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London to Paris on Gravel with HotChillee

The Tour de France is cycling’s biggest event, bringing fans from all over the world together through their mutual love of the sport. Every year, HotChillee organises a London to Paris road ride to celebrate the peloton’s arrival in the French capital.

Save 5% off HotChillee London to Paris 2023 with Moloko

This year, they decided to put together the first gravel edition: 360 km with 2,800m climbing in three days, nothing on what the pro riders would have been through, but an immense journey on uneven terrain.

Moloko were offered a golden ticket to this exciting adventure with support from Universal Colours who provided all the kit needed and Sigma Sports who lent two Cannondale Topstone 3 to try on the ride.

Here is a little write up about four awesome days of cycling.

Gravel cycling in the forest, off road is the best way to cycle to Paris.

Day 1 - London to Dieppe

120 km | 75 mi from London (Molesey) to Newhaven feat. the river Wey, the Downs Link & Brighton.

Rating > Difficult

Terrain > Mostly flat trails

Elevation Gain > 395m | 1,295ft

The alarm goes off, it’s a 4am wake up to start day one of this mega ride. The Cannondales are ready to go, the Vel bags are full of delicious snacks and the gloves are on.

At 6am, with butterflies in our stomachs we get the pedals rolling, hitting the Thames river bank within minutes. There are 40 other riders doing this experience with us and we can feel the good vibes and support from the go.

We have been on some beautiful gravel paths before, but the Downs Link is breath-taking. Birds chirping, canal boats reflecting in the water, feeling like you are in nature, something you don’t always get on the road. Both of us are already thinking about coming back to explore more of what it has to offer, but today, with a ferry to catch, we must ride on.

The ride is flat, some would describe it as “easy”. Which it is compared to what’s coming tomorrow… but let’s not jump ahead of ourselves!

80 km in and it’s lunch! We’re starving and thankfully HotChillee are here to sort us out with sandwiches, cakes and ice-cold cans of coke.

Feeling refreshed, the next 15 km to Shoreham are a delight, with open views of the South Downs while crossing the ridge and cycling until hitting the coast. From there it’s a smooth flat road along the seafront, heading towards Newhaven.

The ferry crossing takes roughly five hours, enough time to refuel with a big dinner and have a well earned nap. Just before the night sets, we arrive in France. Thankfully it’s just a couple of kilometres to our (very nice) hotel. But as soon as our heads hit the pillow, it was lights out.

Hitting the coast after a long day on the bike and sea views of Shoreham

Day 2 - Dieppe to Vernon

140 km | 87 mi from Dieppe to Vernon feat. Auffay, Poses, Rouen & the river Seine.

Rating > Difficult

Terrain > Rolling hills, technical descents and some smooth tarmac.

Elevation Gain > 1430m | 4,691ft

When the alarm buzzes at 6am it feels like we only just fell asleep. A few cups of coffee and many pastries help shake it off.Today is our Queen stage, so it’s a long day ahead: 140 km of gnarly gravel, including the “famous” Gully of Death.

When setting off, one thing is for sure, we are in France. Cows grazing away ready to make the best cheese and putting our legs to the test on the punchy climbs. Making our way to Vernon through endless fields, valleys and woodlands, each more picturesque than the last.

Cycling in between french fields on gravel bikes. Landscapes in France are stunning, perfect cycling sceneries.

Some descents are quite technical, having to embrace our inner Mathieu van der Poel so we are thankful for the road segments giving us an opportunity to rest and breathe.

50km in we stop into a village for coffee. It’s market day so we refresh by having a look around and ended up cuddling some cute rabbits, unsure if they are being sold as pets or dinner. Rolling through the golden wheat fields we get the first (and only) puncture of the trip: luckily it’s one with a view and it’s a wonderful moment to take in the day so far.

HotChillee sorted our lunch at the 80 km mark with pizza on today’s menu. It does the job, allowing us to go full gas for the remaining 60km, mostly along river Seine. We are amazed by some of the villas lining the path and repeatedly catch ourselves dreaming about moving in. Not to sound biased, but what a beautiful country France is!

cycling along the river Seine

Day 3 - Vernon to Paris

100 km | 87 mi from Vernon to Paris feat. Poissy, Saint Germain en Laye, the Eiffel Tower & the river Seine.

Rating > Difficult

Terrain > Rolling hills, some technical descents / climbs with mainly smooth tarmac through cities.

Elevation Gain > 1000m | 3,280ft

View above the Seine in France, cycling along the river.

A foggy morning surrounded by sunflower fields makes a very special start to our final day riding and with incredible views of the river Seine and end goal looming there is more energy than ever to make it up the vigorous climbs. Weather wise we have been very lucky: not a drop of rain, comfortable temperatures and just the right amount of sunshine.

Just over halfway at the lunch break in Menucourt, it was time to meet the 300 riders doing the Hotchillee road experience. We were covered in dust and must have seemed like we had just finished Paris - Roubaix instead of London - Paris. It was quite something to see them all looking immaculate and commenting on their average speed (what’s that?).

After a sandwich and a couple of slices of cake later we all make our way to Paris as a peloton of hundreds of riders. We are escorted by the French police on motorbikes, all roads are closed and we must admit that not having to stop at red lights is rather satisfying. The French look surprisingly happy, the vast majority waving and smiling at us whilst filming this immense line of cyclists heading through the capital. We suspect some of them think we’re professionals as the first women’s stage and last men’s stage is on the Champs Elysées is tomorrow. All this cheering is quite exciting, getting to its epitome when reaching Esplanade du Trocadéro. Having never cycled past the Eiffel Tower on closed roads before, this was truly a moment to remember.

We’ve made it, we’re in Paris.

Day 4 - Tour de France Experience

Today there are no stats, it’s all about the experience that HotChillee delivers for us. Over 300 riders putting on matching Santini jerseys and about to ride the course that all the champions are going to race in the afternoon. Before we start, the ride captains decide to put all the women at the front, because today is a big day. Today is History. The Tour des Femmes is finally happening! It’s the first of an 8-stage race that promises exciting attacks and many surprises. The emotion is palpable while riding the course, passing many “Bravo aux Femmes” banners.

A quick change and a Parisian style bistrot lunch later, it’s time to jump on electric bikes to our Grandstand on the Champs Elysées. What a show these women put on. Travelling more than 50km/h, the peloton passes right in front us not once but eight times before the inspiring victory of Lorena Wiebes. We feel so lucky to be here, shouting “allez allez allez” to our héroïnes.

Stage 1 Tour de France femmes racing on the Champs Elysees in Paris.

The Patrouille de France displays bleu / blanc / rouge smoke while we grab an ice cream before the men’s race. It of course doesn’t fail to deliver and within the electric atmosphere we catch Ganna & Van Aert casually having a chat whilst travelling at 60 km/h at the back of the peloton… mad.

Last stage of Tour de France in Paris, peloton on the Champs Elysees, view from the Grandstand

We’re leaving the Grandstand absolutely buzzing, ending up right behind the podium witnessing Jonas Vingegaard being crowned as the 2022 Tour de France champion. Just when we think it’s over, team Ineos Grenadiers pass right in front of us as they leave the stage. We finish the adventure walking back to our hotel up the Champs Elysées at golden hour, the Arc de Triomphe has never looked so beautiful.

Thank you HotChillee for such an incredible experience!

Registration for 2023 is now open on the HotChillee website!

Save 5% off at checkout with these special Moloko codes 🙃

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All routes are illustrative only and users take full responsibility for their own safety when following any routes suggested on the Moloko Cycling website or app.

Only follow route if safe and legal to so, local traffic laws always take priority.

Take care to ride safely and respect other road users.


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