How appropriate for a rugby-loving Welshman to be contemplating his personal Grand Slam! Only in this case it’s not a case of Wales conquering the other five countries in the 6 Nations championship, but of one Welshman riding in each of the five mountain regions of France! I won’t be alone of course, as I will once again be riding with the Tour de Force with whom I had a fantastic adventure even though I “only” rode the first half of the 2016 edition, raising funds for the William Wates Memorial Trust.
Follow the links to find out more about WWMT and TdeF and if you would like to sponsor me for my 2017 adventure, then please go to my page at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JohnGriffiths5. Looking at the stats for the 2016 blog I appear to have had over 400 readers, so if each one gave just £10 that would come to a huge amount. That’s less than 50p per report/day on the bike!
For those who did not follow me on my previous journey, you can still read about it on this site, where I also explained more about the ride and the rider. In summary, however, the overall aim is to raise funds to support charities working with disadvantaged people to fulfil their potential. This is all being done in the memory of William Wates, who lost his life to street crime tragically early.
The route is somewhat irregular for 2017, zigzagging around rather than assuming a regular clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. Starting in Dusseldorf in Germany, the route travels down the eastern side of France (taking in some of Belgium and Luxembourg too, for good measure) through the Vosges region and then onto the Jura. From there we switch to the west (looks like a 6 hour coach journey on our rest day – boo) and then travel down to the Pyrenees. From there we travel across to the Alps via the Massif Central. The last time the Tour covered all five mountain ranges was in 1992 and I am salivating at the prospect!
In 2016 it was great riding with some of William’s brothers and also to meet his parents who came out for the first few days. Here’s a photo of me (in my Bigfoot club kit) with Andrew, Rick and Sarah Wates, taken by a local journalist who was wondering who we were and what we were up to!
That’s probably enough to kick off the 2017 blog for now. It’s time to start on the training! In the meantime, there now follows a copy of an article I wrote which was published on the Tour de Force website to publicise the work of one of the charities supported and to provide an insight into the work that goes on.
Visit to Westminster House Youth Club
Three Tour de Forcers went along to the presentation given by three members of WHYT who completed their Duke of Edinburgh Gold expedition this summer. They were presenting to other members of the club, some of whom may well be working towards their own Bronze, Silver or maybe even Gold awards one day. From left to right they are Florian (5 time veteran of TDF), Ethan, Ore, David (2013 lifer), Josh and yours truly.
During the presentation we saw photos of stunning scenery and heard tales of early starts, long distances taking between 8-11 hours each day to complete, getting wet and not drying out, consuming large amounts of food, the odd navigational error, determination to succeed in the mission and being encouraged and inspired by your friends. So far, this all sounds very familiar to anyone who has taken part in the Tour de Force, but this was a 100km walk over 4 days in the Brecon Beacons. Key differences were that we have wheels and they had 20kg rucksacks to carry. We can stop every 40km for well-laid out and plentiful refreshments, whilst they could only eat what they could carry. Restocking at any local shops would have invalidated the expedition. On balance I’ll stick to the bike, but full credit to the guys who completed this expedition and to those who helped them prepare for it.
Ethan and Ore are giving their time to WHYT and were direct entrants to the Gold award i.e. they’ve never done anything like this before, whereas Josh has been at the club for some 8 years and already has Bronze and Silver to his name. They should all complete the remaining tasks within the coming months and then a visit to Buckingham Palace beckons. The work done to support and encourage them by Katie, Louisa and Mark, who we also met this evening, is outstanding.
Being able to undertake the award scheme is not cheap – at least £1,000 for each person who goes on the Gold expedition – and it’s good to see how some of the money we raise goes towards supporting people who otherwise do not have the chance. I heard that others on the expedition came from private schools and were dropped off and collected in posh cars. Having finished the expedition, our guys had to run for the train carrying the pizzas that they had time to order, but not eat, with them – and what a sorry state those pizzas were as they boarded the train!
It was great to be able to go along and support the evening and to have a good chat with them all afterwards. I’d really recommend visiting one of the charities we are supporting to really learn what WWMT is all about.