Road to Wembley much harder than normal route taken
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