Come Together

In 30 days from now I will leave Bromsgrove and head to Copenhagen to join up with the rest of the Tour 21 Team to start our Tour de France Challenge. This week could not have been busier, along with all the training, I had to fit in a trip to London for a Cure Leukaemia event on Thursday. That trip also gave me the chance to ride with a group of riders I’ve known about for a long time but never had the opportunity to ride with, so I was grateful that when I contacted them they were happy for me to come along. The ‘Black Cyclist Network’ were certainly welcoming and I will go back to see them again as soon as I get chance (more on them later in this weeks Blog).

My rides continue, as does my swimming which helps with recovery. On Wednesday I rode out with Dave Smallwood, Dave had sponsored me, donating to Cure Leukaemia, and is also riding the Cure Leukaemia London to Paris ride in June so it was a pleasure to ride with him. A good strong rider, he’ll have no problem completing his own challenge along with all the other Cure Leukaemia London Paris Team.

Thursday was a promotional and celebration event for the Cure Leukaemia 2021 and 2022 Tour de France teams, so a new dress was called for, which because I’m so busy at the moment I left to My sons Girlfriend Mary-Anne (I think she made a great choice). Held at the Montague on the Gardens Hotel in Bloomsbury, a Red Carnation Hotel who’s Managing Director Jonathon Raggett is part of our Tour 21 team this year, The event was hosted by our Main Sponsor, Farr Vintners. A wine tasting event that meant I got to meet the 2021 Tour 21 team and see how their experience last year had bonded them together as a team and friends. One of my high lights was meeting Sarah Hope who was the only woman to ride in last years team, we had a good chat about what to expect and the experiences she had, her advice was invaluable and I’m sure will play it’s part in the weeks to come.

Along with some of the other riders I was asked to go on stage and answer some questions, and later Geoff Thomas introduced Natalie Hill, who gave a very emotional, but motivational speech about her Husband, Geoff Hill, who spent 30 years in journalism and was the ITV News editor. He was diagnosed with leukaemia in September 2017, despite undergoing a stem cell transplant, rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, he sadly died last year. The room listened in absolute silence to a story that made me realise why I am doing this. Until the cure is found, no matter what we do it will not be enough for some, but if we can speed up the process with the TAPs Nurses and TAPs program there are families that will not be torn apart by this terrible disease, by raising £1,000,000 we have the chance to not only save lives but spare families from the heartbreak of losing someone they love. Natalie was an inspiration for us all to redouble our efforts, we cannot turn back the clock, but we can certainly make a difference to the future.

For those of you who ride in London regularly I have nothing but admiration. On Friday Andy and I rode out to Epping Forest from Central London, averaging just 13 mph through the traffic, so on Saturday it was a bonus to ride with the ‘Black Cyclist Network’ on their route around Regents Park (not traffic free but certainly a lot quieter). From the second Andy and I arrived we were welcomed by everyone and immediately felt like we were part of their family. We were asked to introduce ourselves and when I told them what I was doing there was a big cheer and a round of applause.

Every cyclists needs to practice their skills so the morning started with some corning, bottle changing and technical skills training, which not only builds knowledge and confidence but bonds the team together. As we waited our turn for the next activity it was a chance to speak to the other riders who came from all over London and different walks of life. After the skills test we were split in to groups for the ride with Andy and I allowed to ride with the fast group.

In my pink Santini Kit I must have looked out of place as they rode in black kit with yellow, green and red strips around Regents Parks ‘Outer Circle’. I’m glad to have put in so much training for my Tour ride, it was fast, very fast, but at the same time safe and structured due to the skills session and briefing earlier. The ride leaders were constantly giving instructions making sure everything was controlled and safe. I’m not sure how many laps we managed, but each lap got faster and faster. I can see why the route is so popular for cycling in London, right in the heart of the city it is almost traffic free and one of the few places that you have chance to get in to a rhythm and ride in an organised group.

After the ride it was off to a café for a full debrief, where riders of the day were awarded a small prize. I was given the award for the fast group which I am extremely proud of, to be thought of as rider of the day by such a group is very humbling. Each of the 5 groups had a rider of the day, each as proud as I was by their achievement, particularly a new rider Jason who was nervous at the start but embraced the guidance he was given and I’m sure took a lot out of the day.

As we chatted afterwards there was so much support and interest in what I was doing, and why I was doing it, invites to come again and requests to follow me on Strava, it was a pity we had to leave to get back home. I will be back to see them as soon as I can, to anyone who wants to ride in London I suggest you look them up on and go along to see them on a Saturday morning at Regents Park. They will make sure you are safe, make sure you welcomed, but most of all will make sure you enjoy your experience. Along with two other new riders, Jason and Tino, Andy and I left with a smile on our faces having thoroughly enjoyed our morning with The Black Cyclist Network.

Never one to miss an opportunity, on the way back home just of the M40 was another of my ‘Hundred Hill challenges’, which along with Swains Hill in Highgate (which we did on our ride to Epping Forest) means I have now completed 28 of them. Another job on the way back home was to visit Touchwood Shopping Centre in Solihull to make some final arrangements for a Zwift session I will be doing there next week to raise more funds for Cure Leukaemia. If you are around the Solihull area I will be outside Next, please come by and say hello, but if you can’t I’ll let you know how it goes next week.

In amongst all this, I almost forgot to mention Wednesday night, an evening with South and City College Birmingham’s InBusiness group with the guest speaker Paul Tait. A former player for Birmingham City Paul, by his own admission has lead a very chequered life including drug and alcohol abuse, but as he explained, has managed to turn his life around and now uses his experience and knowledge of what life experiences drive people down the wrong path to help others. It is easy to say that people make their own decisions in life, but we all know how easy it is to be influenced in the wrong direction. I am constantly amazed by people like Paul and people who contract Leukaemia because they are not happy with just accepting the situation, they fight back, they change, they do things differently knowing there is a different path – they just have to find it.

Leaving to go to Copenhagen in less than 5 weeks, I know there is only one route that will take me to Paris, but there will be many ways to ride the road. Listening to Paul, Natalie and the Black Cyclist Network I realise that it wont be my legs that get me to Paris it will be my head. The inspiration that these people have given me this week will give me the drive to work though each day and make me realise how much I will rely on my team mates and how much they will rely on me – we will do it if as the Beatles said we ‘COME TOGETHER’

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