After over 3 years of virtual get-togethers, the Cycle Touring Festival returns to its regular home in Clitheroe this weekend for a paired-down gathering. There will be a range of speakers offering their thoughts on the noble art of travelling by bicycle, including a certain Andrew Sykes who will be talking for the first time about his 2022 5,500km quest from The Hook of Holland to The Hook of Holland. It should be a fun weekend…
Spain is home to some of the best bike tracks in Europe, and it’s fast becoming one of the most popular destinations amongst the international cycling community. The weather is ideal throughout much of the year, with plenty of sunshine and relatively little rain. And the Spanish countryside is beautiful, with rolling hills, sun-dappled forests and dramatic mountain scenery.
It’s now two weeks since I arrived back in the UK after the summer’s jaunt around Europe with Wanda (the bike…). It’s been an interesting couple of weeks to say the least. On a personal level, I finally feel as though I’ve caught up with things. It was a rather sudden turnaround from being long-distance cyclist to secondary school teacher – about 18 hours to be precise – but after two weekends I’m finally in a position to say everything is ‘sorted’. Well, apart from that cupboard crammed full of my camping equipment but at least I can’t see it unless I make the effort to open the door.
The Cycling Europe Podcast continues to follow Andrew Sykes as he concludes his ‘Grand Tour’ cycle around Europe. In this episode of the podcast, after completing his ride along the Via Rhôna / EuroVelo 17 in Andermatt, Switzerland, he sets off to cycle the Rhine from its source high in the Alps to the North Sea at Rotterdam. His journey takes him along the Rhine valley in Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, France, Germany and The Netherlands meeting friends and strangers as he pedals. Will the Rhine Cycle Route (EuroVelo 15) live up to its reputation as one of the best cycling routes in Europe? And will he make it back to the Hook of Holland – the place where he started his journey over two months ago – in time for his ferry home to the UK? This is not just a cycle touring story; it’s a race against time! The music is by Rob Ainsley.
So there it is. Finished. After 63 days, 55 cycling days, around 4,700km, 7 countries, 10 train journeys, lots of ferries (small and large), 45 nights in the tent, 11 nights in hotels, 4 with WarmShowers hosts, 1 with a friend and a night with a Vriendren op de Fiets host, 8 episodes of The Cycling Europe Podcast (the final part 8 episode should be published tomorrow morning upon arrival back in the UK), over 60 (almost) daily videos… and zero punctures, I arrived back at The Hook of Holland earlier today after the relatively short cycle from central Rotterdam and in doing so completed the ‘Grand Tour’ loop. It’s been fun.
The longest day of the trip but it needed to be.it’s now Saturday morning and I still have around 60km of cycling today: 30km from central Rotterdam to the Hook of Holland and then, back up and down the Rhine to the end of one of the other fingers of land to the ferry. Check-in closes at 7pm tonight so I have plenty of time to complete those 60km but if I had stopped yesterday east of Rotterdam that might not have been the case.
Today has been a real joy. Everything came together in a celestial meeting of cycle touring, travelling, people, places, weather… I loved it. Even the trains joined the party after an initial reluctance to play ball at Cologne station this morning. With only 48 hours of this continental odyssey remaining, I couldn’t wish to have spent a more enjoyable day in the saddle. Even that pesky wind which, for much of the past week, has been annoying me in a manner that usually only a tiresome Year 9 student can achieve came to the party and blew me along the banks of the Rhine willing me to get to Rotterdam on time. Fabulous. I only wish you could have been here.
It’s now day 61 and it’s turning out to be a ‘fun’ morning. I’m booked onto a train to Xanten from Cologne but in chaotic scenes very reminiscent of taking a train in the UK, there is some confusion regarding the train that arrived on platform 4 a few minutes ago, wouldn’t let passengers on and then scarpered. I need to change at Duisburg… I’m forcing myself into ‘zen’ mode. It might have been easier to keep cycling and take the train from a quieter station. The plan was to arrive in Xanten – famed for its Roman ruins I Iearnt last night – then cycle over the border into The Netherlands. Come back later today to find out if that ever happens or whether I’m still here in Germany. Or indeed Cologne…