Chris Hill and the rest of the Tour de MIPIM's riders have covered the first 160 km, but now east of Paris they encounter harsh weather conditions. Can Chris keep up with the pace?
7.30am Saturday 11 March: Soissons, east of Paris
I couldn't really enjoy it though, first because I kept thinking about how it would be to cycle into that wind and the thought of it made me feel sick.
Second because I was struggling all morning to keep up - sweating up the hills and thinking everyone else was fitter than me until, about lunchtime, I discovered my back brake was stuck on. After I unstuck it I flew.
Dinner was sweet and sour chicken cooked al fresco under a fabulously architectural inflatable lean-to attached to the side of the rolling shag pit that is our bus. Apparently Robbie Williams and Simply Red have also travelled in it. Nuff said.
Today will be a little more demanding - 250 miles to Dijon - and tomorrow my group has drawn what is being called "the ride from hell" - a mountainous bit - help!
1pm, Sunday 12 March: 20 km due east of Lyons
Yesterday began brightly with group A (marshalled by Sgt Major James Burland and including the effervescent Mike Lowe of Arup (who is said to be eligible for a free bus pass) setting off at 5am to reach Epernay, epicentre of the Champagne country, from where we enjoyed a pleasant morning run of about 60 km.
However, the sky had begun to darken and the afternoon session was wet and dispiriting. Two of group B's team gave up the unequal struggle after a cold wet climb, having done two long sessions totalling 140 kms. At the end of their ride it began to snow.
My group C picked up the baton in light snow, which turned heavier as we climbed towards Dijon. By about 9pm we were very wet, cold and cycling down a steep descent in a blizzard. We decided to call it a day and head for an economy motel for a shower and "steak frites". This involved squeezing 10 riders and their bicycles into the broom wagon - a Winnebago - a feat that only our indefatigable broom driver, William Murray, could have accomplished with such cheerful ease.
This morning it was our turn to set off at 5am from Chalons sur l'Aube. It was bitter, black ice all over the road with snow flurries as we left the dark town. Soon however a rosy fingered dawn raised our spirits, the sky cleared and we were rolling nicely in pale sunshine. But the air temperature failed to warm up. The water in our bottles froze into slush puppies so we had to stop to drink.
Through all this, the hard man of the team, Richard Lanyon, wore shorts.
At about 7am we rolled into a tiny village with an open boulangerie and adjacent cafe. Inside was a wood-burning stove and hot pastries straight from the oven. We drank coffees and brandy in heaven.
Next up, this afternoon and evening, we have what is generally expected to be the toughest leg of the trip - aka "the ride from hell". I will report tomorrow.