Ballymena Road Club – Chain Reaction Cycles – member Trevor Thompson recently completed a marathon 1000 kilometre charity cycle ride over the famous Camino pilgrimage route in Spain.
Trevor gives a fascinating account of the Camino sponsored Cancer Centre trip.
“We arrived in Seville on Saturday 13th September on a very early flight from Dublin.
“The temperatures were in the mid-forties and this was a bit of a shock even with the good weather at home.
“We were collected by our guide, Antonio Malvar, and taken to the hotel. We had a trip briefing, assembled the bicycles and pre-loaded all the subsequent days’ riding maps onto the Garmin bike Satnav computers. Thus it was impossible to get lost even if a rider got separated from the group.
“Next morning began the greatest cycling trip of my life. Ten days riding - covering 1000km and climbing over 10,000 metres from Seville to Santiago. Each day required plenty of factor 50 sunblock and plenty of fluids to drink.
“We all wore the black and yellow “Friends of the Cancer Centre” jersey complete with scallop shell motif.
“This is the symbol of St James (Santiago) and the Camino pilgrimage. We were given “pilgrimage passports” to get stamped at each stop to provide evidence of progress along the route.
“We headed north along the Ruta de la Plata. This was a Roman road built in 139 BC to transport silver from northern Spain to the southern coast before shipping to Rome. Today it is the Silver Camino route taking pilgrims north from Seville to Santiago de Copestela.
“There was little traffic and a perfect, smooth riding surface - cycling heaven. Each day our luggage was transferred by van to our next hotel or hostel. Other than punctures there were, thankfully, no mishaps or spills.
“We passed through the parched, yellow, dusty farmland of southern Spain and climbed onto the richer agricultural lands of the Spanish plain.
“I can confirm that the rain in Spain does fall mainly on the plain - we got a few good soakings!
“The half-way point was at the magnificent, ancient University town of Salamanca. From there we began to climb into Galicia. This was a familiar green and hilly region. A bit like the Glens of Antrim but warmer! It is part of the pan Celtic nations and it did feel (almost) like home.
“The last day was a 104km ride with a 2000m climb through the last of the Galician hills into the pilgrimage centre of Santiago. We arrived in the cathedral square in two by two formation and in good order.
“Most of us shed a tear as we met other pilgrims from all over the world who had also completed journeys either by foot, by bicycle or by horse back. We attended the pilgrim’s service in the Cathedral and were awarded our certificate of pilgrimage after our pilgrimage passports were verified.
“The reason behind the cycle Camino was to raise monies for the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre. We set a target of £50,000. The monies are being collected in at present and we should have a final figure by November. We hope to have our exceeded our target.
“On behalf of those who took part in the ride and also “The Friends of the Cancer Centre” charity I would like to thank members of the Ballymena Road Club and also the people of Ballymena and district who have given sponsorship monies to this fund raising effort. “Thank you for your generosity and Buon Camino!” concluded Trevor.
Fundraising continued nearer to home for Ballymena RC cyclists on Saturday with the fifth ride in the “Fun Tour series”
Another record attendance was registered when 91 cyclists assembled at Rex Bonar house for the 9.30am start and they donated another £65 to the Chernobyl Children’s appeal NI and the total now stands at £925.
The touring section had the biggest group with 47 riders. They completed a 40 miles ride, at 14.5 mph, to Dunminning, Glarryford, Rosnashane and then visited Carnroe weir on the river Bann (just off the Vow road)
Most people present had never seen this before at the view was breath-taking. Many thanks to touring committee member Pius McKernan for his research into this destination. The touring group completed their ride along the Gortgole road to Portglenone and the traditional return route up Tully.
Club Chairman John Maxwell took a group of about two dozen riders and they went by Toome, Ballyronan, Loup and Moneymore. Then it was on to Desertmartin, Tobermore, Maghera, Portglenone,Tully and home. John said he had 60 miles but was not sure what the average was but was home at 1p.m.
Alan Blair’s 17 rider group had a similar ride but they also took in Randalstown before riding to Toomebridge then Loup, Moneymore, Tobermore, Maghera, Portglenone and Tully. This was a total of 63 miles at an average speed of 19mph.
Saturday’s ride was the first of the bronze medal tours and those with full attendance include Rex Bonar, Jim Burns, Sammy Connor, John and Sean Elliott, Iris Grant, Bert Kernohan, Sammy Kerr, Jackie Knowles, John Maxwell, Patsy McGurk, Pius McKernan, Paul McWilliams, Beresford Millar, Paddy Mooney, Alastair Petticrew, Lori Phillips, Martin Ruddy, Maxine Surgenor, Richard Wilson and Alistair Wylie.
The rides continue each Saturday morning for a total of 13 weeks until 29th November. Five tours will earn a bronze medal and certificate while eight qualifies for silver. The gold standard is achieved by completing 11 or more tours.