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Wednesday 15 June 2016

Final Donation Update

So it's been nearly two weeks since I completed the epic adventure that was Football to Amsterdam 2016 for Prostate Cancer UK.

The sponsorship and donations have been simply amazing. A massive thank you to everyone who has so kindly and so generously sponsored and supported me with donations.

My original target was £1,000. As of today, I have amassed 175% of this target and my total stands at £1,753

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

You can still read the messages and donate via my Just Giving page here...

Tuesday 14 June 2016

News Story On Web Feet Website

A big thank you once again to marketing agency Web Feet for featuring a news story all about my Football to Amsterdam 2016 adventure for Prostate Cancer UK on their website.
Plus sharing it on their Twitter account.

You can read the story on the Web Feet website here, or by clicking the image or following the link below...

You can follow Web Feet on Twitter by searching @Web_Feet or clicking the following link...

Monday 13 June 2016

My Blog Post Features On The Prostate Cancer UK Website

Really proud to read and see my 'cyclist diary' blog post, that Prostate Cancer UK asked me to write, has been published on the Prostate Cancer UK website and then shared on their Twitter and Facebook pages!

The website article can be viewed by clicking here or by following the link below the picture...

The Prostate Cancer UK Twitter account has over 30,000 followers and the Facebook more than 48,800 likes.

To follow Prostate Cancer UK on Twitter search @ProstateUK or follow the link below...

To Like the Prostate Cancer UK on Facebook visit the page at... 

Thursday 9 June 2016

Even More Coverage & Support From AFC Bournemouth!

The support and endorsement I've received from AFC Bournemouth for the Prostate Cancer UK Football to Amsterdam 2016 ride has been immense.

From all the support and promotion pre-ride, they have continued to support me post-ride with a news story on the official AFC Bournemouth website and a tweet from their Twitter account.

You can read the full website news story by clicking here or following the link below... 

The AFC Bournemouth Twitter account (@afcbournemouth) has 171,000 followers. Plus it mentioned the Prostate Cancer UK Twitter account as well, so the tweet could have been seen by their 30,200 followers.

I can't thank AFC Bournemouth enough for their support.

Wednesday 8 June 2016

My London to Amsterdam Cycling Diary....

My cleat clicks into the pedal and I take my first pedal stroke on my bike heading towards the Olympic park. It's early and the weather has an early morning freshness and brightness as I head from my hotel to the velodrome, the starting point of this amazing and epic cycling adventure they call Football to Amsterdam.
My head is awash with emotions… excitement, nervousness, anticipation, intrigue, curiosity, trepidation, confidence…. to name but a few!

As I reach the velodrome I am greeted by wealth of smiles, friendly greetings, waves and knowing nods from every angle by riders, support crew and Prostate Cancer UK staff.

The registration and check-in process is completed instantly and simply, and with my bike now ‘racked’ it is into the Velodrome for the briefing.

This is my first visit to the Olympic park and the impressive nature of it is still immense. With that 2012 Olympic spirit still very much in evidence. Maybe this spirit is contagious as the atmosphere and enthusiasm being generated by the 190 riders inside the velodrome is the start of something very special.

One of the first people I see inside was Watford, AFC Bournemouth and AC Milan legend Luther Blissett, who instantly shakes my hand and comments on my AFC Bournemouth cycling apparel that SaddleDrunk had made for me. As last year Luther had written in a similar AFC Bournemouth cycling kit.
So with the great briefing completed, it is back outside and onto the bikes. And what a spectacular sight it is to see 190 riders in their club colours all lining up on the start line. Especially the large contingents from Wigan Athletic and Tottenham Hotspur, whose team wear and numbers were really impressive

I went off in the third wave of riders, alongside Luther Blissett and we headed out from the Olympic Park through East London.
The first few miles were great fun, with lots of smiles and some really good fun football team banter occurring regularly as the groups of riders converged at the many sets of traffic lights in East London. I definitely get a lot of practise clipping-in and clipping-out of my pedals each time we stopped!

Reaching the first water stop after 22 miles it was great to see lots of smiles and the sound of good natured encouragement. After a quick fuel stop and refilling of my water bottles I was asked if I’d mind doing a video interview with the Prostate Cancer UK team, which I happily and proudly did. Telling my story and answering questions about how I felt about the epic adventure ahead.

So back on the bike and heading out into Essex. Now the next section of the ride will no doubt go down in Football to Amsterdam folklore, as we were all directed to turn left out of the water stop.
This we soon found out was a genuine and honest mistake by the ride crew, who couldn't apologise enough! But it did ensure lots of good humour and banter to Brian and his team from Expedition Wise at the end of day one and occasionally in day two as well!!
I had my suspicions that we maybe were going in the wrong direction as I hadn't seen an orange directional sign in a few miles, but as there were still riders ahead of me on the road I convinced myself that I must have just missed seeing the signs. When I reached a ford and the water was a little over a foot deep as I rode through it, my suspicions were soon raised!!!
With the help of another small group of riders who had uploaded the route map via Strava to their Garmin bike computers, we were soon finding our way back across to the official route. So luckily we only had about a five mile detour, whereas we heard tales from other riders on Saturday night that they had ridden 12, 15 or 17 miles in the wrong direction, although maybe some of this miles recollections could've been a little ‘beer’ embellished!!

So riding through the wonderful rural Essex countryside on quiet roads was amazing. At times you pass riders or are overtaken, every time there was a nod of recognition, a smile and a word of encouragement or support. Occasionally the odd football related quip or comment. The camaraderie was so evident from day one. 
I hadn't realised that Essex had so many hills, as we seemed to climb up more hills that we descended, but the route planners had done a fantastic job in finding a route on great roads with wonderful views, definitely ideal cycling territory.

The lunch stop was a little after Chelmsford and it saw our numbers swell considerably as we met up with Team Ipswich Town. Swelling our riding numbers to over 250 riders. Over lunch in the marquee friendships began with tales of the mornings 44 miles riding and their individual experiences. Along with sharing our training and preparation stories. No one sat alone it was one big group. 
Meeting ex England captain and Ipswich Town legend Terry Butcher over lunch was a great experience as he was cycling his second Football to Amsterdam ride.
With the grey clouds gathering and the temperature dropping slightly I was keen to get back on my bike. So a quick visit to the support truck to rummage in my day bag to replenish my supplies of snacks and energy gels, I was back on my bike and heading towards Colchester.
The groups had become a little dispersed on the road, with everyone finding their own pace and speed or riding in groups and teams. 
I was still feeling good, especially after a great lunch. Now riding the hard miles in a strongish wind, my smile occasionally faded but was soon reignited with the great encouraging football chant signs that the Prostate Cancer UK had erected every few miles. As soon as I read the chant printed on the sign, my subconscious kicked in and I was soon humming the chant or singing it in my head. A really great distraction and motivation every time I passed one of these orange signs.
The hardest part of the ride for me personally was the section just before Colchester where we rode past the reservoir. This section of road was fairly exposed with a vicious cross wind and a hill that dragged on and on into the distance in a curve that you could see for miles. 

But once I finally dragged myself past the reservoir I caught with a group of Ipswich riders and we quickly rode the last few miles to the Colchester Utd football ground for a well deserved and much welcomed final water and snack stop.
Here I had a nice chat with Terry Butcher and the Ipswich team. Soon it was back on the bike for the last leg of the day, the 20 miles to the ferry port of Harwich. Again I was feeling good, legs were OK, bike had been magnificent and I had now ridden a greater distance than I’d achieved in training, as I passed the 67 mile mark.
The route from Colchester, once out of the town centre, was on quiet country roads. Again there were a few hills, but nothing too challenging. Checking my mileage on my Garmin I knew I was approaching the end of day one. The smell of the sea and the sight of the cranes and silhouettes of the ferry docks and port in the distance was a really welcoming and reassuring that the end was near. I spotted a couple of riders up ahead and managed to speed-up enough to catch them. These two chaps from Portsmouth were great to chat with as we rode the last couple of miles together to the finishing line. The end of day one was completed after a warm shower, some hot food and a cold beer or two!  

Starting day two from the Hook of Holland ferry port under misty skies but in very warm early morning heat. I start in the first wave of riders on the most amazing cycling paths. Flat, smooth tarmac on wide traffic-free lanes, a cyclists dream!

Riding with two Southampton fans, we gobbled up the miles at a brilliant average speed. The route dissected the beautiful sand dunes of the fantastic Dutch coastline. Soon we have reached the first water stop at the 18 mile point.

The atmosphere at the stop is all smiles and good humour as we are all really enjoying the flat traffic-free cycle paths, amazing weather and wonderful scenery as the sun has broken through and the early morning mist has dispersed.

I'm really keen to get back on the bikes and continue the ride. Albeit at a slower pace, as I want to take in as much of the Holland experience as possible. Riding now with my cycling buddy Anthony, we eat up the miles in the sunshine, chatting happily as we ride mainly side by side. 

As we follow the directional signs into small towns we notice that the cycle lanes have priority over traffic at intersections, as well as their own crossing lights. Feeling incredibly safe away from the traffic on these cycling super highways we even manage to miss a direction sign and go on a small five mile detour in the wrong direction. Noticing our mistake at the next road intersection, we soon retrace our route and pick up the very obvious direction sign that we missed. We must have been distracted by the wonderful sights or chatting too much!!!
The big difference I noticed on day two was a real togetherness as a collective. Now this could be because we are now all dressed the same, resplendent in our black Prostate Cancer UK cycling jerseys. Hence the banter and good natured rivalry has lessened now our club colours are not being proudly displayed. Or it may have been simply that we had pulled together as bunch of riders with one common cause and objective. But the collective team spirit throughout the day grew and grew to truly epitomise the descriptor #menunited.

The lunch stop was reached after 35 miles and once again the location and food was amazing. Lots of pictures were being taken and maybe a couple of beers were drunk to top up the fluid levels! So over half way on day two I set out after lunch with water bottles topped up and sunscreen reapplied.
The sights and scenery we encountered over the next 15 miles was breath-taking and what I had envisaged and imagined Holland to be like. On a sunny Saturday afternoon we rode passed green flat fields littered with windmills, tree lined roads and beautiful endless canals and lakes. Passing local cyclists who smiled, waved or had a slightly confused look on their faces as group after group of black lyrca clad cyclists rode past them.

I was feeling so happy. My fitness and stamina was holding up really well. Riding with Anthony was great fun as we shared stories and anecdotes. 
The pace was slower today as we had been told at the briefing that the last water stop, which was 6 miles from the Ajax football stadium, we would be held there until there was at least 80 riders to then allow us to finish in large groups or waves to the finish line, rather than as individuals or small groups.
Arriving at the final stop in glorious sunshine we found a little shade in the beer garden. After a small wait and some liquid refreshment we decided to go off in the second wave of finishers.
Riding out with approx 60 riders we headed along the canal heading towards Amsterdam. The banter was good and the pace was a little quick as we headed to the finish. Meeting up with our guide, we stopped about 800 metres before the finishing line to regroup as a collective. Then it was a group ride to the finishing line in front of the magnificent Ajax Arena. 

Through the finishing arch I rode and I felt a mixture of really positive emotions...happiness, relief, achievement and pride. A medal was placed around my neck, congratulations and words of well done rang in my ears as I slowed and dismounted my bike. 

Then it was handshakes and hugs to every rider in my close proximity. There was even a crowd of well wishers at the finish line that were Rotherham Utd fans who were in Amsterdam on a stag-do that cheered us through the finish line and then shook every riders hands. Proving that football unites men across the UK with a sense of achievement and a connection to a charity that we all believe in, Prostate Cancer UK!

A couple of pictures followed, then out with the smart phone to update social media and text family, before a glass of champagne was handed to me to celebrate riding 145 miles from London to Amsterdam for the most amazing charity Prostate Cancer UK.

All that was left was the gentle ride of 6 miles from the stadium to the hotel in central Amsterdam. The group I rode to the hotel with, all rode in single file. If like me they were maybe lost or alone with their thoughts and emotions of what we had encountered and achieved. A truly epic challenge that I can only describe in two words...epic and unforgettable. 
I can not encourage anyone enough to just sign up and ride Football to Amsterdam 2017. It is an experience that will live with you forever and you’ll make a huge impact on defeating Prostate Cancer with your sponsorship and fund-raising.
Please get on your bike and ride, proudly represent your football club and meet some amazing people along the way, whilst raising important funds for a great charity.

Tuesday 7 June 2016

Day Two - Hook of Holland to Ajax Arena Amsterdam

Starting from the ferry port under misty skies but in very warm early morning heat. The fun begins on amazing routes and fantastic cycle paths.
What an adventure. 66 miles of pure cycling heaven!!

  • Total distance of 62.8 miles
  • 4hrs 23mins 55secs riding time in the saddle
  • Average speed 14.3mph 
  • 186ft of elevation
  • Top speed 25.1mph

You can view and see the full ride statistics in more detail on my Strava page by clicking the link below...

Day One - Olympic Velodrome to Harwich via Colchester United

Leaving the Olympic Park from outside the Velodrome in the 3rd wave of riders under cloudy grey skies but light up with big smiles and lots of fun banter.

I'll write and publish a blog all about this epic and amazing adventure very shortly, but here is the Strava route from day one, with the riding statistics...

  • Total distance of 84 miles
  • 5hrs 45mins 26secs riding time in the saddle
  • Average speed 14.6mph 
  • 2,129ft of elevation
  • Top speed 33.1mph

You can see the full ride details on my Strava page by clicking the link below...

Friday 3 June 2016

What Is The Route For Football to Amsterdam 2016?

Starting from the Olympic velodrome on Friday 3rd June 2016, the route for two days riding a total of 145 miles is shown in the image below!

I can't wait to get to the start line and meet the 250 riders starting in London and then the other 200 we'll meet in Holland that are starting in Barnsley.

Thursday 2 June 2016

Kit List

So with less than 2 days to go before I depart my preparation continues. This week I finalised and laid out my cycling kit. As you can see from the picture below there is quite a few items.

In the picture I have the following items...
  • SaddleDrunk bib shorts
  • SaddleDrunk AFC Bournemouth cycling jersey
  • Prostate Cancer cycling jersey
  • Louis Garneau cycling shoes
  • GripGrab gloves
  • Adidas Evil Eye II sunglasses
  • SaddleDrunk socks
  • Kask Mojito helmet
  • Under Armour Batman base layer
  • Skins A200 compression top and tights
  • SaddleDrunk AFC Bournemouth gilet
  • P20 suncream
  • Udderly Smooth chamois cream
  • Multi-tool, tyre levels, CO2 pump, inner tubes and patches
  • Castelli Squadra rain jacket
  • Boardman arm warmers
  • KitBrix snood 
  • KitBrix Dobi pack
  • KitBrix microtowel
  • KitBrix Wash Pak
  • SaddleDrunk retro cycling cap
  • Muc Off cooling towel
  • Velopac ride pack
Additionally I packed the following items for the ride...
  • SIS energy gels and bars
  • High5 Zero drink tabs
  • Protein recovery shakes
  • Two drinks bottles
  • Garmin Edge 200
  • Charging cables & travel plug
Finally I packed...
  • Jeans
  • Shirt & t-shirt
  • Shoes & trainers
  • Underwear & socks
  • Wash kit 
  • Glasses & contact lenses kit
  • Passport, itinerary & travel insurance documents
All of the above simply and easily packed away into my two KitBrix's. Which I then connected together to make a single bag for easy transporting.

Transporting my kit will also be simple and straight-forward as my kit is divided into a day bag and an overnight bag. With the day bag following me on the ride via the support vehicle, and my overnight bag being transported to the ferry and then to the hotel in Amsterdam. 

150 Days of Training - How Far Did I Go?

So with the ride only a day or so away, I've now officially finished my training.

I started my training on the 1st January 2016, which was 150 days before we departed from London and ride the 145 miles to Amsterdam, all for the fantastic Prostate Cancer UK charity.

So how many miles and hours have I trained?

  • January - 218 miles 19hrs
  • February - 139 miles 15hrs
  • March - 145 miles 15hrs
  • April - 273 miles 18hrs
  • May - 252 miles 17hrs

So a total of 1,027 miles and 84 hours. Across 42 training rides. 

Plus I ran the Adidas Silverstone half-marathon and the Hendy Ford Eastleigh 10K events!

Equivalent of riding from my home town of Wimborne to Dundee city centre in Scotland and then back again!