Calais – Kraków – Shanghai – Osaka by bicycle for the Rugby World Cup, Japan 2019
Days 1 to 9: France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany & Poland
From Day 1 (June 12th) to Day 9 (June 20th)
Totals for the first leg to Kraków: 1003 miles, 25185ft climbing and 65:49 hours riding
After a hectic last night packing the minibus and loading the bikes everyone convened at 5:30am in the White Horse carpark. Wives and girlfriends and sons were there for farewells. We were also surprised to see our Auntie Joyce to see everyone off. A superb effort as she is CXXX years old. Astonishingly she was off for a swim in the sea afterwards (she swims everyday in the sea from April to November!)
The best news though was that Dave was released from hospital yesterday: some of the lads went up to London to fetch him and so Dave was on hand this morning to see his comrades off.
After a full breakfast on the ferry two riders rolled off and they and the minibus met at the famous Calais Hotel de Ville where the remainder of the bikes were unloaded, the departure photographs taken and they hit the road for the first leg of the tour.
Day 1: Wednesday 12th June: Calais to Ghent
As tradition dictates the first day turned out to be wet and cold. After a brief rendezvous in an obscure village the team arrived in Ypres at the famous Menin Gates for a lunch of hot soup and cheeseballs.
By the time they arrived in Ghent however the sun made a rare appearance and when Roger and Steve finally found the hotel after a delay in traffic the boys (and bear) were tucked into a deserved beer.
You will have noticed that Dave (inflatable version) is with the riders. It’ll be interesting to see if he makes it to Krakow.
In the evening the team went out for some pasta in Ghent after having survived a torrential downpour on the way.
Just to be contrary today decided to be be windy, but at least it was dry.
The first rendezvous was at St. Amands on the banks of the river Schelde, which is still tidal at this point. The tide was low and consequently the ferry the boys arrived at was not running. Fortunately another ferry was close by further downstream and the ferryman ran the boys upstream to St. Amands anyway.
They didn’t have to pay: these ferries are free in Belgium the ferryman pointed out and explained they only charge in Scotland and the Netherlands! Dale disgraced himself by cleaning his shoes whilst on board and received a deserved admonition from the ferryman.
The lunchstop was at Herentals on the Maas-Scheldekanaal. The cafe here didn’t do lunch so Roger and I ran into town to get some sandwiches. After lunch it was time for me to leave the team and Roger left me at the railway station to go home.
After 9 days riding the team have arrived in Kraków. They will now be joined by wives and girlfriends for a few days R&R before Dale, Keith and Linford embark on the cycle touring stage to Shanghai and on to Japan. 1000 miles down and 7000 miles to go.