On the May Bank Holiday weekend, a big group of cyclists took on the Tour De Kent, an event dreamt up by Roger Maddams in memory of his son Jack. The event was a great success and you can read Roger’s write-up below as well as the thoughts of other riders that took part in the event including Alan McGuinness.
“What an event! An absolute joy from start to finish, which brought a touch of the Olympian Spirit to the roads of Kent through the infectious spirit of the many volunteers providing cake, bag transport, event flag movement and other duties through to the 191 riders who took part: 191 of whom will be back next year I am sure, and will bring their friends and family to join in too.
This is a ride to get in on. Tour de Kent 13 was the first time, but due to the success of it TdK14 is already in the planning stage.
The idea for the event came from casual conversation over a few drinks at a party, as many do. From “a couple of friends riding round some football grounds in Kent to raise a few quid for charity” grew a ride that aimed to be as inclusive as possible, and not necessarily aimed at the hard-core sportive rider. The ride had 3 options, all starting at Gillingham FC; a relatively gentle 15 mile ride to Sittingbourne FC along the back lanes around the Swale estuary, a full day 50 mile route through north Kent to Margate or “the lot”; a 200 mile, 3 day challenge visiting 20 football grounds in Kent with overnight stops at Margate & Maidstone. Football was a key theme: the ride went from ground to ground across the county with many of the clubs large and small opening up their facilities to feed & water the riders.
And what food and water we had. One comment that summed up the vibe was “this was the only long ride I’ve been on where I’ve put weight on”. Clubs such as Faversham Town, Herne Bay, Margate, Deal Town, Folkestone Invicta, Maidstone United, Tonbridge Angels, Dartford and Gillingham put on a great welcome for the riders. Stops were never more than 20 miles apart: riders were never felt hanging on for a short break and a recharge. The army of 30 volunteers moved the refreshments, moved the route flags, moved the overnight bags and moved the bonhomie on from ground to ground. A pub lunch was arranged at the picturesque stop of the King Ethelbert Inn in Reculver at the start of the Viking Coastal Trail on day 1.
The 3 day ride gave cyclists a good workout. The 50 miles of Day 1 were reasonably straightforward: the highest climb was a mere 120m above sea level at Mickleburgh Hill coming out of Herne Bay, but with glorious Kentish scenery on stretches such as around the Swale estuary, the hop fields / oast houses / apple and cherry orchards and yellow oilseed fields between Teynham and Faversham and the section along the sea wall into Margate. This was after a carnival-like start at Gillingham FC: BBC South East News, the Gillingham FC cheerleaders and the club mascot, Tommy T the comedy horse waving the riders off.
Day 2 was an altogether tougher day: a 80 mile route taking on climbs up the White Cliffs to Dover Castle, up to the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel near Folkestone and the climb off the marsh from Hythe. This was interspersed with cycling joy: the flat traffic free route across the championship golf courses of Sandwich, the fly down Dover Hill, the road at Sandgate next to the sparkling sea: the sun magically shone all weekend in this year of miserable weather.
Day 3 took the 92 riders on the 3 day 70 mile option out from Maidstone to Tonbridge, the big challenge of River Hill en route to Sevenoaks, the Darenth Valley up to Dartford, the views across the working River Thames around Gravesend and back to the Medway Towns. The hard liners had the option of a punishing 10 mile loop up to the top of the North Downs to visit Lordswood and Chatham Town FC, or a corner-cutter and back to the heroes welcome at Gillingham FC. The riders entered through the Players Tunnel, parked their bikes by the manager’s dug out, into the home dressing room for a shower, ice bath or use of the lovely warm hydro pool before reassembling for the After Ride Party at the club’s Blues Rock Café. 400 riders and guests enjoyed the hot meal, live music, DJ and raffle that raised £500 for Help For Heroes…
…which was a small part of the fund raising achieved by the ride. Over £60,000 was raised for the main ride charities of CRY – Cardiac Risk in the Young and Take Heart Mercy Mission.
Don’t take my word for it: Cyclosport website has the ride ranked at a 98.4% satisfaction level and comments such as:
Absolutely lovely – from the friendly and efficient organisation, the nice people at each feed stop, the friendliness of fellow riders, to the views across the water on the last 10 miles. Outstanding
Brilliant ride, Brilliant weekend, everything about the Tour de Kent was amazing from start to finish, can’t wait for next year!
Brilliant event – well organised, everyone was really friendly, lots and lots of food and very enjoyable. I’ll be signing up for the TdK 2014
I’ll be back next year. That is recommendation enough!
“The Tour de Kent went really well – I managed to complete the 200 miles and should have a final fundraising total of around £500. As it was my first ever bike ride I was unsure of what to expect and whether I’d be ready, but I got there in the end. The furthest I’d been out on a bike beforehand was 35 miles, so I was a little nervous when I set off! Over the three days I got lost twice, got a puncture right at the end of the second day and had to climb some punishing hills, but it was great fun.”