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A motley crew of 23 cyclists left Tonbridge in Kent on Spinal Cord Injuries Awareness Day (15 May 2015) at the crack of dawn heading for Dover. Full of enthusiasm (and a full English breakfast) we soon found out Kent is hilly, very, very hilly. Later that day we’d had quite enough of the Kent hills, especially after a road closed diversion took us up the steepest, most horrid of lanes.

If you heard a disconcerting heaving sound that day, it was probably my breathing. I reckon it would have troubled the Richter Scale. Hard work has its own reward, and this was a massive, long, enjoyable descent into Dover and the promise of a delicious meal on the ferry in the pleasant surroundings of numerous French exchange teenagers.

Dawn broke the next day in Eindhoven, but unfortunately my roommate Pauline and I missed it. We made the mistake of relying on the digital clock of the in-room TV, and as we unknowingly sauntered down to breakfast, we saw the rest of the group in full waterproofs and hi-vis disappearing off. Bolting down a quick coffee we set off in hot pursuit determined to catch the peloton. This proved easier than we feared as they had taken a wrong turn and were waiting for telephone advice from the organisers. Clearly, we too had taken the same wrong turn as we met the group looking lost. This was very reassuring for everyone because clearly it was a dodgy sign which sent us all the wrong way, not our fault!

The rest of day two was wet and windy. Holland is pretty flat (who knew?!) and the rain and wind was a challenge. But the great thing about riding with SIA and the awesome hand cyclists is that spirits are always high. There is always someone interesting to chat to or you can even race a section of the day’s route if you are particularly shallow and competitive (over-sensitive? Moi?).

Dinner on day two was at a new-build diner. Apparently the DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) isn’t a high priority thing in Holland, this diner had no wheelchair access upstairs so we had to man handle the three chaps in wheelchairs up the stairs. They were all very understanding and good sports. Or perhaps just so hungry for dinner they were too weak to make a fuss. Either way, it was a bit shocking that Dutch new build restaurants did not have full wheelchair access.

Day three was sunny and bright. Waterproofs abandoned and sun cream out. It was a spectacular end to a lovely trip, still very flat though. We were met in Amsterdam by some lovely people from the Netherlands Spinal Association who had made us a celebratory buffet.

The event was a great success. We raised over £40,000 for SIA and Pauline and I raised £10,000 between us from our Bicycle Ball. For anyone keen to support the SIA again, The Bicycle Ball is on 4 December 2015 at The Cinnamon Club, Bowdon, Cheshire. Please do contact me if you would like to come along. 

Key Contact

Catherine Leech