My mate Tim emailed me one day quite a while ago now with a link to the Right to Play website, he said take a look at this mate, three day cycle ride from Liege to London for charity !, next thing I know he’s sent a text to tell me he’s entered, I had to do likewise after all who else is going to look after him 😉
Well we tried to train but what with the weather and other commitments the day finally arrived and we’d still done no more than the occasional 30 mile bike ride ! Anyhow the bikes were prepped, the kit packed and a willing and generous mate delivered us to Asda’s car park at Clapham on Friday 29th July and so began three of the most amazing days cycling through some fantastic scenery and with some wonderful people.
The coach trip to Maastricht was a bit of a rush but we were finally allowed on the Eurostar, phew !
We arrived a little late at the Stayotel and were all pleasantly surprised with the accomodation. A quick shower and off to the bar for refreshment and a chat with new friends and room mates.
Saturday saw us all take the train to Liege for the prologue time trial of the Tour de France, a chance to try and get close to your personal cycling hero…
Guess who this is then ? Yep it’s the Manx Missile himself Mark Cavendish 😉
Knowing how busy the trains were getting to Liege we set back straight after seeing Cav, seemed a bit early but the trains were packed and it proved a good idea in the end as many people got caught out trying to get back in time for the evening briefing !
Liege train station is an architectural marvel by the way :-
Sunday morning and the start of 115 mile cycle to Ghent, we were set off in small groups but as normal the faster ones catch up and fly past 😉 The first rest stop came after about twenty miles or so and this became the norm for the next few days 😉
I spent the morning riding withe Julie and Fran who I’d spoken to on FB, great company and keen cyclists, we got split up after lunch as I joined a faster moving group for a few miles before getting dropped due to the relentless pace, cycled the final 30 miles on my own to reach the hotel at 16.05 😉
The Camponile Hotel at Ghent did us proud, they turned the carpark into an impromptu restaurant with huge round tables, put on a great buffet and BBQ, provided a live band and a TV to watch the footy, great company, food, beer and music and a few tall tales of the days events 😉
Day two from Ghent to Calais, 105 miles of very flat terrain and canal paths, joined a small group with Tim, Fran, Julie ,Sandie and Mike to name a few, Lee are event rider did as asked and kept the pace to about 15mph, no point rushing to Calais to sit around waiting for a ferry !
Julie was suffering a bit but Mike and Lee went back to get her onto the group again, Tim and I waited for the but with 7 miles to go Mike and I decided we needed to stretch are legs so hustled the last few miles to the ferry.
As it turned out this meant that I was on an earlier ferry than Tim and Julie so Fran, Natalie and Dave joined up and travelled together. Finally we arrived at the Premier Inn in Dover, showered, refreshed and fed ready for the final days cycling 😉
The last day, the big one !!
The RTP organisers had planned two different routes from Dover to our new finish in Greenwich, the first route at 87 miles was generally referred to as the short route, the other route 125 miles was not only nearly 40 miles further but also takes in Box Hill In Surrey ( it forms part of the Olympic road race circuit). When Tim and I signed up for this we always said we wanted to do the longer route but after 220 miles we were beginning to doubt our decision !
There weren’t many brave souls who set off on the longer route but we all left Dover together and hit the hills to get out of the town, it soon became apparent that Tim and I had joined a tough group and were getting left on the hills, we caught them up at the first stop and took on board what we needed and hit the road quickly to get a few miles in before getting passed, the inevitable happened on a straight section of road, Tim and I were flying along at 23 mph when all of a sudden this train of cyclists flew past as if we were stationary, I wouldn’t mind but they looked like the y were just cruising !!
Again Tim and I caught up at the lunch stop and quickly got going again, we made a small error in navigation and we think they passed us at this point as we didn’t see them again until the 100 mile rest stop !!
At 67 miles the course splits, turn left and follow the blue arrows for Box Hill or straight on for 20 miles to Greenwich, it was a tough decision given how we were both feeling but we said we’d do it and turned left, to put this into perspective the 67 miles we’d just done we now pretty much had to do again but with tired legs !!
The weather was raining on and off and although normally this would piss me off it was actually quite refreshing but Tim was struggling a bit so we stopped at 80 miles on a bridge and stuffed are faces with Jelly Babies and Flap Jack, we stopped in the next village to top up the water bottles then hustled to Box Hill, Tim was back in the grove by now and he led the way up to the rest stop, we actually got a round of applause when we arrived, quite moved by it actually as I think they new how hard we were trying 😉
We were asked if we wanted to leave with the fast group but though we wouldn’t be able to keep up and also we were enjoying a welcome cup of tea ! , we jokingly said we’d catch up later but didn’t think that with only 25 miles left we’d ever see them again !
We left about 6 or 7 minutes later and with good roads we set a fast pace, we actually broke 30 mph on the flat at one point !! With 12 miles left we actually caught the lead group and joined them for the last bit into Greenwich 😉
Great to see so many people and hear there stories of the day, we waited for Julie to arrive, she’d had a horrible day with at least three punctures but like Mike she was still smiling at the end 😉
There were numerous times during these three days that I doubted myself, could I really cycle that far, three days of 100 miles plus, was I fit enough mentally and physically….the answer is yes, but I couldn’t have done it without my mate Tim or without the encouragement of the people I met on this trip.
A huge thanks go to all at RTP and Face for there support, the event riders for there patience and to all the participants for making it such and amazing experience 😉