The BBBR is known for being an emotional journey as much as a physical one and today was most definitely a prime example of this. With guided tours telling our riders about trench warfare and stops at Newfoundland Park and Thiepval Memorial there were tears all round.
The ride started in Arras accompanied by very heavy rain – not quite the sunshine that we had been used to – and although the mileage was shorter the constant cold and wet made today particularly challenging.
After 18 miles we passed by Newfoundland Park – the site of the disastrous Newfoundlanders’ attack on 1 July 1916. The trenches here were left untouched and at the end of the war they were preserved. As you listen to the birds in the trees here you can’t help but think that the young men who died here would have been listening to very similar chirps as they lay waiting in the sunken lanes. Our riders from Canada, cycling for Soldier On, laid a wreath here beneath the Caribou monument and were greeted by General Rick Hillier, one of the most influential and important Generals who served as chief of defence staff between 2005-2008.
After Newfoundland the riders pressed on to Ulster Tower and then on to Thiepval Memorial, which for many, was the highlight of the day. Despite the rain, our riders lay wreaths here and Sir Philip Trousdel gave a moving speech to remind us of the enormity of what happened during the Battle of Somme. At Thiepval 73,000 names are etched in stone in honour of those who went there and never returned, who were lost to the Great War. Our Pedalling Padre Roger, brought us all to tears – once again – as he hosted our ceremony at the monument.
We then set off in the rain for the last leg and with only 10 miles to go we were on the home straight when one of our wounded riders, Dean Bousfield took an impressive tumble down a hill. As one of the most stubborn, dedicated and inspirational riders of this trip, he was devastated that this brought his cycling for the day to an end. But despite the personal set back, Dean was all smiles when he was taken to the ‘fun bus’ en route to the hotel and hopes to ride an extra 10 miles tomorrow to make up for the loss of mileage today.
Wet riders arrived at their hotels late afternoon where everyone continued to talk about the emotional rollercoaster of a day. Every mile we ride brings something new to talk about and so many people here are already asking when they can sign up for BBBR 2015.
You can support our BBBR riders by texting 'RIDE' to 70900 to donate £5. You will be charged £5 plus your standard network rate. £5 goes directly to Help for Heroes. Telephone help line number is 01494 750 500.
Find out more about hero ride at www.heroride.org.uk