It’s been a struggle to write this ride report. Normally I can knock these out swiftly after the ride, but something prevented me from doing so this time. Perhaps it’s the enormity of the kindness we encountered or the truly amazing experience of being hosted at the Tour de France that’s left me grasping for the right words.
However, in the quiet period between Christmas and New Year I’ve given it another shot. Read on for the tale of a Good Ride Done Well.
The seeds for this ride started some time ago; you could say that there would be little reason to do this if it wasn’t for the events of 70 years ago. What would make anyone think that Düsseldorf would be a good destination to head for?
Have you noticed one of these when coming into Reading?
This group of cartwheeling boys was erected to mark the 30th anniversary of the friendship link between Reading and Düsseldorf. In 1947 the Mayor of Reading, Pheobe Cusden visited Düsseldorf in response to a call for help from the Royal Berkshire Regiment who were stationed there. She invited six children to Reading to stay and further exchanges followed. Since then many groups have made visits to each place creating further ties with the twinning becoming official for Reading in 1975.
More recently Robert Dimmock (chair of the Reading Düsseldorf Association) gave a talk at the Reading CTC club AGM in October 2016. It was the lightbulb moment for nascent tour leader Jeanette Jeans. She decided to organise a tour from Reading to Düsseldorf. Having seen how easy it was to get 17 people to Paris the year before this would be straightforward wouldn’t it? Then some bright spark suggested the ride should arrive in Düsseldorf for the first day of the Tour de France. Finding accommodation in a city which was expecting 200,000 extra people wouldn’t be hard would it?
These questions caused Jeannette to have the first of several kittens.
There was some help offered. I reviewed the route which was inspired by EuroVelo 5, the Rhine route. I’m glad I did as there were some frankly suspiciously straight bits which went directly across fields. I also elected myself cultural attaché; this absurd title came with two tasks. First to contact Robert to make the Association aware of our plans. The second was to arrange a meet-up with a cycling club in Düsseldorf with the hope of joining them for the first day of Le Tour.
Robert was completely supportive and alerted his counterparts in Düsseldorf that we would be coming. And there is a cycling club in Düsseldorf called, rather surprisingly, Cycling Club Düsseldorf. I contacted one of their members, Chris Durham, a Brit who had, in his earlier days, ridden with West Surrey CTC.