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Cycling To The Ashes – An Introduction

September 26, 2009

Like many life-affirming moments, it happened in a pub. One Friday evening, after a few drinks in my favourite local, I announced to a few friends that I planned to cycle around the world. Laughter… followed by silence, perhaps as they saw that I was serious… and then more laughter as they realised the absurdity of my statement.

In the TMS Box

In the TMS Box

They all knew me too well. My lack of any sort of savings, complete absence of cycle-touring experience and famously spindly legs were all offered as reasons that I wouldn’t begin such a mammoth journey, let alone finish it.  They also didn’t believe that I could cope without playing cricket for a year. But they didn’t know that my mind was made up. After six years behind a desk in London fulfilling very few of my childhood dreams, it was time to tackle some.

So here I am, a year later, and about to set off. I have pored over maps, spent hours on the phone begging unsuspecting marketing directors to sponsor an idiot with a bike who they have never met, and managed to persuade my closest family and friends that cycling solo for 14 months, far from being irresponsible and dangerous, will be a journey of discovery, and a worthwhile way to spend the next year-and-a-bit.

Initially, I planned on simply jumping on my bike and circumnavigating the globe – when I say “simply,” I refer to jumping on the bike (easy) rather than circumnavigating the globe (difficult). But as I immersed myself in planning, I realised that I was going to miss the next Ashes series in Australia. How could I not see England win the Ashes on Australian soil for the first time since the 80s? Suddenly it dawned on me. I wanted to cycle off into the distance in October 2009. The next Ashes series was due to start at the end of November 2010. My extensive research told me that it wasn’t unreasonable to assume that I could cycle to Brisbane in 14 months. From that moment I was Cycling To The Ashes – playing, promoting or teaching cricket in every country as I pedalled to Brisbane (doing my little bit to spread the cricketing gospel), and trying to raise £100,000 for The Lord’s Taverners and the British Neurological Research Trust,

As anyone who has done a similar trip will testify, it isn’t easy getting people to buy into an expedition like this, but I have been amazed and delighted that so many kind people have offered their encouragement, help and support. I’ve been on TMS with Aggers, BBC London with Steve Bunce and Radio in Brisbane and Perth, and now have a fantastic schedule of engagements – from visiting the graves of famous cricketers in Belgium, to teaching cricket to Croatian school children and training with IPL teams in India. I hope these will not only provide opportunities to rest my saddle-sore posterior, but allow me to discover a new cricketing landscape. Did you know that cricket was played in Belgium as early as 1810, that the Hungarian, Slovenian and Bulgarian cricketing scenes are thriving, and Thailand hosts one of the largest amateur cricket competitions in the world?

On 10th October 2009 I leave from Lord’s and head to Dover with a few friends before they, very sensibly, jump on a train back to London, and I take a ferry to Dunkerque and the unknown. I will pedal 25,000km and camp in countless fields in various landscapes in up to 30 countries. All being well, and assuming I survive the Turkish winter, the dry Saharan summer, the chaos of India and the unforgiving Australian outback, I will pedal into The Gabba in Brisbane on the morning of the first Ashes Test of 2010, and watch our boys skittle out the Aussies for not a lot before going 1-0 up. Now that’s something to look forward to!

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. October 2, 2009 4:58 pm

    Hi Oli,

    Just wanted to say – epic mission! I’m going to Australia in July 2010 to study… but I’m flying!

    Good luck,

    Rob

  2. October 7, 2009 10:55 am

    Looking forward to watching this from the start 🙂

    Good luck 🙂

  3. Penny permalink
    October 11, 2009 12:19 pm

    You’re quite mad but what an amazing oportunity you’ve given yourself to see the world… and bung in some cricket too. Never seen the appeal myself!

  4. October 11, 2009 5:52 pm

    If still in Dover be sure to have fish and chips:

    Neil Emmerson
    G4 Challenge
    Land Rover

  5. Paul Baxter permalink
    October 12, 2009 2:57 am

    As a 86 year old cyclist who still cycles around the countryside I salute you and wish you well.Its the most wonderful way to see the world – so the very best of British luck!

  6. John Webster permalink
    October 12, 2009 3:23 pm

    Great to meet you Oli on saturday 10th October. We wish you the very best of luck. We use our Lords Taverners bus a lot – as you saw we were just emerging from the allotment where staff, students and parents had been digging to keep the plot tidy. if you have time to respond it would be great. You will be featured in our school assembly on Thursday and I’m sure we will be keeping track.
    John Webster – The Helen allison School for Children with Autism Meopham Kent

    • October 19, 2009 10:25 am

      Hi John, great to hear from you, and Im delighted to have bumped into you and the kids in Kent! Please do follow my progress, I hope it makes interesting reading! Im about to do another blog and you guys at the school will get a mention!

      All the best, Oli

  7. amy boler permalink
    October 13, 2009 10:23 am

    hiya oli hope everything is going well for you i still cant belive that you will be travelling to aussie its really good i tell you something i wouldnt be able to do it any way take care of your self and hope to hear from you soon and good luck with things

  8. October 18, 2009 9:04 pm

    G’day Oli,

    I wish you all the best during your journey, but feel that the result will let you down – you’ll cycle 14,000 km to see England beaten yet again! I was there when Steve Harmison opened last time, bowling straight to second slip instead of to Justin Langer and I was there when Stuart Clarke took Steve Harmison’s wicket to end the torture before lunch on Day 5. 🙂

    In the mean time, I do definitely look forward to reading of your journey and trust you have a safe and enjoyable trip free from crotch rot and gravel bites!

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