After cycling for two whole days, covering a total of 152 miles, the 7-man ‘Team Stevenage’ returned home tired, but enriched by the journey they had just undertaken.
The team ready to get going at Leyton Orient
Team Leader Steve Watkins takes up the story: “We left Stevenage at 5.30am on Friday, being driven to Leyton Orient's Matchroom Stadium by Clive Abrey and Rob Robertson in the club mini-bus and kit van.
"There were a lot of nervous cyclists milling around at the start, most wearing the rather tight cycling jerseys provided by the charity, but a few were in club colours.
“After registration and various photo opportunities, the 150 or so peloton headed out towards the M25 and into the beautiful Essex countryside. There were regular refreshment stops, much needed in the conditions, and a hearty lunch at Great Totham and a chance to re-charge batteries.
A well earned break at Colchester United
“Colchester Utd was the next port of call, before the shortest but hilliest part of the course saw us through the 88 mile mark and an end to stage one at the port of Harwich.
“There was not a single rider awake by the time the overnight ferry had left port as we all took advantage of the very comfortable sleeper cabins.
“Day Two started with an alarm call at 6.30am Dutch time and after breakfast, the ship docked and we made our way off the ferry. Here we were greeted by one of the famous Stevenage FC Dutch supporters, Peter Van Poelgeest, who joined us to ride the 60 miles from The Hook into Amsterdam.
“The two days could not have been any different from a cycling point of view, with the undulating country roads of England replaced by the perfect cycle paths of Holland, which is a feature across the whole country.
“Anyone thinking that ride would be flat is mistaken, as the first half meandered through the beautiful and scenic dunes of the coastal path, before finally turning inland along the canals into the capital.
The finish line - the Amsterdam Arena
“We finished at the Amsterdam Arena, which was a bit of an anti-climax as it was on the concourse outside the famous stadium. After a whole host of photos we took the short ride to the hotel where we were finally able to lock the bikes away - not seeing them until we got off the Eurostar at St Pancras.
“The obligatory wander around the bustling city centre and canals was cut short when aching limbs got the better of the intrepid riders and liquid refreshment was sought until the early hours.
“The trip home on Sunday was with fuzzy heads but not without humour as the team to a man had bonded brilliantly. Former Stevenage striker Neil Trebble was the butt of many comments, but he was certainly quick on the retort and no-one came away without having felt the rasping wit of the big man. He is a “legend” after all. He told us that several times!"
Friendships were made with many from the 50 or so League clubs taking part in the event, and it is hoped the team might re-unite next season to do the whole thing again, or maybe even something bigger.
Rider Andy Southwell said “The team spirit amongst Team Stevenage is something that will stay with me for a very long time. Banter, encouragement, advice and working together through tough parts of the ride - it was just incredible.
"The effort we all put in is something we can all be extremely proud of, along with the £10,000 plus we've raised so far. The seven of us and Peter, achieved something truly memorable."
The team are still looking to increase their fund-raising total, so please if you can, visit one of the links below and make a donation.
As one of the largest teams on the event and one of the biggest fund-raisers as well, ‘Team Stevenage’ have certainly done Stevenage FC proud.