Anna and I will be cycling across Vietnam for Cycle-a-Difference this November.
In 2012 when I cycled around the world I raised money for a charity that a friend and supporter of mine was trustee to.
Newborns Vietnam is a small charity that is principally run by his Mum Suzanna and my friend Luke was organising a 10 day ride across the country from Hanoi to the Hospital in Da Nang where the neonatal ward they were establishing is based. Luke and particularly his Mum have been working tirelessly for the past number of years to get the project off the ground that would see an exchange program of nurses from the UK delivering training to the ward in Da Nang and essential equipment.
Infant mortality in Vietnam is unacceptably high in our modern world and babies often die in the first few days of their life when they do not get the right treatment or cannot be brought to hospital soon enough. This simply wouldn’t happen in our country and a baby that might be kept in for a few nights here as a routine precaution might not get even the chance of life there. Check out their video below.
In 2013 I joined the ride to Da Nang which proved to be a brilliant and very rewarding experience but very demanding at times with long steep climbs in an oppressive heat which reached a peak of 55 degrees celsius one day in the mountains of the North West. It was this ride that prepared me in the May of that year for the Tour Divide which started in the second week of June and what a preparation it was. I rode the two weeks on my intended Tour Divide bike, a Pivot Les with slick tyres and a single speed gear fitted, so that I would build strength on the climbs. I was quite nervous about the race as it was the first big race after the world trip and I had struggled with form and motivation The intense training on a single gear was a tactic that I had used successfully in my training for the round the world race and it worked out well again. The last climb over the Hai Van Pass is a big one and rather an iconic piece of road. Not surprisingly, even in Vietnam, it is a well contested strava segment amongst the local riders. When I returned I posted the fastest time up the mountain on the strava site and won myself a coveted KOM, not something I get too excited about as a rule as I think its a bit daft and only really an internet toy for a bit of fun but I worked hard for that one in the heat and was quite pleased with myself, not to mention dangerously hot by the top.
The locals in Da Nang apparently were convinced I had cheated somehow as no-one could ride up the hill that fast especially on a single speed. Luckily a chap called Frederik on the ride was a chef in a large hotel in Da Nang and rode with the local clubs and he backed me up, telling them if was legit and he’d been there to see it. The gear I had was conveniently very suitable to the gradient of the hill and it was over a year of trying (and they were apparently) before the time was beaten by an Australian called David Lloyd who was actually also raising money recently for Newborns Vietnam doing an ‘Everesting’ of Ba Vi mountain near Hanoi. Two weeks later I went to the Tour Divide in the form of my life and won it convincingly with a fast time and owe a lot of that to the Vietnam ride. The hot and dry New Mexico wilderness by comparison to the heat and humidity of Vietnam seemed pleasantly comfortable.
This year the Cycle-a-Difference ride is happening again for the second time and along with some of the great friends I met on the first one, I am heading back out again This time however my Girlfriend Anna will also be joining me. Anna is an artist and produces environmentally sustainable works and products and she will be joining the trip to volunteer on the support crew, take photographs and will also be taking her sketchbook to work on some inspired and commissioned artworks for the trip. She will be donating some of the proceeds of her sales in the run up to the ride to our charity and may also have a special thing or two in the pipeline especially for cycle-a-difference. Check out her site at Annaprints.co.uk
It is undoubtedly going to be another great trip and I am most looking forward seeing the developments at the ward in Da Nang as we had the opportunity to visit last time and will again this time. The nursing staff gave us an amazing reception at the hospital and we were all treated like real heroes. I am also eyeing up a certain time to the top of the Hai Van Pass as a focus to my training and looking forward to riding with David Lloyd on the last day up the pass (no pressure) as well as riding with some very quick and well travelled riders including fastest woman around the world Juliana Buhring and world cyclist and National 24hr solo mountain bike champ Richard Dunnett who gave me a good kicking for most of the trip last time.
If you would like to donate to our cause, our fundraising is just getting underway here. We have a lofty target of £5000 and need all the help we can get so thank you very much to those that have and those that do.