at King’s Cross at noon. Oh and bring a bicycle.”

After some hustling, I acquired a bike, borrowed panniers off my cool friend Anna and bought some lube. I had no excuses. I was destined to cycle to Paris if it killed me.


When my partner in crime took 30 minutes to find me on the platform at King’s Cross station before we’d even started our journey, I knew we were in for a rough ride. It turns out Alan is a bit rubbish at navigating. Oh and he didn’t bring a map. But apart from this, he was a wonderful companion and I promise not to take the piss out of his lack of spacial awareness a moment longer. If you ever get the opportunity to go on an adventure with Alan, jump at the chance. He is a cheerful and considerate cycling companion. Just don’t leave him in charge of the map.

Armed with bum lube and home made flapjack, we set off in the direction of Newhaven by way of the Avenue Verte, a cycle path promising to lead us from London to Paris with relative ease. Except we may have miscalculated the distance somewhat. It turns out that, having not really done any training, 60 miles on day one is a huge undertaking. Despite having 11 hours to play with, we missed our ferry crossing by two minutes. Undeterred by this minor setback, we found a hotel and set off again at dawn.

Rhalou map

Although our first day in France was a little behind schedule, it was worth the wait. The French approach to cycling is considerably more civilised than us Brits and the Avenue Verte provides a stark contrast to the UK. With well signposted routes and long traffic-free sections set along an old railway line, it was a pleasure to explore.

As the gentle Normandy landscape unfolded around us, we passed row upon row of fairytale houses, with quaint wooden shutters and perfectly manicured hedges that looked like they belonged in a Hansel and Gretal story book. Cruising through olde worlde deserted French villages with nothing but delicious bread and cheese and balmy sunshine for company, we didn’t see another cyclist all day long.


After 40 odd miles and a few wrong turns (it’s hard to navigate even the clearest routes with just an iPhone) it became apparent we weren’t going to make it to Paris (or even halfway) in one day. As nightfall descended and our weary legs could cycle no more, we stopped off in the little town of Forges-les-Eaux. The only venue open at that hour was the casino. So on a Thursday night in a small town in Normandy, we found ourselves in a packed ballroom eating Tagliatelle surrounded by inflatable palm trees and elderly gamblers listening to James Brown’s Sex Machine. Alan produced a Hawaiian shirt from his pannier. If I hadn’t been so tired/drunk I would have noticed we’d slipped into a parallel David Lynch dimension.


The following morning we rose early and, drunk on optimism, decided to try and complete the last 100 miles to Paris in one day. Stuffed full of croissants and those miniature jams I always want to steal, we set off for the big day ahead. Having shared a rather small twin room with Alan who was still a virtual stranger, I foolishly didn’t go to the toilet and hit the road with a full tummy.

After about an hour I needed a poo so badly I would have gone to the loo with a hundred virtual strangers in the room and not given a rat’s arse. But there were no toilets, and so we toiled up some rather hilly sections of the route while I desperately tried not to poo myself. By mile 30 I gave up hope and squatted in a field. A nearby car stopped to watch. I cycled the next 20 miles really really quickly.


The next few hours drifted by in a haze of rolling hills, soothing countryside, stunning chateaus and bum chafe. At about mile 60, tired but determined and roughly 40 miles outside of Paris, a cheerful drunk Frenchman leapt out in front of us and enthusiastically motioned us towards his home. After a complex game of sign language, he produced a rather beautiful wife who spoke perfect English. She generously invited us into her home while her pissed husband stood and shouted at us joyfully (I assume) in French. We declined their kind offer, for fear of waking up in an ice bath with no kidneys, and set off.


Ten minutes up the road and it started to rain, heavily. Twenty minutes up the road we approached the only hotel within a 50 mile radius, and it was full. We found a bus stop to shelter from the downfall and discuss the price of human kidneys. The merits of getting arrested to ensure a warm bed for the night also came up in conversation. But then Alan produced a bottle of gin from his pannier. Soaking wet and miles from anywhere with nothing but neat gin and flagrant cheese for dinner, I realised I hadn’t felt this happy in years.


There’s nothing like the need for sleep and a substantial dinner to galvanise a girl to cycle 100 miles in one day so, fuelled by gin and desperation, when the rain finally stopped we set off again. As the clouds parted, we were rewarded with a rather sublime sunset and the hint of the outskirts of Paris.

Exhausted and chafing in strange places, as the 95th mile approached, cycling through the darkness I was convinced we were nearly there. But upon closer inspection of my iPhone, it turns out that Paris is in fact fucking huge.

At about 2am in pidgin French I somehow managed to convince a bus driver to stick our bikes in between the seats and drive us further into town. My visions of cycling the final mile towards the Eiffel Tower with arms flailing in the air like a pro cyclist were crushed, but at that time of night frankly who gives a toss, we had made it to Paris.

Fortunately our bus driver revealed himself to be the wheeler dealer of late night transport and watching his shady interactions as he raced through the city streets was worth sacrificing the victory mile for.

At about 3am soaking wet and exhausted but ecstatically happy, we finally arrived in the centre of Paris. In the closest hotel possible we persuaded a suspicious concierge to store our filthy bikes and, after 16 hours on the road, we stumbled into bed.

Rhalou Sacre coure

The next two days were spent feasting on pastries, drinking wine and pretending to have the energy to be excited about famous monuments, before shuffling onto the Eurostar home. Cycling from London to Paris on a wing and a prayer is not easy, but it was worth every second of adventure and I’d do it again tomorrow if only I could still sit down.

Having recently entered the Shock Absorber WomenOnly Triathlon in pursuit of a hot tri body despite not owning a bicycle or knowing how to swim, I was given the opportunity to meet my cycle idol Victoria Pendleton. Check out my interview with the Olympic cycling goddess and keep your eye out for my tri training update, coming soon.

Victoria Pendleton

Rhalou and Victoria best friends for life

How have you found the training for the running section of the triathlon?

I’ve really enjoyed running. Since I’ve retired I’ve been doing a lot of running, just to do something different. As a cyclist I wasn’t allowed to run because of risk of injury, so it’s been quite fun doing something completely different. I’ve also been running my dogs a lot, which kills two birds with one stone; they love it, I love it and everyone’s a winner.

What sort of cross training do you do to supplement your training?

Mainly weights as I’m a sprint cyclist, but also I’m a big supporter of doing stability work. Cycling is quite hard on your lower back; if you don’t have strong core muscles it can cause a bit of discomfort in your shoulders and lower back, so I do a lot of Pilates.

How do you stay hydrated?

I think it’s useful to have a drink with a bit of electrolyte in. They can be quite strong, so I tend to dilute them or add coconut water. You’ll absorb more if it’s got a bit of electrolyte or carbs in it. Also don’t worry to much as there are regular on site feed stops so don’t feel like you have to carry loads of bottles and weigh yourself down.

What do you make of the Women’s Tour cycling race?

It wasn’t really my distance being a sprint cyclist, but it’s great that there are opportunities for the road women to really showcase their skills, training and expertise. There’s a massive inequality between male and female events for women cyclists, especially on the road. It’s nice to see they’re getting an opportunity to race in a high profile event for a change. I’m all for it, and for giving younger girls something to aspire to and work towards.

How often do you get treatments?

As a full time elite athlete I used to have a weekly leg and back massage, and probably one or two physio sessions a week which might involve some mild massage relief. I had a lot of acupuncture as well because I found trigger point acupuncture worked really well to relieve muscle tension without having to get into the muscle damage.

If you could only do one fitness or exercise again in your life, what would you choose?

If I could only do one, it would probably be cycling. I like running; I like the fact you can get the intensity in a very short space of time and you have to be totally focused on the moment, but I love the freedom cycling gives you and the areas you can explore, the places you can go and the views you can reach. It gives you an extra element of freedom. I love being outdoors and going to new places.

Victoria Pendleton 2

Victoria looks perfectly calm when Rhalou tries to cup her boob

What do you think of hybrid bikes?

I think hybrid bikes are great for somebody who’s getting into cycling or looking to do this event. It gives you a bit more stability than a road bike would, and for someone who hasn’t ridden with dropped handlebars before it can be a little bit more comfortable. Having a bike that suits more than one scenario is a great place to start and you’re more likely to use it in a lot of different ways, and get more out of it. Also the tires tend to be a bit thicker which will give you stability and more confidence.

What’s the importance of women only events?

The big thing about women only events is the fact that the environment is a lot less intimidating. Having been brought up in male orientated environment my whole life, it’s definitely a different experience. When guys get involved it’s always about how fast you go, and what’s your best time. It all becomes very performance orientated rather than did you enjoy it? Women only is a lot less intimidating. Women are good at banding together and getting their friends involved and making it more than just an event. It becomes a social team, where you pitch in and stick together.

When you’re preparing for an event, do you have any lucky charms or superstitions?

I was very disciplined with the way I approached my training as an athlete; it wasn’t so much superstition, but I had to do everything exactly and precisely, like if I had to do a certain time on the road, then I would make sure that I literally go past that minute. If I go under, then I haven’t done the full time, which is crazy, you’re literally talking maybe 30 seconds on a road ride of two hours! For me it was all about the discipline and doing everything very precisely rather than actual superstition, but it gave me the confidence going into the competition.

Do you ever lack motivation?

As an athlete I never really struggled with motivation, one because it’s my job, and I was lucky and felt very privileged to have it as my job, so it wasn’t like I could pull a sickie for no reason. But also approaching training, I always thought there’s someone in China or Russia who is training today and they’re training harder than me, so they might beat me on race day. I have to do it and I have to do it better than everyone else is doing it right now if I want to go to the line and really stand a chance.

I guess now that translates that if I want to look a certain way, enjoy my food and not feel guilty about what I eat, if you want that, then you have to pitch in; there’s no way of avoiding it. For me, that’s what keeps me motivated. The end result is clear in my mind and that doesn’t come for free, it requires hard work and dedication. I love the discipline anyway; If it’s hard when I push myself, I feel it’s a lot more rewarding than when it comes easily.

What role do you think events like Cycletta play in getting women involved in sport?

The biggest thing for me in inspiring women to get involved and take up sport is about opportunity. If there’s plenty of opportunity, it makes them more possible. I’m a big believer than everybody is good at some sport or fitness activity, they’ve just got to find it. So it’s all about creating as many opportunities that are appealing for you to get involved with. More women only events that really cater for the novice through to the serious is the way forward.

Do you feel any sense of responsibility or duty to the nation to encourage youngsters in particular to get involved in cycling?

I do feel a little bit of responsibility, but for me mostly it comes down to the fact I have had an incredible career and feel like I’ve been really blessed with the opportunity I was given, and what I personally got from sport as a human being. I used to be the most shy, timid child. Sport has given me so much confidence and so many opportunities; that alone is enough for me to encourage people to get involved with sport. I’ve met so many great people and traveled the world and I’ve got so much from it. As someone with a profile through sport, it’s worth me using that platform in order to encourage someone else. I’ll keep trying anyway!

To enter the Shock Absorber WomenOnly Triathlon click here

The title of today’s blog is not a plea for sympathy, it’s a veiled reference to one of my favourite Korean films, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, from an ultra-violent trilogy based on obsession and revenge. It has sod all to do with my current circumstances, but I am seriously considering calling my next chicken Lady Vengeance.

Anyhoo back to the job at hand. Lady Fate (not Vengeance) is a shrewd woman. She knows what she’s doing. Just when I was starting to get really fed up of cycling into the wind (literally and metaphorically, as I still haven’t learned to drive yet) and felt like my brave adventures in the Scottish undergrowth were turning into a farce, she stepped in and steered me in a new direction. I can only assume it was Lady Fate or some otherworldly force, because I’d all but given up.

I really love it here. I love the hills and the endless sky and the freakishly soft water that makes every day a good hair day. But sometimes living in the arse end of nowhere 350 miles away from home sucks a bit. As much as I love my volcanic view, I miss my girlfriends, I miss my family, I miss wasting money on shoes, I miss having a reliable income and I miss living within spitting distance of a shop that sells bog roll and butterscotch chocolate. Or even plain chocolate. A Dairy Milk would do. Alas a visit to the chocolate shop involves a 7-mile round trip on my bike; usually face first into the wind. Burning it off before you’ve even licked it bizarrely takes away the sinful pleasure of pigging out on chocolate. It’s just not as much fun if it’s not a bit naughty.

My bag of woes has probably been weighed down with the business of not running enough. As all you die-hard running fanatics will attest, once you’ve been inducted into the cult of running, injury is your greatest foe. Although it’s just a wee niggle, it’s enough to prevent me from properly hitting the trails, and subsequently I confess, when I read your Twitter updates about how great your running is going, I might secretly want to kill you all in a blaze of Lady Vengeance style kung fu. Sorry about that.

But after a couple of days of festering in self-pity, perhaps because I’ve stopped trying to control everything and resigned to roll with the punches, things in the land of haggis took an unexpected turn and have since started to improve. I answered an ad in the local paper and got a job copy-editing for a local business which I absolutely adore. In a merry trilogy of gainful employment, I also got a job tutoring, which is great fun and very rewarding. Then a last minute call came through to help out at the Hawick News. Check out the sexy floating head.

Hot off the press: The Hawick News

So I’ve been busy writing and teaching and peddling furiously into the wind. Although I haven’t been doing much running, my new friends The Runner Beans have been absolutely lovely. I promise to train more with them when the suspicious knee rights itself. I’ve been riding like a wild cat instead. Cycling 50+ miles a week in adverse weather conditions sucks a bit, but has resulted in some unexpectedly pleasing thigh tone-age. If only it were warm enough to show off these newly honed mountain-thighs in my trusty sequin hotpants…