2016: September 9-18: THE THREE COUNTRIES TOUR – The Vi(v)a Colonia!*

Here we go! This is the Big One. The Tour. You can’t accuse us of lack of ambition. We’ve ridden to John o'Groats, taken over an entire chateau in Normandy with 50 of us, crossed France from sea to sea, and ridden from Dieppe across Belgium into the Netherlands. And 2016 will also be a cracking ride. There’ll be lovely pretty villages, quiet roads, beer, beautiful countryside, fantastic old cities - this one has the lot. More importantly, it’ll be with The Fridays.

Ride through 3 (or 4!) countries and a variety of landscapes to some wonderful destination towns and cities:
  • Tilburg
  • Venlo
  • Cologne
  • Aachen
  • Leuven
  • Ghent

The places in between, including Maastricht, Mechelen and Bruges, are not at all shabby!

The total distance is 685 km (430 miles) in 7 days (there is a rest day in Cologne) with an average of 340m/1100 feet of climbing each day. It is mostly as flat as the proverbial, but not quite Dutch flat. For comparison, Hellevoetsluis to Bunnik this year had 250 metres ascent, Zaandam to Hook of Holland 400 metres. 

We’ll follow the same format as the 2015 Tour this year: this is just a bunch of friends going together on a series of rides - and no one is leading it. There will be recce(s) of the route, and we will let you know the dates so if you are free you can come and help. After the recce, those on the ride may, or may not, choose to follow the route found by the recce. You will book and pay for your own accommodation. You will pay for your own food. You can stay in any hotel you wish to. You will carry your own luggage.

The route outlined below is a draft that will be varied when we recce and can be varied further according to conditions (weather and our collective bodies) on the tour. The recce will aim for enjoyment and interest, finding the most scenic options that get us quickly and smoothly to the places we want to visit. Refreshment stops have not yet been identified. Overnight stops are in bold.

Day 0: Friday 9th September
Arrive Harwich by 9 p.m. for evening sailing. There just might be a short convivial meeting in the bar.

Day 1: Saturday 10th September
From Hook of Holland, skirting Rotterdam and heading south east across the Rhine delta (several big rivers, one ferry) to Tilburg.
approx 105 km and pretty flat: 360m climbing.

Day 2: Sunday 11th September
Across the southern Netherlands to the German border at Venlo.
approx 100 km. Very flat: 285m climbing.

Day 3: Monday 12th September

Into Germany, east to the Rhine and south to Cologne.
approx 85 km, mostly flat: total ascent 380m, with a stretch outside Venlo climbing 40m in 5 km.

Day 4: Tuesday 13th September

Cologne to Aachen.

approx 75 km, with a total of 480m climbing: the first two-thirds flat, then 200m gentle climb over the final 25 km.

Day 5: Wednesday 14th September

Rest day in Aachen with options including riding (e.g. in the Eifel Mountains)/not riding/returning to Cologne by train for the day!

Day 6: Thursday 15th September

Aachen to Leuven: 3 countries in a day! crossing lumpy Netherlands via Maastricht.
approx 110 km and 400m climbing, a third of it in the first 20 km.

Day 7: Friday 16th September
Leuven via Mechelen to Ghent.
approx 95 km Flat! 225m ascent.

Day 8: Saturday 17th September
Ghent via Bruges and Ostend to Dunkirk.
approx 120 very flat kms: total climbing 260m.
The ride can be reduced by 35km by taking the Kusttram (“the longest tram in the world”) for 70 mins from Ostend to De Panne, costing approx €3. It takes only a few bikes at a time but there are trams every 15 mins. From De Panne it is then only 20 km to Dunkirk.

If you want to be home all day on the Sunday, then you could ride from Ghent to Bruges (45km) and then:
  • Take the train from Bruges to Calais (for the ferry home). The train costs about €50 with the bike and takes 3 1/ hours, or
  • If you have a folder -- hop on a train to Brussels (1 hour) and pick up the Eurostar.
Day 9: Sunday 18th September
Across La Manche to Dover.
Sailings from Dunkirk are every four hours - less frequent than from Calais (40 km ride from Dunkirk) where they are almost hourly.

*          And finally an explanation of The Vi(v)a Colonia! part of the Tour title:
We are going to Cologne and the city's unofficial anthem is a famous song by a local band https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YuRjCvNXLU The chorus says (in the local dialect): “Da Simmer dabei, dat is prima! Viva Colonia” which translates as:

"So count us in! That’s great! Viva Colonia!"

Sign up / register interest by emails please to fridaystour2016@gmail.com 

Cycling along the River Vecht, Netherlands (c) Adam Bell 2015