We caught up with our amazing participant, Lucy, and she told us all we need to know about her incredible cycling journey with Skyline from London to Amsterdam, the cycling capital of the world!!
Have you always been into cycling and what made you decide to take on our London to Amsterdam challenge?
Nope not at all. I am known for being a bit of an exercise-phobe so doing something like this really was a massive challenge for me. Tragically I lost my Dad in 2012 to Prostate Cancer, and that year was really tough in many ways, so at the end of it all I felt I needed to do something positive, and raise awareness for the disease too. So I cycled from London to Paris in aid of Prostate Cancer UK and it really gave me something to focus on. I absolutely loved that ride so 3 years later I decided to get back in the saddle and do another one.
How did you find the route for London to Amsterdam?
Well, day 1 was stunning. Gorgeous Kentish scenery, the weather was superb and despite the hills (who knew Kent was SO hilly… and how many dog-grooming places does one county need?!) getting to Dover felt like a breeze because we laughed so much along the way. Day 2 was another stunning day. We stopped to pay our respects at a WW1 military cemetery in Dunkirk, then cycled in the sunshine out of France into Belgium (stopping for a cheeky coffee along the way… and later on a little Leffe J) and onwards to Bruges. We got to Bruges in good time, even managing to pop out for a pre-dinner glass of wine with some of our fellow cyclists in the evening sun. Day 3 was the toughest day as it had the longest mileage to cover. But we crossed the border into the Netherlands, had a good break on a ferry and the sun shone. The beer tasted GOOD that evening, I tell you! And the final day into Amsterdam was – genuinely – a joy from start to finish.
What did you love about the challenge/what were your toughest moments?
I loved EVERYTHING about the challenge. There were tough points for sure. People often said in the lead up to the challenge that cycling in Belgium and Amsterdam would be a breeze as they’re so flat. But actually sometime the relentless cycling for miles and miles on end with no hills, in the same position is actually harder! But the good times WAY outweighed the bad. The food was AWESOME during the cycle. I think I might have eaten my body weight in food each day but my oh my was it scrummy. The banter and friendships made between the other cyclists were what really kept us going. It’s hilarious how quickly you get to know your fellow riders thanks to sharing stories of your aches and pains and I know I will see some of the guys we met again.
What was your motivation that kept you going?
Knowing that all our friends and families were cheering us on at home kept our little legs peddling. We posted regular updates of our progress on Facebook, the odd silly video which made us laugh and photos of our antics. And the comments, encouragement and regular donations which kept flooding in during the trip meant we never for one second thought we wouldn’t make it. And of course with family members currently battling Breast Cancer, I simply couldn’t let them or the charity down. No way.
You have cycled London to Paris too which is amazing – could you give us a comparison between the two cycling adventures?
They are very different, and equally challenging. I would say that I probably found London to Amsterdam easier, not because it was flatter and had less ‘undulations’ but because I had a better bike (RIP ‘The Beast’). I’d also probably done a bit more training (despite turning 40 just 2 weeks before with all the celebrations that this entailed!) and a mate who stuck with me the entire time. But I have to say, nothing quite compares to cycling past the Arc de Triomphe, down to the Eiffel Tower in convoy, music blaring, matching t-shirts and tourists snapping away and cheering you on. I think I may have shed a little tear on completion of both challenges. But shhhhh don’t tell anyone…
But they are both awesome trips and I can honestly say if you are thinking of doing one… DO IT. Simples.
What would your advice be for anyone who is thinking of taking on a multi-day cycling challenge?
When I did the London to Paris cycle in 2013, I literally hadn’t been on a bike in years (apart from the very small amount of training I did!) and I had NO idea that there were certain types of bikes suitable for this length ride. So I turned up at the start line with my heavy, mountain bike, and several people said to me as we were beginning to get onto the bikes “you’re not cycling to Paris on THAT are you?”. Oh dear. I then looked around and saw literally EVERYONE had these amazing road bikes. Mine was heavy, with thick tyres, upright handle bars and – honestly – I looked ridiculous. BUT despite having the most awful bike of the entire trip, and enduring the mocking banter from the group, ‘The Beast’ and I became intimate friends and I cycled every last inch on it. So, my first piece of advice would be to do it on a decent road bike! Which for London to Amsterdam I did. And my goodness did I notice the difference!
Try and do it with a buddy and someone of comparable fitness to you. The London to Amsterdam cycle was a total blast because I did it with one of my best buddies. We cycled every last inch together and when there were times we didn’t think we’d make it to the next stop, we really kept each other going. As cheesy as it sounds, we laughed, we cried, we crashed into each other, we hilariously and very haphazardly changed our first ever punctures together, and we may have shared the odd glass of wine or beer at the end of each day. For purely medicinal purposes, mind…
Epic, EPIC trip. 4 countries, 4 days, 386 miles, eleventy billion calories consumed, 3 punctures changed and 2 very happy (sore) ladies. I belly laughed. I swore. I got covered in oil. I ate (a LOT). I made some fabulous new friends. I discovered muscles I never knew I had. I had the ‘odd’ glass of local beer. And I raised a shed load of cash along the way for Breast Cancer Now. And that’s what it’s all about. London to Amsterdam – you were fabulous.