The Notts Rider, Ben Armstrong, looks back on the first day of his 155-mile London to Amsterdam Cycle Challenge for Prostate Cancer UK…
Friday morning was an early start, as I had to be up at 4.45am ready for a 7am meeting with the rest of the cyclists representing football clubs from up and down the country. Fortunately, I was able to stay in Greenwich on the Thursday night, meaning the journey to Wembley wasn’t too testing ahead of the big ride.
After checking my baggage and collecting my welcome pack, I was feeling nervous but I soon settled after meeting a few of the other representatives. There were 28 of us in total but I linked up with Carl Weighill – a Leicester City supporter, who, like me, was eager to set the pace.
We soon teamed with another frontrunner, Matthew Cowdary from Crawley Town. Matt was an ex-Velodrome Team GB member and was throwing out plenty of hand gestures to communicate cautions, which we initially made fun of, only to soon follow suit after hitting a few potholes that he’d warned us about!
Day one presented a 98-mile challenge, though the journey started off a little stop-start due to the London traffic. However, I was able to get used to my foot clips and I’m happy to say that I only fell off the bike once, though unhurt unlike some others but I’ll go into that in the Day Three entry of this diary.
We were the first to get out of London and that allowed us to get up to some decent speeds of 18-19mph, as we followed the orange markers that signaled our route. Former England, Watford and AC Milan striker Luther Blissett, who heads up the Football League’s Prostate Cancer UK campaign, was quite a bit behind us, after getting his sat-nav to direct him… 10 miles in the wrong direction.
We stopped off near Colchester for some lunch but it was about the 60-mile mark where I really started to ache. The sun came out and with only a third of the ride left, we ploughed on and eventually reached our target – Harwich, the Hook of Holland.
We had a lengthy wait for the rest of the participants – and the support vehicle - following our push for the front. Still, we managed to fill the gap with a few pints before jumping on the ferry ahead of day two…
Look out for the Day Two round-up on the official site tomorrow. You can still sponsor the Notts Rider by visiting his Just Giving page: www.justgiving.com/nottsrider.