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Daren Talbot; Partner and Project Manager based in the Ridge Bristol office, has recently completed a 520 mile bike ride from Chatham to Hameln. Along with three other Ex Royal Engineers they set to ride across Europe in 5 and a half days, raising money for Clic Sargent they are (to date) only £317 away from their desired target.
Below you can read about Darren’s journey, and see how ‘easy’ riding across Europe really was…
In August 2013, I had a phone call with a friend that I hadn’t seen in about 15 years, although I think I had spoken to twice in that time. A charity bike ride was mentioned, to raise money for Clic Sargent as one of our other friends daughters had died of a wild form of cancer in 2007. It seemed like a good idea, so I said yes and promptly forgot about it!
Roll forward to January and my friend called me again, just checking that I had bought a bike. I hadn’t. Suitably chastised, I looked into the cycle to work scheme and 6 weeks later I managed to get around to ordering one. Then I had to learn how to ride a road bike…and learn a new language – SPD or SL cleats/ cadence/ Velominati rules/ VO2 max/ Strava – it meant nothing at all to me.
My first ride was from the office in Bristol to a client. It’s only a few miles, who needs padded shorts? I did. Definitely. Lesson one learnt. Lesson two and three were learnt at the same time – take water and check how far away things actually are. It’s the same as the sign in car mirrors – ‘objects (or places, in a car) appear closer than they actually are.’
Over the next few months, I banked a couple of sportives, including the ‘Lionheart’ out of Longleat Safari Park and the Salisbury Sportive that took me around Salisbury Plain. Plans were firmed up for our bike ride, which was to be from Chatham in Kent, which is the home of the Royal Engineers, over to Hameln in Germany, where the 5 of us involved in the bike ride
had all served together in 28 Engineer Regiment. The Ministry of Defence had taken the sad decision to remove the Regiment from the Order of Battle, and we would be arriving the day before the disbandment parade.
All of a sudden, it was the end of May and the ride was a week away. It was to be about 520 miles and would take us 5 ½ days. Four of us were riding – me, Tim Martindale (a former officer now an Anaesthetic Surgeon), Matt Loughrey whose daughter Emily had died (he was my old Staff Sergeant – basically my second in command and now the Facilities Manager at Brompton Academy) and Matt (Dick) Emery (now a Met Police Officer). We would be ably supported by Mark (Jo) Jordan, who would be driving the support minibus, sorting out accommodation and taking photos of
Sunday morning dawned and we did a few final kit checks, filled water bottles, checked mobile batteries were charged and did final bike checks.
A quick shake out ride of a mile or so down to a suitable site where we could take photos of the four riders looking keen, fresh and excited.
We hadn’t been together for 15 years, so spirits were high and this was translated into a blistering pace for our first leg down to Dover, covered in less than 2½ hours. Once ferried across to Calais, we bade the minibus goodbye again and cycled to our stop for the night, some 56 miles away in Ypres. We cycled through the Menin Gate shortly after 7pm and camped nearby for the night.
After a massive overnight storm, where the thunder and lightning was likened to an artillery barrage, we set off back to the Menin Gate for some photos before cycling east out of Ypres to the famous Tyne Cot Military Cemetery. With the D Day celebrations only a week old, looking at the thousands of graves and hundreds of thousands of names of bodies that had never been
found, it was a humbling experience. We had all seen conflict, but never on this scale. A slower and more sombre morning followed, with the pace not being helped by three punctures. Score at lunchtime – Dick 2, me 1.
After a pleasant lunch we set off to Brussels. Who said Belgium was flat? And why aren’t there any signposts in Brussels? Once we reached our hostel for the night, hills and signposts faded from memory – comfortable mattresses, hot showers and an all you can eat buffet – what more could a cyclist want?
The next day saw us cycle to Roermond in Holland. The cycle path network was amazingly high quality – none of the ‘shared path’ approach that we have in the UK. After spending an hour or so trying to find a way over the River Maas, we headed to our campsite for recovery drinks and a couple of well earned beers.
The next couple of days saw us cycle past the Mohnesee Dam (of Bouncing Bomb fame), through Hagen to Paderborn and the home for 35 Engineer Regiment. We rose early on the Friday morning and headed off on the last leg – 45 miles from Paderborn to Hameln, the home of our old regiment.
Not surprisingly, on the last day, spirits were high and as we reached Gordon Barracks, we were asked to wait whilst the Regimental Sargent Major ‘finished what he was doing’. When we were called forward, we realised what he had been up to – he had lined up the entire regiment to clap us in to camp, along with a Regimental Piper to pipe us in.
Swelling with pride, we cycled through the gates and up to the Regimental plaque to meet the Regmental Sargent Major and the Commanding Officer before heading on to the regimental disbandment parade.
An emotional end to the trip, but one that I will always look back on fondly.
Where next? Well, I’ve just done the CBRE Property Sportive over Box Hill, Leith Hill and White Downs.
In September it’s the Ridge Sportive…and who knows after that?