It was a very early start for the 35 riders that gathered at a hotel in Wembley just shy of 6am on Thursday. A whole variety of bikes were on display, with some obviously very serious cyclists and some obviously not so serious...

Among the group were fans of clubs including Birmingham City, Colchester United, Derby County, Doncaster Rovers, Hartlepool United, Nottingham Forest, Notts County, Sheffield Wednesday, Stevenage, Watford and Wycombe Wanderers.

The most sizeable contingents are Blackpool (five riders) and Oxford United (six). We were also delighted to be joined by four riders from the PFA, led by Deputy Chief Executive John Bramhall.

After a few words from The Football League and Help the Hospices, it was on to a safety briefing and map distribution before we rolled out onto Wembley Way for a group photo at 6.15am.

Once a quick interview with Forest Chief Executive Mark Arthur was completed we hit the road, beginning our 251-mile journey to Paris.

Day one was a 90-mile ride down to Portsmouth, where we would stay overnight. Leaving Wembley the London traffic lights and junctions meant the large group quickly broke up into several smaller groups and it was good to get the chance to know some of the riders.

I spent the first leg of the journey with Notts County fans Gary and David and Stevenage fan Andy. The route out of London took us past Brentford's Griffin Park, but we resisted the temptation to see if one of the famous four pubs was open! The first leg was relatively straight forward, taking us to a drinks stop in Chertsey. From there we headed off for our lunch stop at Puttenham Common, only taking one minor detour as we missed an arrow.

At 45 miles in, lunch was certainly needed, particularly after a couple of little testing hills towards the end of the stint, though that was nothing compared to what awaited us after we had had our pasta...

Arch to Arc cyclists

For the early afternoon session, I cycled with Wycombe fan George, and it certainly helped having him alongside me. If we had thought the morning leg had been relatively straight forward, this leg certainly was not, with early pace-setters at the front suffering.

The main culprit for causing our pain was Beacon Hill, it may not be an Alp but it certainly felt like that to the group. The hill just went on and on with the pain getting ever more intense. After that, my heart sank every time we went round a corner and saw yet another hill looming in front of us. The only thing that made the pain bearable was the beautiful scenery we were cycling though.

For the final stint of the day, George and I were joined by Notts fan Gary, Colchester supporter Louise, Graham from Doncaster and our captain Steve Chamberlain from Help the Hospices. This really was a drag with yet another monster of a hill as we went through South Harting and past Up Park. From there we headed down through Havant and on to Portsmouth, pushing each other on as a team.

With 90 miles completed we parked our bikes up at the hotel. The fastest among the group, including Mark and Roger from Forest, and regular cyclist Nick, had already been there for 90 minutes and had empty pint glasses on the table in front of them in the hotel bar! We found out later that some of the group had done more than the intended distance, taking an accidental detour to head toward Southampton to give the a total distance of 105 miles!

As the riders continued to arrive at the hotel in small groups we relaxed watching the first of the night's Euro 2012 matches. We then all sat down to dinner when we were told about the 4.45am depart in the morning for the ferry! Suddenly people were less interested in the bar and more interested in getting some sleep.

Arch to Arc cyclists

It had been an immense day, and a day that had tested us all, no matter what level of cyclist we were. One of the team said it was without doubt their hardest ever day on a bike. Overwhelmingly though, there was a sense of achievement.

Paris was still a long way off but we all knew today had seen us take a big step towards getting there, and the pain we had gone through meaning every penny we had raised for Help the Hospices had already been hard-earned.

Follow the #ArchtoArch bike ride live from France as it continues its journey to Paris via The Football League's twitter account at