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I don’t often post my event photography work on my website blog, but this year marks five years of cycling from London to Paris for Breast Cancer Now (in which I have cycled it ten times).
I volunteer as a guide for their huge student rides. The students are from universities across the country, raise over £1000 and are tasked with riding 240 miles in three days. London - Portsmouth on day one, Caen to Evreux on day two and then onto Paris on day three.
I’m fortunate enough to get to capture the event as well as guide the students, who range in cycling ability from competing athletes, all the way to ones who haven’t been on a bike in ten years.
We don’t guide them in the traditional sense, the route is well signed and with smartphones it’s usually pretty easy to correct yourself if you go wrong. We’re more motivators, or support riders. For some, that means challenging them to tackle a hill as fast as they can for others it’s giving them a fruit pastille when they’re in floods of tears from pushing themselves too hard and help them get back on their bike.
It’s easy to say “they should train more,” or “they’re not making enough effort.” Certainly, I’ve met my fair share of cases where both are true, but often they’re riding for personal reasons, be it a connection to the fantastic charity, or supporting a friend who was desperate to do the ride. But honestly, it doesn’t really matter - if you want to get to Paris on your bike, we’ll do everything we can to help make that happen.
It’s just as much fun getting chat from students who beat you up a hill (only to get absolutely smoked on the next one), as it is grinding away with someone who needs someone motivating them all the way up. It’s a buzz when they get up a hill they really didn’t think they could manage and you can’t help but get caught up in the emotion at the Eiffel Tower either, some of them genuinely dumbfounded at what they’ve just done.
The most common questions I get asked by the students are “why would you choose to keep doing this?!” “doesn’t it get boring?”
But for the guides, it’s just too much fun to not want to do. Each time we meet a group of between 60-110 students, with different aims, personalities and stories. It’s not the cycling that brings us back (though that is absolutely glorious), it’s the people. It’s the people that have made me love the last ten L2P’s, it’s the people that make me want to be there for the next ten and ultimately, it’s people I love to capture on camera and is why I do what I do.
Check out a few choice snaps from the trip below. You can find more information about Breast Cancer Now’s fantastic work at www.breastcancernow.org