The Big Battlefield Bike Ride are off! Our 250 riders were up bright and early to gather in sunny Cinquantenaire Park where they gathered in front of the magnificent triple arches of the Arcade du Cinquantenaire and were spoken to by Vice Admiral Ian Corder CB, the UK Military Representative to Nato and the European Union. Our Pedalling Padre, Roger Dawson, stood before the group to offer some words of encouragement before our youngest rider lit a candle and our oldest rider read a psalm. Then, with the bugles and bagpipes providing an appropriately ceremonial theme tune, the riders gave a cheer and began the 2014 Big Battlefield Bike Ride.
From there the group had a gentle (undulating) ride out of Brussels to the first water stop of the day at the beautiful Gravenhof Hotel, where we had enough time for a coffee and a sweet treat or two whilst admiring the stunning view, and then back on the bikes for the next section of the ride.
Rides through thick woodland and quiet villages followed and soon enough the riders reached Eccaussines sports hall where they were treated to an amazing meal thanks to Extreme Catering, and a nice relaxing hour in the sun before hitting the road again before reaching the first guided stop at Casteau where the Guild of Battlefield guides told the story of how Corporal Edward Thomas fired the first shot by a British serviceman on the continent for nearly a century.
Then it was only a few miles until the ceremony at St Symphorien Cemetry, a joint British and German war cemetery. There were tears as we were joined by Belgian veterans and lay wreathes in honour of those who lost their lives. After this riders made their way to Nimy railway bridge, where the group joined together as one giant peleton and were escorted by the local police into Central Mons. With 'I need a Hero' blaring from the Discover Adventure jeep in front, the ride made a steady progression through town with cheers from locals (and H4H supporters!) before finishing up at Mons town hall with a drinks reception and speeches, welcomed in once again by bugels and bagpipes.
It was an incredible and emotional day, tears and laughter all round! And this was only day one...bring on the rest of the week! :)
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