The date of the 5th of June resonates with Richard on a personal level. On this date, he will be cycling into history aboard his CGR SL. Embarking on an 1800-mile ride through Europe to honour the memory of his father. We’ll let Richard describe what inspired him to take on this incredible challenge.
When I was a non-cyclist, I never knew or understood just what a simple ‘bike’ can mean to so many people.
You can use a bike for practically anything. You can nip down to the shops, commute, kids ride them, ride for fun, for exercise, be a part of a club community, reduce your carbon footprint or ride to race competitively. They can also be used On or Off-Road, encompassing a diverse array of terrain.
When I got my first bike in 2012 at the tender age of 51, I soon realised what I had been missing out on – namely, all the above. But not once did I ever imagine that a bike could become a healer, a friend and a partner to share your emotions with.
In June of this year, I will be using my new bike – a Ribble CGR SL Gravel GRX Di2 as a partner to enable me to share my memories in remembrance of my late father. It will be just me and my bike, free, travelling at our own marching pace. Taking in a pre-planned route through the quiet country lanes and back roads of the English, French and German countryside.
Picking up gravel paths and off-road sections, where possible. All with the end goal of taking me 1800-miles, solo, to my destination. But it’s not just any day in June that I will embark upon my epic adventure …. It will be on the 5th of June. The day before D-Day, exactly 78 years later…..
On that momentous day, my Dad was just 20 years old. He had volunteered to enlist with The Pathfinders of the 22nd Independent Parachute Company – their motto is ‘First In’.
Just before midnight, 4 planes took off from RAF Harwell, each with a ‘stick’ of 10 men embarked. Bound, not for the beaches of Normandy that most associate with D-Day, but inland – behind enemy lines! My Dad was in the very first plane to ‘drop’ at 00:17 on 6th June 1944.
Their crucial mission was to secure a specific area and set up radio beacons to guide in the main force of Paratroopers. Who, in turn, would destroy Bridges to the east of Caen and, in doing so, protect the flank of the allied invasion from attack.
After the Paratroopers had moved out, the enemy attacked, and my dad was blown up and injured. He was then captured and interrogated before eventually being taken south, then on to Stalag IVB. Which, at the time, was the biggest POW camp in Germany. The prisoners were transported by cattle truck train, enduring horrendous conditions.
My Ride will see me mirroring his entire journey, keeping as close as possible to the exact route that he endured.
My Dad was a huge part of my life, and I planned this route with him. Only the Covid travel restrictions of 2021 stopped me from setting off back then. Unfortunately, in August of last year, I lost my dad. So, now the Ride has become a memorial ride in his name rather than a ride to share with him day by day. I’m gutted.
He was also the last survivor of the D-Day Pathfinders – Last Out.
But that is where the bike comes in. I will be allowed to find solace by retracing his steps. Remember his stories and memories as I take in the beautiful scenery and visit sites of historical significance along the way.
I will be able to use my bike to tell his story. To push myself both mentally and physically, using the freedom my bike gives me to be alone with my Dad following me every step of the way.
Cycling has many facets, but this is a journey that will be a highlight for me. Though I am doing it for myself and my Dad, I’m also taking the opportunity to raise funds (why not) for Support Our Paras – The Parachute Regiment’s own Charity.
The bike I am riding is simply spot on and perfect for the various terrains I will be covering. It’s comfortable and able to perform on anything this trip will throw at it …. I opted for the Ribble CGR SL Gravel. With Shimano Ultegra Di2 electronic shifting, running this on tubeless 32mm road tyres and adjusted front gearing to run a 46T chainring. Complete with a full set of Tailfin.cc racks, and panniers, it’s, without doubt, the right tool for the job.
My exact route and my dad’s story are fully described here on my Just Giving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/richard-stoodley.
I cannot thank Ribble Cycles enough for helping me out on this epic journey. Wish me luck, and thank you for your time.
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