Road to Wem­b­ley much harder than nor­mal route taken

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - RUGBY LEAGUE - Gareth El­lis ■ Email: ■ Twitter: @YPS­port

THE ROAD to Wem­b­ley is al­ways tough, but it’s even harder when you do it by bike!

A few days af­ter the Ride to Wem­b­ley I still can’t sit down prop­erly, but what a fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ence.

We set off from Sal­ford on Mon­day and com­pleted the 300 miles, mostly off-road, on Fri­day evening. To be hon­est, it was much harder than I thought it would be.

Hav­ing done the Race Across Europe a few years ago I thought I’d take this ride in my stride, but it was re­ally chal­leng­ing, par­tic­u­larly the first day, over the Peak Dis­trict.

We seemed to spend more time car­ry­ing our bikes up and down un­ride­able hills than ac­tu­ally ped­alling them, but once the route set­tled down a bit it got, if not eas­ier, cer­tainly more en­joy­able.

John Ledger, from Rugby League Cares, told me I’d be all right on my road bike, with very thin tyres, which wasn’t true, but I wouldn’t have missed tak­ing part for any­thing.

For one thing, we were rais­ing money for a very good cause which does so much valu­able work in our sport, from grass­roots to the elite level.

That was the main rea­son, but it was also fan­tas­tic to spend time with like-minded peo­ple and former team-mates and op­po­nents.

It was good to get to­gether with Nathan McAvoy, who I haven’t seen much of for years, since he had a spell at Leeds, as well as old mates like Andy Lynch and Rob­bie Hunter-Paul.

I am blam­ing Lynchy for al­most get­ting us shot when we rolled into Buck­ing­hamshire, al­though I have to ad­mit it wasn’t the first time we’d ig­nored a ‘keep out’ sign.

We had gone about 100 me­tres down a drive­way to what looked like a coun­try es­tate when an un­marked po­lice car came scream­ing up and two armed of­fi­cers jumped out, while it was still mov­ing.

They had ma­chine guns and in no un­cer­tain terms we were told to turn around and go back the way we came. They weren’t im­pressed when Lynchy asked for a selfie. Rob­bie was back through the gate and about three miles away by this stage.

Any­way, we re­treated and once we were on the other side of the gate we came across a cou­ple out walk­ing who said they knew some­thing was up be­cause they had heard the alarms go off.

When we asked them what we’d blun­dered into they told us it was Che­quers – where the Prime Min­is­ter lives when she’s not at Down­ing Street!

Still, we made it and it was nice to be able to watch the Cup fi­nal as a fan. I would have loved Hull FC to be there, but it was a lot less stress­ful.

I thought War­ring­ton’s ex­pe­ri­ence might get them home, but Cata­lans didn’t let the oc­ca­sion get to them and they de­served to win.

I was pleased for Steve McNa­mara; he has done a great job and re­ally turned things around af­ter a tough start to the sea­son.

I would have loved Hull FC to be there, but it was a lot less stress­ful. Gareth El­lis, re­flect­ing on a Chal­lenge Cup Fi­nal to savour at Wem­b­ley

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