Jeannie Arthur completes her cycling journey following on from the Lotto Dstny team

Jeannie Arthur, Managing Director at Dstny Automate, has just completed her amazing 550 kilometre cycle challenge! The four-day slog which took her from London to Paris saw her arrive just in time to watch the Lotto Dstny cycling team finish their own challenge – the Tour de France. As she takes some well-deserved time to recover from her endeavour, we sat down to discuss the ride alongside her motivation and some highlights.

Why did you take on this challenge?

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of J’s journey is the reason as to why she is doing it – as a charity ride in aid of Prostate Cancer UK and Guy’s Cancer Charity.

“I originally signed up to do the ride to support a very close friend of mine who had lost her ex-husband to Prostate Cancer… but as I learned more about Prostate Cancer and the fact that 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with it the cause started to resonate more personally.  I’m an engineer and have worked in B2B SaaS for 20+ years, to think that 12% of my male colleagues will be impacted by this cancer really saddens me.”

How did the training go? 

On how she stayed motivated whilst training in the run up to the event, J drew on past experiences.

“I have done some long-distance cycling events in the past; from Copenhagen to Berlin and what is called L’Etape Du Tour, where members of the public do a stage of the Tour De France.  I knew that if I didn’t do the training it would be really painful – you have to get used to sitting in the saddle for hours and hours and there’s just no substitute for time on the bike.  That said, work and the general pressures of life meant that I went into the event knowing that I hadn’t really done enough training and that it was going to hurt, maybe not all the time, but definitely some of the time.”

And what about the ride itself?

When it came to the actual ride, J found motivation from those around her, and also the Lotto Dstny team themselves.

“In terms of motivation during the event, it was a whole host of things.  The commitment to my close friend, my commitment to the people who had given their hard-earned cash to support the cause, and the people that I was doing it with. There were fourteen of us in our group – everybody knew somebody, but nobody knew everybody – and the camaraderie was just incredible. It’s that sense of the team that pulled us all through – the common purpose, the support to each other, the knowledge that there will ultimately be something to celebrate together at the end, that keeps you going.”

Unwittingly the Lotto Dstny pros at the Tour de France also helped.

“On day three, I was 70km into the 120km journey from Cambrai to Soissons and we’d stopped in this little village for a break. A traditional little café bar with a little TV in the corner showing the Tour.  I looked up and saw two of the Lotto Dstny team working furiously to bridge the gap to the lead riders.  It made me really proud, made me feel part of a bigger Dstny family and gave me an emotional lift when I was flagging.  I found out later that Maxim Van Gils was on the podium that day.”

What were the highlights of the challenge?

The trip had a whole host of highlights – the camaraderie, raising money for a good cause and the trip itself.

“I’d never really spent any length of time in northern France before and there are some truly beautiful and historically important areas.  Lots of reminders of WWI and WWII that made us all thoughtful given the war currently going on in a different part of Europe.  Lots of sleepy villages with local boulangeries and patisseries serving amazing pastries. Lots of big open landscapes with big skies. I’ve always loved the French word for sunflowers ‘tournesol’ – literally, turning in the sun. We’d cycle over a hill, sun on our backs, to come face-to-face with ranks of sunflowers all with their bright yellow petals and heads gentled bowed in an apparent nod to our achievements.”

Another big highlight of such an adventure was of course its ending, coming into Paris on the fourth and final day.

“The last day was obviously special – that first glimpse of Paris on the horizon and the finishing line being literally in sight.  Our group of fourteen was part of a bigger group of about eighty and we all assembled in Parc Monceau. As one massive peloton we went round the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs Elysee and then to the Eiffel Tower. Doing that route the day before the Tour would do their final laps there was pretty epic.  Although I have to say, we didn’t have the luxury of the roads being closed so it was pretty hairy!”.

“The day after I finished my ride I was fortunate enough to get a pass to the VIP Paddock at the Place de Concorde. I watched the final laps of the race within touching distance of the riders.  And then got to meet them when they came back to the team bus.  My challenge had been four days, these guys had been going for three weeks.  My four days had given me a real appreciation for the work that they do.  Best was meeting Florian Vermeersch, who’d been one of the riders to send us a good luck message right before we left.” 

Any final thoughts?

While the journey from the training phase to the finish line was incredibly eventful, J described how she never lost sight of why she was doing it. “While this was an epic challenge for me personally it is really about the cause – the 1 in 8 men who will be effected by Prostate Cancer.  Its one of the most treatable cancers there is, so boys, if you’re over 50 (over 40 if there’s a history of cancer in your family) please, please get checked regularly.”