Well the GCSE timetable has arrived and the boys finally have a start date when they will begin their #MoortoWar adventure. The pedals will start turning on 25th June, once Tom’s all-important exams & even more important School Prom are over.
So as you can probably imagine the last few weeks has seen the table covered in maps again!
Over the last couple of years I think we’re responsible for a good part of Michelin’s profits, but there’s certainly no better way to plan a trip, especially this one.
As I wrote in my last blog, this cycle is very different to the last, which really was a ride from A to B (Moor to Med) with the challenge of riding nearly 1500km in a couple of weeks. This time there’s much more of a focus on visiting sites and museums dedicated to WW1 (and now WW2) and so mapping the route is much more important.
Last summer the boys mainly followed the EuroVelo route that runs down the West Coast and then other paths along the Canal du Midi, which made life very easy, although in the end they did branch off onto the quiet ‘white roads’ and make their own way through, away from the rough and sometimes non-existant trails.
This year there are not as many marked trails in the area they’ll be visiting and the ones that do exist don’t necessarily pass through the places they specifically want to go to, so plotting a route on quiet roads is really important.
The first thing they have had to do though is to research which sites & museums they want to visit as it wouldn’t be possible to do them all and it would also be very easy to get ‘museum’d-out’ . So hours are being spent poring over the information they’ve found to be able to decide which places have to be added to the route & which ones would be nice to visit if possible.
We’ve looked at our family history and have very few links to WW1, although of course we’ll be looking to see how we can build these few links into the ride. The good thing is that we’ve also found some great websites that have helped the boys start the process. One of the best is www.greatwar.co.uk with details of all the museums & key sites including battlefields and memorials, with links to websites to be able to find out more about the site and also the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site http://www.cwgc.org
Now they have identified the key places they want to visit they’ve started plotting them on a map & slowly but surely a route is emerging. The route so far is taking them from Lille towards Ypres, where it would be nice if they were able to witness the nightly closing of the road at the Menin Gate for the sounding of The Last Post
They will also head towards Arras to visit some of the critical sites there, through The Somme and they’re hoping to get to Verdun too as they make their way down through the Eastern France.
Already though there have been some changes in that en route down they now want to visit Bastogne and the site of the Battle of the Bulge, the fierce battle that took place in December 1944 as WW2 neared the end, so that too is being built into the itinerary.
At the moment nothing is really set in stone and I have a feeling there will be a lot more changes before the Garmin is finally loaded with the final route and knowing Andy & Tom, there’s every chance that will be changed again en route when they hear of some other ‘not to be missed site’.
As I mentioned last time they aren’t setting an end point as they want to enjoy the whole experience this time, rather than just having a focus on the finish line and I think that will lead to them having a great adventure. They have suggested perhaps finishing at Strasbourg, although equally they’ve chatted about whether to look to head up into the Alps and try to find a route through that keeps them away from main roads, which may be easier said than done! The only thing they have to arrive in time for is The Tour De France passing near us on 21st July
Of course this won’t just be about the War sites and they are trying to find other things to do too. One that keeps coming up is the desire to cycle (even a small section) of the Paris-Roubaix cobbles and to cycle around the Velodrome that they have seen so often on coverage of the race. Happily this is in the suburbs of Lille, so I’m keeping everything crossed that they’ll be able to live out that little dream whilst they’re there.
So the planning continues around GCSE revision and I’m sure that the planning & training rides will provide a nice distraction from the stress that will inevitably increase as the exam dates loom.
In the meantime though another of Tom’s World War & cycling ‘Did you know facts’….
The great Italian cyclist Gino Bartali, and winner of the 1938 Tour de France played a big part in helping Jews during WW2, including using his training rides as a cover for carrying messages to the Resistance. He was ultimately recognised for his efforts when he was awarded the title if ‘Righteous Among The Nations’ in 2013.
Till next time