The Challenge: 10 determined cyclists to pedal their way 422 miles from Koblenz, Norwich’s sister city to Norwich in 4 days, covering three beautiful countries on the way.
The Cause: These committed riders were aiming to raise £5000 for the Norwich community sports foundation. A worthy cause who support and inspire the local Norfolk community. Driving inclusion for people with disabilities, boosting mental health and wellbeing and supporting disadvantaged people to raise their aspirations.
The adventure begun on Wednesday the 1st of June with a very early start. We all made our way to Stansted for the 7.30am flight. Loaded with just hand luggage and enthusiasm, the group of 10 jetted off to the beautiful city of Koblenz. Meanwhile the support van, loaded with 10 bikes and plenty of suitcases took the scenic route to Germany via ferry, motorway and winding roads.
Beautiful weather met the adventurers as they flew into Cologne and took a train to Koblenz. After a bit of sightseeing around the historic city of Koblenz, we were treated to an evening meal with the incredibly friendly members of the twinning association. The city of Koblenz is twinned with our own city of Norwich and this inviting meal and fantastic company was a beautiful way to celebrate the pairing.
Day 2 - Approx. 115 miles
Now the hard work really began. With 155 miles ahead of us the cycling 10 were up early to be greeted by breakfast and sunshine before our first cycling day. We began our ride from Deutsches Eck (German Corner), and waved goodbye to the twinning association members and the beautiful city of Koblenz. The challenge had begun, but with stunning scenery and glorious sunshine spirits were very high.
With feet whirling around the pedals it was inevitable that a chain was the first mechanical mishap to occur. Luckily we were equipped for the job and our trusty Rehook, keeping our hands clean and our bikes on the road.
42 miles in came our first stop - Bonnor SC Stadium. We arrived at 11:30am with a chuffed feeling of being completely on schedule, but with a tight feeling in the legs.
After a loosen up and a hydrate we were off, with the wind in our hair and and the sun on our legs (more about that soon!) Just like that, 22 miles later, we arrived at our second stop - FC Koln Stadium at 13:30pm. We were welcomed by a great array of food provided by the support team and massages from the physio. However we discovered that the beautiful sunshine had not been kind on our legs, and after underestimating the heat because of the breeze, sun burnt legs added to our soreness as we pedalled our way into the afternoon.
A snapped bolt slowed our progress at Koln and after a desperate scramble to find a bike shop we were back on the road…almost! Our group were slowed again by a puncture by mid - afternoon. We arrived into Bayer Leverkusen Stadium (only 13 miles from our lunchtime stop) at 16:30pm, an hour and a half behind schedule.
But not to be defeated we pushed on into the evening and 38 miles and 3 hours later we arrived at Borussia Monchengladbach Stadium.
It was very late takeaway pizza for dinner but not before a desperate hunt for a cash machine. Thankfully we managed to find one and were able to feed our very grateful and slightly sunburnt bodies.
Day 3 - Approx. 125 miles
Slightly sore after the first day in the saddle, we were up at early for a delicious continental breakfast from a nearby bakery. We were ready for day 3! Day 3 brought another beautiful day. Sunshine and breathtaking sights into the Netherlands. With the gorgeous scenery to draw us forward, we arrived at VVV Venlo Stadium (23 miles from our morning start point) at 8:45am, 15 mins ahead of schedule.
We were greeted by some super friendly workers at stadium who handed us a free scarf. In return we gave them a Norwich t-shirt and a warm goodbye as we headed to PSV Eindhoven Stadium, which was 40 miles across beautiful countryside.
Yet another puncture held us up during our next sprint but was soon repaired with a spare tube and we back on the road. Another 40 miles down the road we reached NEC Nijmegen Stadium, gliding in for a quick stop at 16:15pm.
The last stadium of the day, Vitesse Arnhem Stadium, was a mere 12 miles away, so with a spring in our peddles we whirled away to arrive at 17:15pm.
Day 4 - Approx. 124 miles
And just like that, we were already half way through our challenge. This morning brought with it some chiller vibes and we all decided to wrap up a little warmer. Our first 39 mile section took us to FC Utrecht Stadium by 10am, beautifully ahead of schedule. We were greeted with a warm and friendly welcome from the staff, who gave each of us a pin badge.
Flecks of rain began to move in and the wind began to fight us as we pushed on into Amsterdam, however we were greeted by beautifully smooth paths to carry us along and friendly traffic that stopped to let us pass. Amsterdam is just such a joy to cycle through.
We arrive at Ajax Stadium, 26 miles later at 13:30pm, on schedule (must have been all the wonderful cycle paths), but had to take shelter in the support van from the cold wind biting at our sore bodies. However the addition of lunch and massages from the support team did make the whole situation feel better.
As we set off for ADO Den Haag Stadium, a good 40 miles away, the wind was now behind us and lending a helping hand. We arrived at 16:45pm, ahead of schedule after being blown along.
Our last section of the day was to the Hook of Holland, to catch an overnight ferry. The sun came back out to wave us goodbye as we rode the last 19 miles through Amsterdam. We were greeted by beautiful scenery and sights as we cycled beside the river and arrived at our ferry in great spirits.
Day 5 - Approx. 91 miles
The weather forecast for today was all day heavy rain, not quite the reception we were looking for as we sailed into the UK. We arrive at Harwich at 6:30am and prepared to get off the ferry only to find our support van, carrying all our bikes and supplies, wouldn’t restart. Unfortunately after many attempts to start the van, it eventually has to be towed off the ferry and a recovery truck called. The cycling team set off. With grey cloudy skies and cold temperatures, little breakfast and no support vehicle, morale was low.
We encounter more pot holes in the first 10 mins of riding in the UK than in the whole of Germany, Holland and Amsterdam combined and the hills required more motivation than the bleak day was providing. We arrive at Colchester United Stadium after 22 miles at 9:30am. We managed to grab a proper breakfast and coffee and were met by some of our Rehook team, Max and Anna. The intention was for them to take some footage for the ride on the last leg. However as the support van was still stranded at the port they, unintentionally, became our backup support van, grabbing us food to get us through - thanks guys.
We felt a lot more energised and had a far more comfortable ride to Ipswich, however another puncture slowed us down. One of our riders had his tubeless tyres sprayed sealant everywhere, which then refused to seal. An emergency tube was needed before we were all back in the saddle on the way to Ipswich Town Stadium, which was 18 miles down the (very winding) road. The weather was very different to that which we had experienced in Europe but at least the rain had held off, for the time being anyway. Our last sprint home, back to Norwich City FC Stadium, was a long one. 50 miles of pot holes and increasingly drizzly weather made for a gruelling last leg. Our emergency support team (Max and Anna) were on providing us with a lunch stop, as our support van had only just been rescued from Harwich and was being towed back to Norwich.
However it all became worth it as we glided down Norwich’s Koblenz Avenue at 16.00pm to be greeted by family, friends and the Norwich based twinning association members.
What a great experience! I was riding further than I had ever gone before each day, meeting new people and seeing some incredible sights. It was such a challenge but one I throughly enjoyed and would definitely do again. With donations still coming in, we have raised over £7000 towards the Sport Foundations vital community work. Thank you for everyone who has contributed.