TOUR DE FLANDRES - PART TWO
DAVE'S BACK AND HE'S GOT A TALE TO TELL...
Last week we saw Dave and friends borrow three new Honda motorcycles, taking to the road to provide support for a sponsored cycle ride to Ypres. Here's how they got on in Tour de Flandres - Part Two...
The challenge for us was to keep the cyclists moving along as smoothly as possible. This meant getting the navigation right, anticipating traffic situations and blocking off junctions and roundabouts where practical. These tasks were a lot easier in France and Belgium, as the roads are not as congested as those in south-east England and drivers are far more sympathetic to cyclists once over the channel.
It turned out to be good fun, particularly as the riders were a great bunch to be around. They were a very mixed group and although all the bikes were modern and light, the same cannot be said of all the riders. There were young and shall we say, not so young riders taking part and as I’m sure you will understand that when one has played rugby for a good number of years and perhaps had a pint or two after each game, the physique that one develops is not that of Bradley Wiggins.
'back on the road'
There was always plenty of banter of the sort that can only work with a group of people that know each other very well, where just the right level of winding up can be attained. At the same time, riders were constantly making sure that their colleagues were OK and offering support when it was thought to be required.
Early on there was a great example of our use. One of the riders suffered a catastrophic derailleur situation and the repair van was out of range. Rather than chase around looking for the van, Milky got young Martin on the back of the Silverwing, along with the dead bicycle. Six miles later they caught up with the awaiting Bicycle Repair Man, a spare bike was produced and Martin was back on the road.
The planned pit stops were staffed by the support crew, who had plenty of refreshments laid out ready for the eager peddle pushers to munch. The stops were at the sites of military cemeteries and memorials. Our first break after leaving Dunkirk on Saturday was in the village of Wulveringhem, not far inside the Belgian border. Amongst the graves in the church cemetery, there is a small row of familiar white military headstones - soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force, from the Second World War. These soldiers were part of the force whose job it was to fight a rearguard action, as such their fate was to either be captured or killed. One of the young men buried here is Chip's Uncle.
Tyne Cot, outside Passendale, was the largest cemetery we visited with nigh on 12000 people buried on the grounds. The sight of the row upon row of headstones is striking and poignant.
We stayed in Ypres on Saturday night and after dinner everyone went to the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing where crowds gather every evening for a Last Post ceremony. A moving and plaintive experience for all the team involved in the ride.
After a glass or two of the fine ale that the Belgians are rightly famous for, followed by a good nights sleep, the peloton headed towards Calais. Our final evening was spent a little way outside Dover, before the challenging ride back to Gravesend in the morning. Over the dinner, we chatted about the ride.
The route over the channel was bookended by going past the area outside Calais, where the migrants and refugees are camped. We talked about the huge numbers of people that had been displaced in Europe during the two World Wars. In fact, the family of one of the riders, Ian, had come over to England as refugees from Belgium. It was conversations like these that brought home the reality of the then and now.
The ride from Dover back to the rugby club in Gravesend was the toughest of the trip with a number of challenging climbs, but the relief and sense of satisfaction were plain to see as the riders were met by a very large welcoming committee, including the Mayor and Mayoress. A few glasses were had that evening.
A BIG thank you to Honda for their support. Having the three bikes made the event run very smoothly. Find out more about the scoots on: honda.co.uk.
Similarly, the generous people at Ears Communications.
The Moles, as the club is known, has raised 25K so far. See how it's doing and donate if you wish at: justgiving.com/gary-theobald.
Now all that remains is to get our CVs into the Tour!!
We hope you enjoyed reading about Dave's journey. Have you taken part in anything similar before? If you have, share your experience with us at email@example.com. We'd love to hear about it!
SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER
Sign up to receive updates and new posts straight to your in-box.