The 3 Countries Cycle Ride took our team – Mike
Gawthorne, Martin Grady and Paul Martin – through 3 countries over
4 days, to raise money for the British Heart Foundation. Read the
story of their journey.
The day before the event
Our logistical challenge began with what to pack for 4 days’
cycling in unpredictable conditions - so packing for all
eventualities seemed sensible. Each of us then made our way to
Stratford with our respective bike and bags, via car, train and
taxi. That evening, we met at the hotel and treated ourselves to a
hearty meal, a couple of cheeky drinks and a sensible early night
to ensure we were refreshed for the morning.
Day 1: London to Harwich
Following a rather dubious breakfast and after a thorough
briefing from Skyline (the event organiser), we set off from a grey
and rather chilly Stratford. We cycled in drizzly conditions
through picturesque Essex villages (totally unexpected from people
without detailed knowledge of rural Essex), covering 91 undulating
miles before we arrived at Harwich port.
Unfortunately, our eagerness to get the first day out of the
way, meant that we found ourselves outside the port rather earlier
than expected, with only a pub for warmth and comfort. So, we
treated ourselves to a few well-earned beers whilst we waited for
the rest of the field to join us. We then boarded the ferry and
travelled overnight to Holland.
Day 2: Hook of Holland to Amsterdam
Arriving in very grey and cold Holland, we cycled a windy
62-mile route past sand dunes and seaside towns on our way to sunny
Amsterdam. Unfortunately, this was the day that Paul crashed
unceremoniously into Mike, leaving both bikes a little worse for
wear, and Paul with a poorly elbow and very bruised pride. We paid
a brief visit to the square in Amsterdam (to say we’d actually seen
some of it), had dinner and a couple of quiet drinks, and retired
to our beds before an early alarm call.
Day 3: Amsterdam to Turnhout
The alarm woke us at 5:45am for our 7am start. Unfortunately,
our bikes don’t arrive at the hotel until 9:30am. This meant that
we were 90 minutes late starting our longest day in the saddle -
Martin’s first 100+ mile day and the longest ever single-day
mileage any of us had completed.
The morning began with beautiful conditions, but after getting
lost a few times, we arrived at our 31-mile water stop with 35
miles on the clock! Undeterred, we ploughed on past the beautiful
Dutch scenery, following the canals on the most glorious cycle
paths we had ever encountered, made even more pleasant by the
courteous Dutch drivers.
We finally arrived in the gothic city of Turnhout, our
mileometers registering 115 miles for the day. A gorgeous
independent hotel met us and the newly assembled ‘Tim Pie’ (8
cyclists aged from their early 20s to late 50s - Tim Pie being
Welsh for Team Pie as we were now hallucinating about pie, chips
and mushy peas for some reason) was enjoying the camaraderie and
social element as much as the cycling.
Day 4: Turnhout to Brussels
Our last day in the saddle, thank heavens, as the miles were now
taking their toll on our poor bodies. We travelled past quiet
Belgian villages, making our way into Brussels, where the whole
group assembled in a beautiful park 3 miles from the city centre.
Then all 92 riders (incredibly, all started and finished without
being swept up by the trailing “love bus”) crawled the final 3
miles into Brussels city centre, wearing bright orange t-shirts, to
be met by friends and family for the customary photo shoot in the
square. Final day mileage: 72.
We checked into our hotel and had 40 minutes to get changed for
the celebration dinner - a deadline we clearly weren’t going to
miss. Once the closing speeches were over, we ventured into town,
to an Irish Bar that had been recommended to us. To begin with, we
thought we were in the wrong bar but, with each passing minute,
more and more of our team mates appeared and the evening and early
morning came and went so quickly. One particular member of Tim Pie
returned to the hotel at 9:30am to grab two hours’ sleep before
checking out! We then reconvened at the Eurostar terminal and
continued to socialise all the way back to London.
All in all, this was a tremendous and uplifting experience, and
we are already talking about what our 2014 challenge might be –
maybe The Celtic Challenge from North Wales to Ireland and back?
Thanks to everyone who has helped to support The British Heath
Foundation – a truly amazing charity. Your donations are much
appreciated and will help to save lives. There is still time to
donate, so please visit the
Virgin Money charity page and give us what you can.
Paul, Mike and Martin
“This was an extremely fulfilling trip, which
really did challenge physically. However, it was a great
experience, which enabled us to raise a large amount of money for a
fantastic cause – a massive thank you to everyone that supported
us. The memories of the trip will last forever (so will the saddle
sore) but as will the compelling and humbling stories of some of
the people we met whilst on the trip. All in all, 92 cyclists
raised more than £200K for charity and that makes all the pain
Mike Gawthorne – CEO Serocor Group
“Having completed, with Mike, the excellent and
very emotional London 2 Paris Challenge in June 2012, I wanted to
continue to challenge myself into 2013. As it turned out, it was
hard to compare the two events, but after less training, it turned
out that the mind was in great shape and dragged the less fit body
around for 4 days. An excellent amount of money made for a very
personal charity topped it off for me, and even though I vowed to
take 2014 off it looks like we are already planning next year’s.
Maybe I’ll take 2015 off instead.”
Paul Martin, Business Development Director,
“Having spent nearly 6 months training for this
event through a very bleak winter, this was an amazing experience.
The whole trip was full of camaraderie and development of
friendships that can only be made by sharing experiences like this.
There were some tough times mentally and physically, but this was
made very worthwhile when we found out how much money had been
raised as well as listening to some of the stories about why people
put themselves through this kind of pain. I would highly recommend
this challenge to anybody who has the time and inclination to train
to cycle the 340 miles. Roll on the next challenge!”
Martin Grady – Managing Director, Hawker Chase