Robyn Staveley, BBBR 2017 staff rider, blogs about the start of this year's flagship Help for Heroes bike ride.
While the theme for the Big Battlefield Bike Ride 2017 is ‘A Bridge too Far’, on the first day we visited Waterloo, the scene of the last act of the Napoleonic Wars on 18th June 1815. The events here heralded the dawn of a new era and order in Europe which lasted for a century. For our riders, it heralded the heavens opening in a spectacular fashion. Everyone got thoroughly soaked, but spirits remained high.
Yesterday marked the start of the Operation Market Garden segment of our ride through Belgium and the Netherlands. The operation was intended to give the allied forces easier access into Germany, and involved airborne and ground forces working together – the former were to secure the bridges which would allow the latter to allow a rapid advance by armoured ground units to consolidate north of Arnhem. One of the factors which affected the outcome of the Operation was the inclement weather – the irony of this was not lost on our riders.
If Operation Market Garden had succeeded, the war in Europe could have been over by the end of 1944. To this day it remains one of the great “what ifs” of military history. This morning we stood at the foot of Joe Mann’s memorial, being told of his incredible bravery: the moment he jumped on a grenade which landed in the trenches to save the lives of his fellow soldiers. It’s moments like this that remind us why we are here, cycling 350 miles through Europe.
There may have been 40 punctures in one morning, and a few broken spokes, a few tumbles, some pretty spectacular downpours, and gale-force headwinds, but listening to the incredible stories of bravery in historic wars has helped keep spirits up.
Today our fleet of 200 riders are suited and booted… in Airborne themed fancy dress! We have aviators, a Batman, an Ironman, a couple of Supermen and some bumblebees just to name a few of the superb outfits, the Dutch don’t know what’s hit them!
Although Operation Market Garden was deemed a failure due to that now infamous “bridge too far”, this ride has been nothing of the sort – unless you count the moment a member of staff tried to outrun a hand-bike and ended up face down in the mud… – it never fails to amaze me that through the rain, wind, endless stretches of flat road and hills that seemingly come out of nowhere, these riders are smiling, supporting each other and already planning next year!Sign up to the BBBR 2018 here