Hope with each passing mile

Posted by: Andy

Back in the spring a new client happened to mention ‘Ride 4 Hope’; a charity bike ride, which they organise annually where a group of amateur cyclists cover a route from Northampton to Ypres in Belgium. 270 miles in four days across three countries, all in aid of raising money for the Hope Centre, a charity working to relieve poverty and homelessness in the Northampton area. How hard can it be, I thought to myself…

Fast forward to September and there I was, joining 27 other nervous amateur cyclists as we met for the very first time outside Northampton University. The party atmosphere and a friendly introduction to the support crew (who would become our lifelines over the next few days) helped to settle the worries for our imminent journey. Before we knew it we were in the saddle and pedalling into the Northamptonshire countryside towards our overnight stop of Cambridge. Split into three groups by ability, we were treated to a fairly easy first day, covering the 55 miles with a constant tail wind and a route which seemed to continually descend. Despite this, the sight of our overnight accommodation at Cambridge University’s Christ College was a welcome one. 

Day two started with the group in high spirits following a great first day in the saddle. Group A were fooled into taking a ‘warm-up’ lap of Cambridge, while the other two groups took the wise decision to head straight out onto the road to Harwich. What followed was the toughest day of the four day trip. The wind direction had turned so we were now cycling straight into it and the undulating route quickly turned into fairly daunting hills that dotted the Cambridgeshire landscape. Finishing 75 miles later, in the dark, the grit and determination on the faces of the riders was evident to see. The growing comradery with the group ensured that stories and plenty of smiles were shared around at end of the day, as the group tucked into a well-earned pint and fish and chips while waiting for the overnight ferry to Holland. Clearing customs, we all cycled together onto the car ferry, which was certainly a unique experience and one that many of us will remember for a long time to come.

Day three began with an early morning wakeup call for breakfast and the chance to watch the ferry dock in the Hook of Holland. A beautiful morning with barely a breath of wind certainly helped as aches and pains caused by the first two days kicked in. Clearing customs in Holland without a hitch, the group began the ride along the stunning, flat coastal paths of the Netherlands. Completely different to being on the roads of the UK, the cycle paths of Holland were a cyclist's dream. Flat, smooth, wide and crisscrossing some of the most stunning scenery we had experienced so far on our trip. A couple of short passenger ferries broke up the time in the saddle, but by the time all three groups had arrived in Middleburg for the final overnight stop of the ride, laughter was abound and lasting friendships had been created. A quick opportunity was taken to service the bikes and grab a shower before all 28 riders and the support team enjoyed a homemade curry and a few beers on the terrace.

An early start greeted the team for the forth, final and longest day of the Ride 4 Hope, as we all made the final push for Ypres. Crossing the border into Belgium, our third country in four days, the group was hoping the cycle paths continued. Our luck was in, as mile after mile of dedicated routes was only broken by the odd cobbled village (not such a nice experience after many hours in the saddle). After a coffee stop at Bruges, a quick ride through the Passchendaele Battlefields and a sobering stop at the Tyne Cot Memorial, all three groups joined together for the final few miles into Ypres. It was an incredible feeling of achievement as we all cycled under the Menin Gate, which signalled the completion of our 270 mile journey. That night we were all treated to a celebratory meal and drinks in one of Belgium’s best restaurants.

The fifth day of the trip saw us load the bikes onto the back of a lorry for their slightly quicker return journey, while the group took an informative tour of our clients production site, enjoyed a superb lunch and an informative business presentation before jumping on the coach back to Northampton.

Aside from making some great friends and seeing parts of the UK and Europe in a way that I have never experienced before, Ride 4 Hope 2016 allowed me, and 27 other amateur cyclists of varying abilities and experiences, to achieve something that many in the group would have deemed as virtually impossible just months earlier, all whilst raising money for such an excellent cause. I know that for me personally, it was a challenge that I look back on with great affection and despite the mental and physical difficulties of spending so long on a bike, the laughter and togetherness of the group was something that will stay with me for a long time. Who knows, maybe Ride 4 Hope 2017 could be on the cards!

If you would be interested in finding out more about Ride 4 Hope 2017 or would like to sign up yourself, please visit www.pidyuk.com, call 01607 705666 or email robertw@pidy.com.