Calais – Kraków – Shanghai – Osaka by bicycle for the Rugby World Cup, Japan 2019
Author: Green River Canoes Ltd
Green River Canoes Ltd runs Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips in the south of France and the Belgium Ardennes.
These holidays are in the Ardennes, Perigord, Lot, Dordogne, Ardeche and Tarn regions with beautiful easy rivers, fabulous scenery, relaxing accommodation and lovely food and wine.
Woke up to a cloudy damp morning, birds singing and chirping. I was feeling a bit concerned, just hoping all the room bookings work out. It’s always tricky with a big group. I’m sure it will be fine, just me being a bit nervous. Naturally ‘Nothing can go wrong’.
First meeting for the the Aylesham contingent was at the Market Square. What a fabulous send off. Many thanks to Stacy, Kobi and all their caring family for taking the time to see us off, very much appreciated. Typical Aylesham send off – a big thanks.
Then we off through the lanes to Dover to pick up the rest of the lads adjacent to the White Horse pub by the church ruins, another team picture then down to the docks. Still the archaic procedures going through the numerous check points – finally on to the ferry.
The Real Start from Calais
Finally off the ferry on to Calais Town Hall, starting are little warm up ride a gentle 45 mile ride to Citadel de Elle de Montareuil- Sur-Mer.
We made a small refreshment stop in the quaint market town of Samer at the cafe de agricultural. We had to as it was raining a little! Lovely ride through the small rolling lanes, very little went wrong though a little puncture about half way. Later I took little tumble on the wet cobbles up to the citadel, nothing serious.
It’s a stunning place to stay and we have booked the whole place, so plenty of beds.
Eric was superb, very much appreciated mate, we could not do this without the support.
And last but certainly not least many many thanks to all that have donated. So pleased to be able to support a wonderful caring family, you are a credit to your self Stacy, Jason, Kobi and the whole family – respect.
It’s fantastic that the target was passed today on our first day on the road. Thank you to everyone who has made a contribution so far. Hopefully we can push on and raise a little bit more. We cannot thank you enough.
The team did a last training ride around East Kent last Sunday. If they are not ready now they never will be. Fortunately they are.
As you would expect the idea was for the whole team to meet for final discussions and plans, with a little ride first. Sadly as is often the case the refreshments got the better of everyone and in any case no last minute arrangements needed to be made.
Dave will be thankful that other team members picked up his Helmet and Garmin which he left behind in the pub. Fortunately his head is screwed on so at least that wasn’t lost.
As is now traditional the team compete to see who can prepare the best cakes:
In fantastic news the sums collected for the charity have now surpassed 80% of our target.
The Vätternrundan is an annual 315km (197m) sportive in Motala Sweden where the route circumnavigates the Vättern lake.
This was the last big training ride for me and Bingo before we set off for Barca 22. When I say big I mean massive; 197 miles in just under 12hrs. A truly epic ride with great company.
It happened to be Bingo’s birthday w/e as well. Happy 60th birthday Bingo; fair play “young un” only someone as bonkers as you would do such a ride. A great achievement.
I was only a late replacement for Glen, who unfortunately could not make it, so I came in as the able reserve.
The tour started on Wed 15th June when Bingo picked me up around 14:00. We loaded the bikes and very little else as we are getting used to packing light for Barca 22.
We are off and full of nervous engergy. To be honest i was more nervous of the driving than the long ride. The drive took us through France, Belguim, The Netherlands, and then we caught a ferry from Puttgarden in Germany to Rødby, in Denamark then finally up to Motala on the banks of lake Vattern in central Sweden. All in all it was 23 hours on the road. We found the campsite and set up camp, had a few beers, something to eat then to bed.
We woke to to a beautiful morning on the lakeside and decided the only way to start the day was to go for a swim in the lake! It was a bit cold at first, but well worth it. The area is absolutely stunning so we went for a walk in the forest and then back at the tent for breakfast.
It’s still only 10am and we have over 12hours to wait before we set off on the ride at 01:28am Saturday morning. We have a little lie in the sun then a slow walk down to the town to sign on. We enjoy the beautiful scenery and eat as much pasta as we can. After that it’s a slow walk back to find we had a new neighbour pitched 1/2 inch from our tent!
He was a decent fella with his wife from Stockholm. Eric was the new Ray and was very keen to tell us it will start raining at 11:00pm and finish at 05:00am the next day. ‘No way’ we said looking at the clear blue skies above.
We managed to do what has never ever been done in living memory on tour and went the whole day without a beer! Well nearly as we did have a few with our dinner, but that does not count, then back to bed to rest until 23:30
We woke up to rain pounding the tent – bloody Eric the viking and his weather! It was really miserable getting ready in the pitch black with it chucking down with rain. Not much was said, just some grumpy comments, then we rode 4km down to the start.
The rain kept on coming as we waited in the start gate for our designated start time of 01:28. It was all very professional as the lead out motorcycle took us out of the town in high winds and pouring rain. I was at the front (no reason why as I could not see a thing) so all I could do was follow the motor bike.
After he pulled off, expecting us to carry on the ride, we had over 30 cyclists following me. All good fun – honestly. The first 3 hours were really hard work, however Bingo got on the wheel of a really fast group. I just tucked in behind them splashing through the puddles and the sound of the wind whipping through the jackets and rain capes and giving no protection at all against the rain.
Finally the dawn broke and we came to the first food station. What was on Bingo’s mind was meatballs, ‘I want my meatballs’, but none could be found and we made do with doughy donuts and sweet coffee (more on that later).
It was the same at the next food station – no meatballs (who’s had all the meatballs). Bingo even spotted an empty tray with evidence but could not find them, much to his anoyance. Once again made do with doughy donuts and sweet coffee! At last the sun was breaking through so Eric the viking was right about that. He had however made no referance to the wind!
On we pushed finding some good wheels to push and pull us along. I’ve never had so much coffee so I found I was flying along, taking in all the beatiful scenery. We stopped for lunch (still no bloody meatballs), but made do with a pasta dish and salad (who eats salads when riding?).
It was full steam ahead now against a strong head wind but keeping up a good pace, through the undulating route, expertly managed by over 4000 volunteers, making all the junctions akin to closed roads. Sure Bingo and I said thank you to every one of them. The Swedes staying mainly silent but when you break the barrier and they then become very chatty, and mainly moan about the hills – not really hills just a few long inclines.
Finally we were up to the last food station and still no meatballs!, but plenty of sweet coffee and donuts. The final 25 mile was against a very fierce headwind but we pushed on easing up the long inclines and fighting the wind on the descents, before entering the picturesque town of Motala with hundreds of spectators clapping us through the final few miles. A great tough ride.
Normal service was then resumed and we headed straight into the bar for some well earned refreshments. The first guys we spoke to Bingo mentions the missing meatballs. They laughed and said 2nd food stop in the gym hall by the massage tents! His face was a picture. If we was not so knackered I am sure we would have gone back for them. As for myself lesson learnt; ‘stay off the beer’ the night before, drink the the sweet drinks on offer and ride hard.
We were two very tired cyclists but loved every minute of it I think. It was a relatively quiet night as the Swedes are not noted for their party atmosphere,. We had a few beers at the campsite then bed for a well earned rest. We had to get ready for the long drive home again in the morning.
No major issues on the drive home just a bloody long way.
‘Happy Birthday Bingo’, it been a pleasure and privalge to spend your 60th Birthday weekend riding with you, cheers mate, ‘Bring on Barca 22’.
Once again many thanks to all those who helped make “Vatternrundan 2022” a truly memorable experience – excellent.
Not to mention all those who have donated. We have passed the 50% mark now, and really appreciate your continued support.
It was an absolutely gorgeous day for the annual ride. Once again Linney pulled out all the stops to get this ride on and keep the tradition going.
One word of note; it is ironic that we struggle to get 15 players out on a Saturday, then get nearly 30 out dressed in womens clothes. Moral of the story is to change the kit to heels and suspenders and see if that helps! Seriously girls get your fingers out for next season. 🙂
A special thanks to the support team; Budgie working as international rescue, Lisa always ready with refreshments and Sara on photography. As always a big thank you to the hospitality from all the pubs, clubs and weddings parties. We had fabulous support from everyone one of you. You are all a credit to our community.
A great time had by all as you can see from the photographs capturing special moments along the ride.
Another great ride visiting 8 local pubs, and showing them the Aylesham talent. Lots of young ladies on the ride this year which is great to see, let’s hope we can attract some of them to play rugby next season. This year’s ride just so happened to be the same day as the local LGBT festival, which made it even more comical
However our thoughts always turn to Kobi and his awesome family. Our thoughts are with you young man. All the very best from all at SCWRFC, with the very generous help from the patrons of local pubs we managed to raise over £200. In total we have now collected £1700 and are about 40% towards our target. A massive thanks to everyone.
Please support Kobi and family and help us raise enough money to give them the best break ever when the time is right.
We had great hospitality from the landlord last night, though its not the ideal preparation for a tough day in the saddle.
Our team was a bit lighter this morning due to prior commitments, weddings in the village etc. So with weary eyes and broken bodies we set of to enjoy the Dorset countryside and hills. We are heading for Weymouth, then up the peninsula to Portland Bill. Should be great training for Barcelona.
We had a fine weekend away with tough strong rides and riders. All the preparations are coming together, for Barcelona. Before that we have a few more training rides. First we have the annual Snowdown Colliery Welfare Rugby Club fancy dress ride next Saturday followed by the Tour of Sandwich on the Sunday. After that Bingo and I go off to do the Vatternruden epic 24hr sportive in Sweden the following weekend.
Good news on the charity side, we have passed the £1000 mark, that’s just over a quarter of our target, please follow the links above to the Just Giving site.
Even though ‘nothing can go wrong’ things inevitably do. Today started with a couple of mechanical problems. First Carl’s drive was knackered. Owen the mechanic from the ride did his best to clean it up and get it going as best he could. What a great bloke from the valley’s of Wales he is.
However the biggest issue was a broken spoke on the captain’s bike. For the first time ever I had to get in the van and go to the local bike shop. Great service though. I was the first one in the shop and I soon had a new back wheel and was off. Being very cnscious of Moey’s wise words I re-started from the start and pushed it through hard, strong and fast and managed to join them at the first feed stop. The lads relaxed when the (self appointed) captain rejoined the team.
We enjoyed a lovely ride though the stunning Dorset (and Jurassic) scenery past castles and Manor houses and the village of Tollpuddle famous for its Martyrs. That’s why we are who we are as they kicked off the fight for worker’s rights and the idea of socialism: respect to all of them (not forgetting our own Wat Tyler and the Peasants Revolt: historical Ed).
It was a great ride with great company. What more can you ask for? We said our goodbyes to two legends on the bike who need to get back for a wedding: Carl who’s inspirational words keeps us going and Mark his son the most helpful strong rider in the team and my lead out man. Mark has led me to two 1st stage wins (not bad for the oldest rider in the team) which puts me up on the leader board once again.
They both fully deserve the speech and medals kindly donated from the lad from Canterbury, who will gingerly be able to get a word in now Carl has gone home.
We are currently down in Dorset and Wiltshire doing the Wessex 300. That is three consecutive 100 mile rides around the Mendips hills. It’s all good training for Barcelona.
We’ve got a good turn out will 11 of the team down here; Cathal, Carl, Mark Moses, Marc Tonks, Stubbsy, Conor, Mark Jordan, Glen, Bingo and Me. We’ve just left the youngsters at home as they are fit enough already!
Not the best preparation for a long difficult training ride; skin full of beer and a massive meal, washed down with a full English breakfast in the morning. The true athletic start. The hotel is excellent with a cracking host plying us with bevarges all night with no fuss.
Woke up to a lovely sunny crisp morning, all met at the start, no issues just our normal confident start, left around 8:30 after Carl had finished chatting to all the riders as per normal.
Great tough ride with some vicious climbs including King Alfred’s Tower gets up to 22% incline pretty tough going. Only one little mechanical nothing that can’t be sorted. We just get on with it along with the usual banter and sarcasm that gets us though it.
All in all a great 120 miles and a lovely day all capped off with a few refreshments at Yeovil Rugby Club, just what we all love.
A quick update on the charity cycle ride to Barcelona which is happening in July for the benefit of Kobi, below, and the Slide Away Charity. All the details are here. The boys have been out and about riding. Next week they go on a more sustained training ride when they do a three day Tour of Wessex based on Yeovil and venturing around Dorset and Somerset or thereabouts.
They have raised £785 so far and are well on the way to the target of £4000. Many thanks to those who have donated.
Liège-Bastogne-Liège is an absolute classic on the international cycling calendar. It is the oldest classic ever and as a result has the brilliant nickname ‘La Doyenne’. It is traditionally the last of the spring classics.
On Saturday 23rd April, one day before the pros, you can ride your own Liège-Bastogne-Liège and get a taste of this epic race. Follow in the footsteps of big names like Eddy Merckx, Philippe Gilbert, Alejandro Valverde, Moreno Argentin, Paolo Bettini, Tadej Pogačar, Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten.
The ultimate challenge is to cover the entire distance of Liège-Bastogne-Liège like the pros the following day. Famous hills such as the Côte de Saint-Roch (the wall of Houffalize), Côte de Wanne, Côte de Stockeu will pepper the longest distance of the Liège-Bastogne-Liège Challenge.
Descending the Côte de Stockeu down into Stavelot, the longest distance coincides with the middle distance and both then tackle the triptych of the infamous Rosier, la Haute Levée and la Vecquée. The middle distance then meets the shortest distance just ahead of the Côte de la Redoute, which then leads to the finale.
The last few years, the finale has consisted of the Côte de la Redoute, where the late Frank Vandenbroucke and Michele Bartoli battled it out for victory, the not to be underestimated Côte des Forges and the all-consuming Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons. Those who still feel fresh there, will imagine themselves hero of the road for a day en route to the finish in Liège!
The day before travelling
After a few years wait we were finally on the road again for one of the iconic Belgium classics; the 147km Liège-Bastogne-Liège Sportive.
We had a team of seven, including Lee, Mark, and Graham (that’s enough Tonks for anyone), plus Steve-will-I-won’t I-Richards from the village and a little known lad from the slums of Canterbury (a super fit Glen) and, of course, the normal retrobates Bingo and Dale.
The day before we set off the ever reliable Glen asks the incompetent captain for the address of the hotel (probably so he can transfer his bitcoin empire). This is where the planning went immediately pear shaped. It turns out our hotel was 400 miles away from Liège. A slight administration error. A message to self; ‘get Linney to check the Barca 2022 bookings’!
After a nervous call to Bingo we got it all sorted. The little 147km ride could not of got off to a better start. Nothing [further] could go wrong.
All was brilliant on the drive over to Belgium, except for a delay with the ferry. We stopped off outside Antwerp for a flying visit to brother Steve, and delivered his vintage 1993 Cannondale T700 for him. This is still my favourite bike, I just wish I was tall enough to ride it! We picked up a bag of delicous Cardomom Buns (and a welcome bag of thirst quenching beers) and then steamed off through the busy traffic on the Antwerp ring-road to Liège.
Surprise surprise it did go even more pear shaped again as the digs were double booked. In true Aylesham style we just dusted ourselves down and after a bit of giggling Graham found a possible place. In no time we were all checked-in, van parked and bikes safe. As usual everything goes like clockwork!
On the Day
The weather turned out fine on the day and the team were buzzing with nervous energy ready for the brutal ride ahead of us. It did not dissapoint. It was tough with long climbs and sweeping descents. Just want we needed to get the Barca 2022 training going.
All the team put in a tremendous effort to complete this tough iconic classic, with Bingo honing his navigation skills to find a lovely little watering hole for a little comfort break for El Capitano a couple of miles from the finish. All good training.