On the day that sees the world’s best female cyclists competing in the women’s road race at the UCI World Championships here in a very wet Yorkshire, I am reminded of a day – now over 11 years ago – when I was living in Reading, Berkshire. It was the morning of Saturday 2nd August 2008 and I found myself watching this – equally damp – spectacle on the TV from the comfort of my living room sofa:
Three years later the following ‘blurb’ appeared on the back cover my first book Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie:
The academic year must have been a difficult one as when the summer holidays arrived, secondary school teacher Andrew Sykes was happy to do as little as possible. But while sitting on his sofa watching the exploits of the cyclists at the Great Wall of China at the Beijing Olympics, he realised the error of his ways and resolved to put a bit more adventure into his life.
Two years later, accompanied by his faithful companion Reggie (his bike) but only a rudimentary plan, Andrew set off for a trans-continental cycling adventure that would take him along the route of the Via Francigena and the Eurovelo 5 all the way from his home in southern England to Brindisi in the south of Italy. There were highs and lows, rain and shine, joy and despair and they are all recounted here in a light-hearted, brisk style.Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie (2011), Andrew P. Sykes
In the book itself, I made the following comment:
How wonderful must it be to do something exciting. Really exciting.
In my mind, I also had thoughts of cycling somewhere exotic.
Originating in or characteristic of a distant foreign country.
‘they loved to visit exotic places’
That first cycle in 2010 took me through France, Switzerland and Italy. The follow-up ‘Along The Med…‘ ride saw me pedal through every Mediterranean country from Greece to Portugal, anti-clockwise of course. The third European ride – the epic one – in 2015 had me cycling through some of those countries again, in addition to a few new ones, as I travelled from ‘Spain to Norway…‘.
By cycling to Brindisi in 2010 I was certainly embarking upon an adventure and, quite often, it was exciting. The ever-lengthening cycles in 2013 and 2015 were even more adventurous and even more exciting. But, as a resident of the United Kingdom, could any of the rides or the countries through which they passed really be described as ‘exotic‘?
Not really. Not in a way that China would have been adventurous, exciting and exotic.
Last weekend I wrote the following post here on CyclingEurope.org:
I hope you watched the video.
In fairness, you could have seen much of that short film 12 months ago on the Japan 2020 page of CyclingEurope.org when I first started to consider Japan as a serious contender for my next ride. What makes the journey much more of a reality is the fact that I have now purchased a ticket to fly to Wakkanai in northern Japan on July 8th 2020 with a view to setting off from Cape Sōya a couple of days later. The timing is important as there are now just 300 days to the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on July 24th. The cycling road races at Tokyo 2020 take place over the first weekend of those games on the 25th and 26th July and my plan is to be in the capital to see them, not via the two dimensions of my television screen but the three dimensions of standing beside the road (as I did at London 2012 in not-so-exotic London). That done, I will continue my journey to the southernmost point of Japan at Cape Sata with a flight home from Kagoshima in August.
2010, 2013 and 2015 were adventures and exciting. 2020 should hopefully also be adventurous, exciting but also, finally… exotic.