London to Amsterdam Fundraising Bike Ride
Posted on: 04 October 2013
Written by: Anonymous
So first off apologies for not sending out an update sooner. The good news, however, is that we all made it to Amsterdam in reasonable comfort and without too many incidents! The ride itself was an incredible experience and one that I would definitely do again given the chance. All that training really paid off and I felt good in the saddle for the whole trip, enabling me to really enjoy the experience, take in a lot of the scenery and have some fun with my fellow riders en route.
I’m really pleased to report that Cardboard Citizens have raised a whopping £30,272 to date which is really amazing. The fundraising deadline is 16th October so we’re not quite finished yet. My personal target currently sits, with gift aid, at £1787.50 so a huge thank you to everyone that has taken the time to sponsor me. If you haven’t donated yet but still wanted to, then there’s still time. My fundraising page is: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JGPlummer and I would really appreciate any help in raising as much as possible for the Citz!
For those that were following my progress on twitter, you’ll notice that things went decidedly quiet after Saturday PM – more on that later. So here’s a quick rundown of the trip...
Day 1: Blackheath - Dunkirk
We arrived at 7am sharp in Blackheath for our briefings from Passion In Events (PIE) and to organise the riders into groups. Lisa, Patrick and I took an 8-seater taxi to get us there. It was a bit of a squeeze with the 3 bikes:
There were 3 groups; slow, medium and fast paced. I went in the fast group with Lisa and Patrick with 4 other riders and our guide, Ben from PIE. At 8am we all headed out in our groups into the London rush hour traffic aiming to get out of town as soon as possible so we could put some serious miles under our belts. The weather was miserable and it started to rain pretty much straight away. As there hadn’t been much bad weather before the ride, all the rain washed debris from the road to the sides in the cycle lanes where we were riding so before long the punctures started.
All in all, during the first day there were around 20 punctures between the groups. As the roads were pretty slippery there were also a couple of low speed crashes, myself included. Luckily no one was hurt – only a few bruised egos! The rain fell steadily throughout the day and we were all drenched by the time we hit our first scheduled stop around 25 miles into the ride, although spirits were still high.
Just before lunch there was a bit of a mix up in our group and myself and another rider got detached and rode 3-4 miles in the wrong direction. We phoned the PIE organisers who put us back in contact with the group. Ben, our guide, managed to snap his chain whilst out looking for us, so between us we lost around an hour to the other groups meaning that the fast group became the slow group!
In the afternoon we made up a lot of time and overtook both other groups but they were still being hampered by lots of punctures. Because of all of the delays it became clear that we would probably not reach Dover in time for our scheduled ferry across to Dunkirk. In order to make up time the slow group were shuttled by van to the ferry port, whilst the medium and fast groups ploughed on. There were a couple of tasty climbs near Dover to finish the day and we got to Dover at around 7pm, tired and wet but exhilarated to have completed the first leg:
We got into Dunkirk at around 10pm French time and headed for our hotel, which was a couple of miles away.
After a quick shower and a drink everyone hit the sack as we all had to be up early and ready to leave by 7:30 the next morning. All told with getting lost and taking a few detours, I clocked in 93 miles to Dover on day one but was still feeling strong at the end of the day and it was great to know that it would be flat with no more climbs from now on.
Day 2: Dunkirk - Renesse
We woke early, eagerly checking the weather reports with hope that the heavens would clear for our longest day in the saddle, scheduled for around 115 miles. We were disappointed and the forecasts stated that it would rain pretty much all day. The groups rolled out into the grey morning mist but one thing that we really noticed straight away was the quality of the roads. Compared to the UK, riding abroad is a far superior experience. The roads and cycle paths are well looked after, smooth and fast, and the motorists and pedestrians are generally very courteous and give a rider lots of room to manoeuvre which was just what we needed to keep spirits up.
After crossing the border we got to our first scheduled stop in good time without incident and well ahead of the other groups as today the fast group wanted to make sure we lived up to our name! We stopped at a small town in Belgium called Hondschoote and had coffee and snacks with the local boozers.
We then headed off as the other two groups came in and started putting some serious miles in. The weather was still very poor and it started to rain heavily which hampered both our visibility and speed as the roads became slick. It was at this point we had our biggest crashes of the event. Firstly as we followed a long straight path for around 10 miles I ran wide onto the grass verge at around 20 mph and lost control. I did manage to slow down but then clipped the path when trying to rejoin the group and fell off into a large puddle. A bit of a comedy crash that everyone laughed at….. A few minutes later Ben did something similar but as he was leading the group this caused a bit of a pile up and there were some skinned knees, hands and shoulders.
No one was badly hurt, so we jumped back on our bikes and headed for lunch and a proper patch up from the PIE medic. Here’s us having a spot of lunch in a café in Torhout, Belgium.
Getting back on the bike after lunch was a bit harder as everyone was soaked to the skin and we still had 60 miles to do. We did, however, have to cycle through the outskirts of Bruges which gave us an opportunity to stop for a couple of fine beers to perk us up a bit.
It was at that point that my phone got wet and as I plugged it into my external battery pack a power surge fried the internals and I couldn’t get any more snaps or update twitter from then on. The phone is insured so it wasn’t a big problem but was a shame not to be able to record the rest of the trip.
As we crossed the border into the Netherlands the weather cleared and we finally had our first bit of sunshine which really lifted everyone’s spirits. We caught a ferry from Breskens to the Zealand islands and rode north along the Delta Works sea barriers. The weather had cleared a lot by this point and the sun had come out although there was a strong head wind from the North Sea which made for slow progress. This part of the ride was beautiful and really interesting to get up close to all of the barriers and to see engineering on such a scale was pretty impressive!
We rolled into Renesse at around 7pm and had time for a quick beer and a shower whilst waiting for the other groups to arrive. The medium group arrived around 8pm and the slow group around 9pm so it was a long day for everyone. The whole team went out for dinner in town followed by a couple of drinks before bed.
Day 3: Renesse - Amsterdam
The weather forecast was much better for our final day and as we were working well as a group by now we had a bit of a lay in, leaving an hour after the other groups at 9am. We rode through lots of small towns and villages, swiftly catching the other groups and then hit the sand dunes on the way to the Hague. There was a 25 mile strip of bicycle path through the dunes which was some of the best riding I’ve done. Really fast undulating sections through the dunes, with the wind at our backs and the sun shining – couldn’t have asked for more!
We had a quick stop for lunch then back on the bikes for the final stretch to Amsterdam which went by very quickly. The plan was to meet on the outskirts of the city and wait for the other groups so we could all ride in together. We had about an hour to kill as we had made such good time so settled in for a couple of local brews. Everyone arrived at around 5pm but the weather had turned again and it started to rain. We finally got into Amsterdam centre and headed for the central station for the finish line, some celebratory bubbly and a quick photo shoot.
We then headed to our hotel which was quite gnarly to say the least – trying to navigate 25 bike riders through town during rush hour, battling the traffic, trams, pedestrians in the pouring rain as it was starting to get dark was challenging but the PIE guides got us all there in one piece.
Everyone showered then we all headed for dinner and a well-deserved celebration, which went on into the early hours.
The following day we had some time in the morning to relax and have a poke around town. We caught a coach to Brussels at 2pm to get the Eurostar back to Kings Cross. As the rush hour traffic on the edge of Brussels was bad we missed our connection so had to wait an extra hour for the Eurostar. Rachel managed to get us upgraded to a first class carriage to ourselves which was great so the celebration could continue all the way home! We picked the bikes up from Kings Cross station at 10pm and had a farewell drink. I finally got back to the flat just before midnight on Monday night and had a proper lay in the next day!!
So the adventure is over and I had a great time, met some very interesting people and some new friends I’ll keep in touch with. I’m really pleased that I’ve hit the fundraising target and been able to contribute to Cardboard Citizens’ future, which I’ll be taking an active interest in the future. Now it’s time to set the next set of targets and start training for the next event as I don’t want to stop here. Watch this space!
Thanks again for all your support, contributions and kind words along the way – it really was worth it!
With thanks to