Gothenburg to London – 1400km for Great Ormond Street and Mind – Le Domestique Tours Bespoke Charity Cycling Events
Back in 2015 we completed an epic bespoke charity cycling event with City workers Dan and Sam, riding from Monaco to London over the course of 11 stages, while raising a huge amount of money for Great Ormond Street Hospital. Three years later in midsummer 2018 and my phone pings with a message from Dan – “Rob – Sam and I want to do another bike ride for charity – this time Gothenburg to London, but only if you will do it with us”.
Fast forward to May 2019 and the Le Domestique support van, loaded with bikes and supplies has travelled to Gothenburg in Sweden via nearly 24 hours of ferries. Dan and Sam had flown in, enjoying a few days of peace with their families before getting underway on our latest epic challenge.
This promised to be one hell of a bespoke charity cycling event – 11 stages, 1400km, a fully bespoke route designed by ourselves, seven countries (Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and of course the UK), eleven four star hotels (including two very special ones recommended by Dan’s Swedish colleague), two mid-ride ferries, one Eurotunnel and a huge celebration in Paternoster Square in the City of London. The target was to raise a total of £50,000, split between Great Ormond Street and Mind, two causes very close to Dan and Sam’s hearts.
Two and a half days of the ride were spent crossing the stunning Swedish countryside, dipping in and out of the incredible bike path that hugs the western coast from Gothenburg to Malmö. Conditions were probably best described as Scandinavian as we encountered unseasonably cold weather that included several hail storms and buffeting coastal winds. But Sweden clicked with us all as we were constantly bowled over by the scenery, peacefulness and incredibly accommodating drivers that we encountered on the sections away from the dedicated cycle paths.
The hotel highlight of the trip came at the Hotel Skansen in Bastad on the third night, which in addition to a superb restaurant on the beach, is home to the ominously named “Cold House”, situated at the end of a pier over the sea. Feeling brave after a beer or two, Dan and I signed up for the Cold House regime which involves alternating between the sauna and a bone chilling plunge into the Kattegat Sea. Managing six repetitions we were assured of the recovery benefits of doing so and after getting over the initial shock of each plunge, came away enjoying the experience.
With the early adrenaline and excitement of getting underway now passing, our journey continued as we crossed into Denmark. It’s fair to say that Denmark left its mark on the group, but prior to this we were treated to an efficient, if not massively inspiring, route due south from Copenhagen to the Rodby Crossing. The monotony of riding on just two different roads in two days did push us mentally, though a collection of incredible bridges did perk us up against the seemingly endless head winds.
Unfortunately, Denmark left a rather more lasting mark on Sam as he suffered a rather spectacular crash after being caught by an errant tree root that had split through the bike path we were riding. It’s this sort of incident that reinforces the benefit of the support van. Not only was I able to respond immediately from the bike, but we quickly were able to access more substantial medical supplies from the van and patch Sam up. With his background as an ex semi-pro rugby player at the forefront Sam was keen to push on, but we persuaded him to sit the day out, obtain some medical advice and review things from there.
The day ended on a rather sombre note as we boarded the Rodby Crossing ferry to the German island of Fehmarn.
After an uncomfortable night of rest, Sam’s arm had ballooned and our fears had risen that his wrist or arm may be broken, so a trip was made to the local hospital first thing the following morning. Here the doctors were quickly able to diagnose two fractures along the length of Sam’s forearm, placing it in plaster and advising him to take at least 48hrs of rest. When questioned further it was established that if he could physically ride and control the bike, the fracture wouldn’t be made any worse by doing so, but this would cause significant pain.
Meanwhile, back on the bikes we continued on into the German countryside. Being unsure what to expect on our route through Germany, following a relatively blissful passage through Sweden and Denmark, both Dan and I were really impressed – superb bike lanes, courteous drivers and straight forward cycle routes through Hamburg (punctuated by a short river ferry) and Bremen.
We said goodbye to Germany and crossed into the Netherlands, with the end feeling within touching distance for this first time.
Our entrance into the Netherlands brought the return of Sam to the bike in a frankly awe inspiring display, rooted in his desire to honour every single penny of funds raised. While the cycle routes we had covered to date had been superb, the Netherlands is just on another level, with bikes free to cross towns unimpeded, allowing fast and safe progress – essential on a journey as epic as this.
The highlight of the Netherlands was also the lane that took us into Belgium, on a pristine converted railway line through the beautiful forests and converted former train stations on one of the absolute highlights of the whole trip.
Belgium and France
Having spent a lot of time cycling in Belgium I have a fondness for this under appreciated country that very few do. Through careful route selection I was however able to demonstrate Belgium’s incredible infrastructure as we rode towards Bruges in good weather on the perfectly surfaced canal side cycle route.
With fast and trouble free progress afforded, we pressed on to our evening Eurotunnel, ticking off the kilometres and leaving Belgium behind as we crossed into France. With six countries now ticked off we were within touching distance of our finish line.
After a final night in the Kent countryside at the beautiful Chilston Park country house hotel, we began our journey to London. Having tackled this route in multiple ways we opted to avoid the traffic as long as possible, as we headed towards our destination in Paternoster Square in central London.
After an early reintroduction to riding on the roads of the UK, we were able to relax and enjoy the winding Pilgrim’s Way, before dropping into Black Heath and Greenwich Park, where the traffic of central London began to take over.
After an hour or so of stop start, our impeccably timed arrival at Paternoster Square was greeted by a waiting crowd of friends, family and colleagues of Dan and Sam. Several Gin and Tonics later we were reflecting on an epic journey and debating the benefits of e-bikes.
With the dust now settling Dan and Sam can be incredibly proud of their achievement, with the fundraising total currently hovering at the £50,000 mark. It was, as ever, an absolute pleasure to be part of this incredible journey with them.
Le Domestique Tours – Corporate and Charity Cycling Challenges
Le Domestique Tours specialise in creating unique, bespoke cycling challenges for corporates and those seeking to raise funds for charity.
To learn more about our services or discuss your event further please email firstname.lastname@example.org.