Earlier today some of you must have been scratching your heads just a little upon seeing the Twitter post or the Facebook post or the Instagram post relating to my decision to ‘tweak’ the route of my upcoming cycle around the Baltic Sea. It is, admittedly, one hell of a tweak. So much of a tweak in fact that the only remaining part of that planned Baltic Sea Cycle that remains in the new planned cycle is the rather short journey from the ferry port in Rotterdam to the Hook of Holland. And yes, even that section is nowhere near the Baltic Sea. The new route will see me not turn left upon arrival in The Netherlands but turn right in the direction of Belgium, then France, then (after quite a while) through Switzerland, then Germany before finally returning to the Hook of Holland and my return journey across the North Sea to Hull. Mmm… Perhaps ‘tweak’ might not have been the most appropriate of words. So why the change?
The Cycling Europe Podcast mainly features, well, cyclists. The interviewee in this episode, however, is first and foremost a mountaineer. But he’s not just any mountaineer. His name is Tim Ralph and he’s a seven summiteer; a man who has climbed the seven highest mountains on each of the continents. In the last few years, he’s also taken up cycle touring and has just published a book called ‘A Life Accomplished: From Spain to Norway on a Bike’. So what can mountaineering teach us about cycle touring? What can cycle touring teach mountaineers about climbing mountains? And what happens when an experienced mountaineer sets off to cycle from Europe’s geographical southernmost point at Tarifa in Spain to its northernmost point at Nordkapp in Norway?
I cycled a bit of this way back in 2010. It was an impressive, if rather damp, section of the route to southern Italy, my version of the EuroVelo 5. The EuroVelo 19, coming in at around 1,000 km is a manageable length and takes in cycling through three countries; Belgium, Luxembourg and France. Here’s a new video from the European Cyclists’ Federation to promote the route.
I’ve never entered a cycling sportive in my life… but I’m a sucker for a good poster and these posters from the people who organise the Eroica events have featured several times in the past on CyclingEurope.org. They’ve just sent through the complete set for 2021 – yes, it appears that they are starting again… – and the first of their cycles is actually today in South Africa.
The Paris-Roubaix cycle race has been postponed until later in the year. No surprise there bearing in mind the new lockdown just announced in France. Cobbles are an (almost) every day part of cycling here in the Calder Valley of Yorkshire. My bones have been shaken on a regular basis in recent years since my return to God’s Own County. Perhaps they should have just moved it to the north of England rather than waiting until the autumn of 2021… I wrote about the Paris-Roubaix in Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie.
The countries of continental Europe and the European Union itself have been much criticised in the (right-wing) British media in recent weeks on matters relating to the distribution of the COVID vaccines. In those criticisms there is, of course, a non-too-subtle dollop of British smugness. To at least 48% of the British population (of which I am part), these are sentiments that make us squirm. They are predictable and fail to take into account the ‘bigger picture’ of a continent which, in terms of the quality of people’s lives, is light years ahead of most parts of backward, squalid Britain.