NEWS RELEASE - NEWS RELEASE - NEWS RELEASE - NEWS RELEASE
FRIDAY MARCH 12TH 2010
DALLAGLIO TARGETS £1M AFTER COMPLETING 3,000KM CHARITY CYCLE
A Message from Lawrence Dallaglio:
“We’re just short of our final target of £1m and need your help. We have done our bit, so I urge the public to do theirs’ and donate and help us reach the £1m for two deserving charities, Sport Relief and the Dallaglio Foundation.
“I started up the Dallaglio Foundation when my mother lost her courageous battle with cancer and it is my memories of her that kept me going through the snow, wind, rain, punctures and falls.”
Lawrence Dallaglio today completed the 3,000km Dallaglio Cycle Slam as he strives to raise £1m for Sport Relief and the Dallaglio Foundation.
Dallaglio, accompanied by other celebrities including former footballers Lee Dixon, Ally McCoist and Les Ferdinand and ex-Scottish rugby players Gavin Hastings, Kenny Logan and Andy Nicol arrived at Murrayfield at midday today, one month after leaving the Stade Flaminio in Rome.
The team of cyclists rode through all of the RBS 6 Nations countries, taking in each of the international rugby stadia along the way. All net proceeds will be split equally between Sport Relief and the newly formed Dallaglio Foundation, whose beneficiaries include Cancer Research, DebRA, Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, Help for Heroes and the RPA Benevolent Fund.
The cyclists left Rome on 12th February in snow, the first time the city has seen snow in more than 25 years. Dallaglio navigated the cyclists through north Italy and the South of France before arriving at the Stade de France on 22nd February.
The team of cyclists were delighted to hit familiar English roads two days later as they embarked on the leg to Twickenham where they were greeted by HRH Prince Harry before continuing onto the Millennium Stadium, Croke Park and finally Murrayfield today.
BUT DON'T STOP HERE! We've got all the highlights, lowlights, and shenanigans from the Dallaglio Cycle Slam 2010 so read on...and don't forget to donate!
WHY? WHY? WHY? DALLAGLIO...
LAWRENCE Dallaglio was capped 85 times for England, and is one of only two players worldwide to have won both the Sevens and 15s World Cups. He was three times selected for a Lions tour, became Captain of England and played every minute of every game in the 2003 Rugby World Cup. He has won two European Cups and four Guinness Premiership titles. His last match for London Wasps was a blaze of glory as he captained them to Premiership victory in 2008 in front of a world record crowd. And then he retired...well sort of!
In 2009, Lawrence set up the Dallaglio Foundation in memory of his inimitable Mum, Eileen who passed away from cancer in the previous December. The Foundation has a a simple philosophy which is it needs to make a difference. That means three things: making a difference to the total charity bottom line, not just redirecting money; making a difference to people who join them; making a genuine difference to the people they help.
The Dallaglio Foundation currently supports Cancer Research UK, Help for Heroes, the RPA Benevolent Fund, Leukaemia Research, and DebRA - Rugby Unplugged's chosen charity for this year. [Links to all these charities can be found at the bottom of this page.]
So the Foundation is about big projects with big targets. Projects that involve people. Not projects that can be achieved by one person but projects that thrive on the power of a group. Projects with a beginning and an end, and leave you with a real buzz.
Mr Dallaglio doesn't do things by halves...and now he's gone and had another madcap idea...to cycle through the ENTIRE Six Nations during the RBS Six Nations 2010...and he's managed to convince over 250 other cyclists to join him throughout the five stages from Rome to Edinburgh, including a host of celebrities and sports stars such as Lee Dixon, Les Ferdinand, Diego Dominguez, Josh Lewsey, John Inverdale, Keith Wood and Kenny Logan.
Like Lawrence, they are seven other certifiably insane chaps who are cycling the whole 2,888km across Europe: Andrew and Joanna Croker, Anthony Di Lorenzo, Jonny Nye, Paul Kimmage, Michael Ryan and Greg Sim.
The aim is to raise £1million which be divided equally beween the Dallaglio Foundation and Sport Relief.*
So to donate towards any one of the worthy causes, take your pick...
TEXT ‘SLAM’ TO 70005
Texts cost £5 plus your standard network message charge.
£5 per text goes to Sport Relief.
You must be 16 or over & please ask bill payer’s permission.
So...here's the plan...
12 February: Depart from the Stadio Flaminio, Rome
22 February: Arrive in Paris
26 February: Cycle through London and arrive @ Twickenham
27 February: England vs Ireland at Twickers
02 March: Arrive in Cardiff
06 March: Arrive in Dublin
08 March: Arrive in Belfast
12 March: Arrive in Edinburgh and final day of Dallaglio Cycle Slam
13 March: Scotland vs England @ Murrayfield
Starting in Rome on 12th February, the punishing route covers over 2,800 winding kilometres and is split into five stages, each of which pass through an RBS 6 Nations country. From Rome and the Stadio Flaminio, the team cycle through France to Paris’ Stade de France and then head to the home of English rugby at Twickenham. The peloton then visits the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and Dublin’s Croke Park before heading to Murrayfield in time to watch England and Scotland fight it out over the Calcutta Cup on 13th March. Click on the map on the left to see a detailed schedule of the route.
MAISY - A WONDERFUL AND BRAVE LITTLE GIRL - LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO
DebRA are one of the charities I am supporting with this cycle ride so meeting Maisy helps me to remember exactly why we need to do this.
Then came the launch party in Kensington...
PIZZA AND BEERS - LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO
If our host Damian Hopley's wit didn't provide enough entertainment, we were then serenaded by the award-winning female opera quartet Passionata. I must admit I had a few goose bumps when they performed Swing Low! The wine and beer flowed very freely, thanks to Wolf Blass, and the seemingly endless nibbles and mini pizzas being circulated by the Pizza Express staff were brilliant.
Unfortunately Les Ferdinand beat me in a 500m simulated cycling sprint but his frame is more tuned to cycling than mine (excuses, excuses)!
We had some amazing lots in our auction, including VIP Hospitality at the Autumn Internationals, a day-out at Lord's and Tom Aikens cooking for you in your living room.
Thanks to all those who supplied these and thanks to all who bidded.
Off to the nutritionist this morning (who will probably tell me I shouldn't have drunk so much Peroni last night!) and doing some media bits at Twickenham later this afternoon.
When it was finally the big day, it was never going to be plain sailing, and here's Lawrence's blog from the first day:
DAY 1 AND IT'S SNOWING - HEAVILY!! - LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO
Rome probably hasn't seen snow since the actual Romans but we are at the Stadio Flaminio bright and early and it is actually snowing - what an unbelievable start to the DCS! Still, spirits amongst the 49 cyclists are high.
Sat at dinner last night with my old friend and 6 Nations rival Diego Dominguez, the exhilarating former Italian fly-half.
The early start of 6am meant there was a long queue for the coffee machine! After carbo-loading with Italian pasta last night we fuel up again over breakfast with porridge and scrambled eggs.
Campo, the cameraman, is doing the rounds while there are some tired looking faces but the overall atmosphere is one of excitement and anticipation.
Diego and I do a couple of quick interviews at the stadium and my hands freeze while the sky sports team fits my microphone!
We lose the police escort because of an 'emergency' in the centre of town but manage to find a replacement car and head out in teams of eight. Team Dallaglio leads out followed by Armstrong, Wiggins, Cavendish, Millar...
The first pit stop is 50km north...
So they began the incredible journey in earnest, and we'll be bringing you edited highlights of their trip along the way, and will always have up the latest blog daily.
QUATTRO STAGGIONI! - DAY 1 - DAMIAN HOPLEY
The last minute preparations and endless faffing at the Stadio Flaminio are completed just in time for us to see the first snowfall that Rome has enjoyed for 26 years. Brillante, as they say out here. The Carabinieri arrive to give us a police escort and the sleet is coming down at a pace that makes cycling hazardous...when you are cycling through a city that is renowned for having its fair share of life threatening drivers, then it adds a certain frisson to the first outing as 47 strong peleton.
The decision is reluctantly taken to abandon Day 1, as there is no let up in the weather as the snow settles to some 5 or 6 inches...My concerns grow when I realise that one of these 2 MIA is none other than Huge Bacardi. My immediate distress is that Hugh has his poncho on and with the strong winds getting up, then he could well be airborne by now.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES. DAY 2 - LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO
Now I'm not sure if snow can be described as torrential but it was heavy enough that we had to seek refuge in a local farmer's cowshed!
FOUR SEASONS IN ONE DAY - DAY 2 - ANDREW CROKER
Broke a thimbnail today and every sentyence tyed on Blackberry comes outy like tyhois. Nihghytamare.
REST DAY - ANDREW CROKER
Lawrence shared the view that going through the tunnel mid way yesterday was like the wardrobe leading to the land of Narnia. Flat roads and blue skies (as we cruised through the classic vineyards of Orvieto, Montepulciano and Chianti) gave way to snow, fog and the strength sapping 'col russes'...
LOVE IS ALL AROUND US - DAMIAN HOPLEY
We congregate for a very social DCS lunch in our excellent Hotel Villa San Paola where they screen the Italy vs. England International live from Stadio Flaminio... the Welsh and Scottish contingent are getting quite excited with visions of an Italian upset... It’s not pretty, but it’s a win and the campaign moves back to England in a fortnight’s time.
POTHOLES, PISA AND PROSTITUTES - LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO
The road widens and straightens on the way up to Pisa but our next challenge (as if riding all that distance wasn't hard enough) is to negotiate a pot-hole riddled dirt-track courtesy of our navigator French Fred, who assured us that “eet was fine when I rode eet a few months ago”. Several punctures later and we're away again.
LA SPEZIA TO ARENZANO - ANDREW CROKER
Star performer has to be Kerry. We complain about carrying tubes and bars. She is four months pregnant.
Last day tomorrow with this group.
POLKA-DOT PANTIES - LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO
Imagine the looks on the faces of the residents of La Spezia as 50 cyclists ride through the town centre wearing an array of fancy dress. Damian Hopley chose a full set of giraffe pyjamas, Lee Dixon has got on some polka-dot panties, Les Ferdinand goes for a huge padded bra and I don some pink knickers and a red tinsel wig!
We depart from Arenzano in heavy, relentless rain. It's a truly miserable day as we pull in to San Remo completely drenched - so much for seeing the Italian coast.
Berets, onions and the Stade de France to come...
WHAT IS IT WITH THE WEATHER?? - LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO
At one point I was leading and rode through what I thought was a puddle. Puddle? No. It was actually a significantly sized pothole filled with water in an otherwise completely smooth road. One brief fly over the handle bars later and I was expecting a number of my teammates to come pilling into me...
SATURDAY 20TH FEBRUARY - ANDREW CROKER
Lapalisse - Nevers. 112km. Done: 1085 km. To Go: 1803km. Weather: OK. Light wind, snow flurries, damp.
OPEN ROADS, OPEN BOTTLES OF CHABLIS AND OPEN ARMS - LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO
We enjoy a fantastic evening in Chablis. We are hosted at a wine-tasting by the Mayor (where they open a number of they're very expensive Grande Cru) and the entire of the local Chablis rugby club turn up to greet us.
Tomorrow we go from one extreme to the other as we negotiate the streets of Paris.
MONDAY 22ND FEBRUARY - ANDREW CROKER
I have abandoned.....beer. Wine. Shots. Caffeine. Sweets including chocolate. Coca-Cola. Late nights.
ONE NIGHT IN PARIS! - LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO
My group are a bunch of rugby players who are all pretty competitive but they can’t half faff!
The Eiffel Tower marks the end of the second stage... The end of stage party is hosted at a bar by the Arc de Triomphe, named Les Amis des Barbarians, which you could say is fairly fitting for a crowd of rugby lovers, and we are joined for a beer by a few of the team from Stade Français.
Today marked the beginning of Stage 3, which takes us back to the home of English rugby and I’m joined by my World Cup winning teammate Will Greenwood. From the off, Greens looks like hasn’t ridden a bike since he was five years old. I thought you never forget how but he has clearly had a slight memory lapse in that department.
TUESDAY 23RD FEBRUARY - ANDREW CROKER
Clermont-Albert. 96km. Done: 1417 km. To Go: 1471km. Weather: Diabolical. Rain. Rain. Rain. Cold.
Will Greenwood came and went in a day, now known as doing a 'Dominguez'. Rafa Ibanez has arrived for three days. It's heavy lifting here.
No more rain. Please.
WEDNESDAY 24TH FEBRUARY - ANDREW CROKER
It sits atop a hill that was fiercely fought for throughout the great war, with over 62,000 allies lost on the very first day.
Lawrence and Rafa Ibanez laid a wreath with Major Sally Orange, of the RAMC, who is with us on the trip. Lawrence read Binyon's poem the Fallen (.....the going down of the sun). It is impossible to be anywhere among those battlefields and not be moved.
Calais, le Tunnel, England tomorrow. Can't wait. We are over half way in 12 days on the bike. 17 to go.
Major Sally Orange is, by the way, in the Guinness Book of Records for the fastest London Marathon time dressed as a fruit. Guess which?
BACK TO BLIGHTY - LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO
Unfortunately a smashed van window and two swiped bags [at St Denis] mean the mechanics are unable to join us as they have to make a quick diversion to the embassy - such a downer on an otherwise great few days. Still, when mechanic Aussie Dave (who's obviously a Kiwi) rejoins us he's still as chipper as anything...
The Eurotunnel staff are fantastic, pulling us through customs without checking our passports, allowing us to cycle straight onto a train (and by the way we are the first people to EVER cycle onto the Eurotunnel), giving us a train practically to ourselves, feeding us on the 'crossing' and providing a police escort out of Folkestone the other end. Amazing.
And so we're back to the UK and driving/cycling on the right side of the road again!
FRIDAY 26TH FEBRUARY - ANDREW CROKER
Maidstone - Twickenham. 96km. Done: 1729 km. To go: 1159km. Weather: Fine. Strong westerly wind.
THE HOME OF RUGBY - LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO
And what a special moment it was to actually cycle through Liongate at the home of English rugby and be met by Prince Harry on the sidelines of the pitch. There was a huge buzz around the cyclists and support crew as we had the stadium to ourselves.
I exchanged a bit of banter with HRH Harry as he made a quip about how tight my lycra...
This morning I had a quick chat with Vernon Kay on Radio 1, and now off to Twickenham for BBC commentary.
SATURDAY 27TH FEBRUARY - ANDREW CROKER
We very sadly lost Jonny Nye last week, one of our core riders. He'd started with a bad knee...had a heavy fall in France, so in addition to the left knee-tendon tear he now also has a right knee meniscus cartilage rupture, and two neck vertebra locked and concussion. Such a shame, he was going like a train, and a real heartbeat of the group.
NEWBIE MADEIRA JOINS THE DCS TEAM FOR STAGE 3...SOME SNIPPETS OF HIS JOURNEY
BURGERS, BOOZE AND BIKES - PAUL MADEIRA (CAUSEWAY)
After training in Dubai, I thought I would be prepared for the week ahead...
I arrive at the Stage 3 meeting point: I feel like a little schoolboy just about to go on a field trip ...my nerves are now turning into pure fear factor about whether I have trained enough to stand alongside these cycling enthusiasts ... argh ...
I start the ride next to another fellow Manc, Will Greenwood, who has borrowed a bike, helmet and gloves, his trainers are wrapped in cling-film and he is asking us about how to change gears!
First stop, thank god, involves coffee and brandies and now I really am in trouble!...30km later and Lawrence’s Garmin has taken us off piste and has landed us at a McDonalds just north of Paris.
We have now lost the group. We have been going for 5 hours and the rain is relentless. We are soaked, lost and tracking at an average of 8km per hour. With darkness falling there is only one thing to do. We confer and agree we need to stop for refreshments and find a bar just 9km outside of Albert. This turns out to be a school boy error as the remaining 9km is all uphill.
Another late night is followed by a short bus trip to the Thiepval Memorial at the Somme – a very emotional and moving service where Lawrence and Raphael Ibanez (not Rafa Benitez as one guy thought he was) stand side by side to lay a wreath at the tomb. sLawrence read out a poem that ends, ”When you go home, tell them all about what you did today for tomorrow.”
After the inspiration of the service at Somme, nothing can now stop the riders' determination to head quickly to the next stop at Montreuil-sur-mer.
Yet another late night and it's not funny anymore...Team spirits are very high and all looking forward to the day ahead which sees us cross back into glorious England.
Doc Simon keeps monitoring our progress. He drives past me with his window down on one particular large hill and asks me if I am alright. I say, "I think so - does it not seem so?" The Doc replies: "I reckon you have a severe case of Tourettes, given what you sound like up those hills."
And so we hit Calais .. just in time...We are met by a Police escort which leads us to Folkestone rugby club and then on to Maidstone. The rain is pouring, trhe wind has picked up and the British lorry drivers are getting very familiar.
Today is my greatest achievement: I sail past Lawrence and team Costes, as they take another break and ride into the Hilton alone but ahead of them - finally a result!!
This is ... without doubt ... the hardest day to ride. I'm determined to make it to Biggin Hill but never blinked an eye to actually how steep it is – what a bloody hill!
...we head to Twickenham through London enjoying some fights with bendy buses. It’s dry but cold and all just focused on the finish line ... WE MAKE IT! I look across to Paddy who now has tears in his eyes as the two of us have finally overcome all our fears and crossed the finish line.. Everyone around us is hugging each other as new best buddies, celebrating our great journey on Stage 3.
My Summary ...
What a brilliant week, great organization, great people and what a fantastic way to bond together to make a lots of money for people less fortunate than ourselves.
To you Lawrence: you are an inspiration, never mind a bloody machine and I thank you for the chance you have given me and everyone at Causeway to be involved with your fabulous foundation.
That’s it – good luck Stage 4 and 5 guys and let’s push on to make the million - donate now!!
MONDAY 1ST MARCH - ANDREW CROKER
Charvil - Old Sodbury 120km Done: 2067 km. To go: 821 km Weather: Beautiful, clear and cold.
So could not ride today, Told Lawrence who was very sympathetic, and responded exactly as you would expect from the ultimate team player and leader of men, 'Can Ieuan Evans borrow your sunglasses?'. Ieuan gave me his car to drive to the finish, so I guess I should get them back.
Weighed in at the weekend and have lost maybe one kilo, but my jeans are falling off me. May look good on a teenager with tight white Calvin Klein underwear, but looks pretty daft 40 years on with UniQlo boxers.
DEPARTURE FROM TWICKERS - LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO
A new group of riders congregate in the Greene King tent (fitting) on a rainy (typical) Sunday morning for the latest stage of the Dallaglio Cycle Slam (daunting)!
We're joined by a couple of my World Cup 2003 team mates, Josh Lewsey and Jason Leonard, and the cricket legend that is Freddie Flintoff. Jason turns up in rugby shorts and when asked: "Aren't you cold?", replies: "No I'll be fine. I was built for the cold." I'm cold just looking at him.
The day is a short one and we're at the bar in the Wee Waif, Charvil, by 3pm. I'm told Freddie and Josh stay up late discussing his Mt. Everest climb that he's in training for - rather him than me!
Another Greene King pub and we have a birthday boy in the house - core rider Antony 'Bonzo' di Lorenzo is shouting us bubbly tonight!
WEDNESDAY 3RD MARCH - ANDREW CROKER
Cardiff - Carmarthen 110km Done: 2263 km. To go: 625 km Weather: Dry but cold.
A huge sense of achievement for all who finished today, quite rightly. And it really is 'only' 73km to Fishguard tomorrow, when the new victims, sorry riders, arrive...
MILLENNIUM STADIUM - LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO
Slightly shorter day (a 'mere' 80km) and the conditions are so perfect that all the teams fly through - apart from Greg Sim's group, who stop off for a pub lunch. Freddie Flintoff, on learning that this is their intention: "Can I come with you guys?" "Well, yes Fred, but we're stopping off for lunch." "Done, I'm in!"
We arrive in Cardiff and cycle en masse to Wales' international rugby ground. We're not done with the stage but it's another stadium ticked off the 6 Nations list.
David Walliams is also doing a bike ride for Sport Relief, involving a number of other celebs. They're only doing John O'Groats to Lands end though. I wish them well but two hours on a bike a day is not the same as doing 180km through northern Italy in the snow and pouring rain!!
Everyone is amused (and amazed) to hear that Ieuan Evans, despite being the Chairman of the Welsh Tourist Board, got lost 250metres after passing a sign saying "Welcome to Wales". Mindboggling and definitely worthy of a fine!
...Another fancy dress day and especially the sight of Freddie wearing a blond mullet wig perks everyone up...More frilly knickers and more stuffed crotches!
THURSDAY 4TH MARCH - ANDREW CROKER
Carmarthen-Fishguard 86km Done: 2339 km. To go: 549 km Weather: Perfect.
The Welsh have greeted Lawrence like one of their own. At the feed stop a farmer gave us his Prince's Gate bottled water, and a cheque for £50. Unsigned mind you...
Steve Holt from Sport Relief told us the Slam has received 300% more traffic on their site than any other challenge.
I hear Davina McCall was in tears on Radio 1 this morning after two hours on the bike. Comments on a postcard.
Good fines last night. Ed Haskell (brother of James) top of the pile for thinking Andrew and Freddie Flintoff are two people.
FRIDAY 5TH MARCH - ANDREW CROKER
Rosslare - Arklow 82km Done: 2411 km. To go: 477 km Weather: Perfect.
We are a wopping 64 riders on the stage and the way it works is this. We divide into groups - seven today. And each is led by someone with a Garmin 705 and/or map. Young Rob Bennett then leaves about an hour before us on his Vespa and puts balloons at all the key junctions. This tends to work, though each group has its own MO.
Tomorrow Dublin and stadium number five.
THE END IS IN SIGHT - LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO
The last day of Stage 4 (Carmarthen to Fishguard) was fairly short but tough, as we navigated through some steep Welsh hills. The irony is that we're now enjoying the best weather of the tour, despite having cycled through Tuscany and the French Rivieira.
Why is it that we have to get to Wales to get the rain off our backs?!
Stenaline very kindly ferried across to Rosslare but only run two crossings a day at this time of year ... Freddie Flintoff and Greg Sim timed it to the wire, almost having to jump the ramp as they held up the ferry!
A few Guinness were enjoyed on the ferry and this continued at Kelly's Hotel and Spa in Rosslare, we enjoyed the best food of the tour so far.
I read last night that David Walliams' bike ride was completed in Lands End at 6:50pm after four days of cycling. The generosity of the British public is phenomenal and it's amazing that they hit their £1million fundraising target but can't help wondering how snow in Rome, 8hours on a saddle into a head wind in France, and torrential rain en route to Maidstone compare to their 'dramatic falls, cuts, bruises and excruciating saddle sores'. Mmmm.
TEAM WRIGHT MAKE STUNNING RACE DEBUT WITH ONE-TWO FINISH - CHRIS WRIGHT
New British cycling outfit Team Wright had a dream debut on Friday with a one-two finish in their first race as part of the Dallaglio Cycle Slam.
Team leader Chris Wright edged out team-mate John Canavan to win the DCS Classic in Ireland, a warm-up for their epic Stage 5 journey to Edinburgh’s Murrayfield in time to see England beat Scotland in the Calcutta Cup.
Big Freddy Flintoff had a great day but just couldn’t live with Wright’s power after over exerting himself in a stirring rendition of “We’re climbing up sunshine mountain” the night before. He later complained that he had been unfairly delayed by Wright after stopping to help the champion with a loose chain.
Wright and Canavan moved into the lead of the street-circuit race with three laps to go, hauling in a breakaway led by two former Tour de France winners, Italy’s Lorenzo Bowleglio and Lance Simstrong, competing for his new team London to Manchester Express.
Simstrong finished eight seconds off the pace in 5th place, with Bowleglio 9th.
SATURDAY 6TH MARCH - ANDREW CROKER
Arklow - Dublin 77km Done: 2488 km. To go: 400 km Weather: Lovely
Murrayfield is now the last stadium to visit after we rode in to Croke Park today. We were joined by Paul Wallace, who did a 'reverse Dominguez', joining half way through the stage, and riding to Dublin. By any stretch he is a legend, part of the Wallace dynasty (all three brothers were Lions), and no question one of the key players in the legendary Lions team that won in South Africa in 1997. Hard to believe that he was a prop - especially after being next to Jason Leonard last week.
...'Páirc an Chrócaigh'...neither Paul nor Lawrence ever played there. Massive place (82,000) but has a small terrace at one end - Hill 16. You've all heard of Michael Collins and Bloody Sunday - well this is where the police and the British opened fire on the crowd during a gaelic football match in 1920 killing eleven spectators and Tipperary's captain, Michael Hogan. Enough history - but that's why it was such a big deal when England played rugby there - and as I recall the national anthem was respected.
Lot of fines last night. The guy who banged his head on the sign saying 'mind your head', the captain of industry (can't be named) who failed to pay his extras (only one item, adult movies), Ed and Nicky who took four hours to drive 50 miles, and went to Wicklow instead of Arklow, and poor Andy, here with Nintendo, who fell off four times on his first day on cleats. One captured on video - you can see his mind working - 'Pulling over to kerb. Leaning slightly to left. Removing foot from cleat. Applying brakes. Oh sh*t, wrong foot. Bang'.
And finally goodbye to Freddie, back to Dubai. He joined us at Twickenham and would have to be a candidate for top tourist, I suspect Lawrence feels about him much the way he did about Paul Wallace in 1997. The Sims will miss him - he filled the pivotal 'all rounder' role in Greg's virtual cycling family - and was feted across Wales, but I guess that makes sense when the England cricket team is of course made up from players throughout the UK. And South Africans.
Off out in Dublin. Doors to manual.
SUNDAY 7TH MARCH - ANDREW CROKER
Dublin - Dundalk 86km Done: 2527 km. To go: 361 km Weather: Factor 15
I dreamt last night that we left Rome in a blizzard. How daft is that?
In Old Sodbury Josh Lewsey made a delightful speech (fined immediately by Lawrence for brown-nosing) but posed a fascinating question that has stuck in my mind - "are you all turning into Lawrence yet? Becoming belligerent and uncompromising?". Well, in a word, yes.
In the last 24 nights we have slept in 22 beds. This might remind you of your hedonistic student days but it is wearing, trust me. Groundhog Days. alarm (remember the song?). Berocca. fish oil. kit. breakfast. dress. lavatory. bottles. pack. bags to lobby. garmin. ride. pint of milk. food. shower. Vitamin C. unpack. laundry. speedos. massage. compression tights. elevation. charge everything. bed. emails. calls. blog. sleep. drink. dinner. sleep. We are still a week away from sleeping in our own bed.
Chris Wright has joined us and is writing a very irreverent blog on the Slam site. Read it. Chris could fit in Lawrence's pocket, was his best man, and was fined on day one for being so poorly equipped the list is too long to include here. He refers to his man as Lorenzo Bowleglio, and this is too good not to steal. Sorry.
THE SPOOF BLOG - CHRIS WRIGHT
Big Steve was a debutant for the Sim’s ragamuffin team, who recorded a time of 3 hours nine minutes 41 seconds on the 82km circuit, next to the Irish Sea. After a long lunch and several bottles of Sancerre, the other teams were astonished at the result and Italian team leader Lorenzo Bowleglio has tabled an official complaint. Team Sim’s champion rider Chris Wright responded angrily “He’s always moaning and needs to just accept that we are the better team. We are a team full of superstars and there to be shot at, we’re used to it.
STUNNING IRELAND - LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO
It's hard to imagine that 3 weeks ago we were cycling through 6inches of snow in northern Italy...
Paul Wallace, my Lions teammate from the 1997 tour to Australia, joined us for the day. One day I will come back to this area of the world simply to have a round of golf on what looked like some beautiful courses!
No time for that now though ... we visited Croke Park in the afternoon and ticked off our fifth stadium of the tour. It's a great stadium (the largest of the six) that has a fascinating history. As an aside, the first rugby international played there was Ireland v France in a Six Nations clash. The first try scored in that match was by none other than our friend Raphael Ibanez!
A few fines this evening: namely to Campo for taking us raving last night, Ian Millar (our new photographer) for smashing a wing mirror off the Giant mechanic van, Nicky McKay for falling asleep in the hotel reception and the guy who bought his bike for £20 of his neighbour's wife!!
Tomorrow we've got 130km to Belfast. A week from now we'll be in our own beds. ZZZzzzz
MONDAY 8TH MARCH - ANDREW CROKER
Dundalk - Belfast 133km Done: 2621 km. To go: 267 km Weather: Even lovelier
Dinner on the 13th floor of the Crowne Plaza was a high point of the trip, and many went to bed early facing 133km today.
I'm afraid I was guilty of a Grade 2 Systeme Jacques violation (ie citation) having set off with eleven in my group and arriving in Belfast with just two - Adrian and Dickie 'the Milky Bar Kid' Relton. I could claim extenuating circumstances - but Simon Wear managed to lose his entire team, which included his client Nintendo.
This is the six nations ride, but this is the rogue seventh nation.
THE SPOOF BLOG - CHRIS WRIGHT
Simstrong just beat former Stasi officer Brian ( riding under an assumed name for security purposes – he is really called Martin ) after joining a breakaway that also included Warwick’s finest Matt, Mark and Ben who have continued to do their own thing – eating, drinking and partying in their own little world and generally having the time of their lives...
On Monday, Simstrong joined a group of 15 at the bar, with 9km to go in the 201.5 km ride from Somewhere in Ireland to Anotherplace in Ireland after the main group broke down in stitches watching Canavan dancing amid strong crosswinds...
Two-time Tour de France winner Lorenzo Bowleglio fell behind over the last 15km with big Dave from Guernsey who then crashed out with 350km still to go and hurt his knee, although he did not appear injured later that night when dancing with Shelley in the night club.
TUESDAY 9TH MARCH - ANDREW CROKER
Belfast - Stranraer Distance: No idea, rest day. Done: 2621 km. To go: 267 km Weather: Dead calm
This is the day to water ski at sea, Christine. On Stena Line - which really is lovely - as we transfer to Scotland - just three days to go, and it is pancake flat.
A fun night in Belfast. The legendary Mike Gibson joined us for dinner at Pizza Express - they have been very generous - in Maidstone 85 of us ate 312 pizzas, which is pretty good going. After dinner we set off for the Apartment and sadly I screwed it for all sixty of us. I hope the owner reads this, but the neanderthal knuckle-scraping doorman had all the interpersonal skills of a US immigration official, and because I did not show him the sort of respect reserved for visiting heads of state or premiership footballers he took offence at my amusement when he asked me (at 11.30pm) if I'd been drinking. "You look unsteady". A mexican stand-off ensued - and bear in mind the place was empty on a Monday night, and I had sixty platinum Amex-bearing captains of industry in tow, facing a rest day...
I was then 'jacqued' by them all setting off to the Apartment in the early hours where the lowlife on the door was now beeing all sheepish and sycophantic realising we were expected Gary, where were you?). Not having my money on principle.
Docking in Stranraer. Nearly there. Very odd not to be on the bike today. Not even a Tour de France rider can write 'Day 25' in his blog.
STUNNING SCOTTISH SCENERY - LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO
We've just cycled through some of the most beautiful scenery we've seen all tour in the Galloway Forest Park near Dumfries.
Last night Les Ferdinand and Lee Dixon rejoined the group to cycle the final miles into Edinburgh. Also on the star-studded list for the next few days is former Scottish rugby legend Kenny Logan, who taught us a thing or two about the art of Curling in the Stranraer Curling club!
...A specially arranged VIP visit to the swanky Apartment Bar which almost didn't materialise because Chairman Croker swayed upon entry and the doorman took objection to the group, asking "Have you been drinking?"
We have two days of cycling left - it's amazing to think that a month ago we were cycling through six inches of snow in Rome.
WEDNESDAY 10TH MARCH - ANDREW CROKER
Stranraer - Dumfries Distance: 110km. Done: 2738 km. To go: 150 km Weather: Spectacular
The Lee Dixon curse is broken - he came back and it didn't pour, and in fact was maybe the best day yet.
...Scotland grabs the hem of its kilt, lifts it up, and you stand there open mouthed. This was simply the best road we have ridden, through the most beautiful countryside you've seen, with no traffic, and clear blue skies. And then Kenny Logan (whose Mum is from Dumfries) says 'it's much nicer further north'. Bring it on.
I sense we are getting demob happy. The hard core are drifting back. Les 'Gandalf' Causton, Hugh McHardie, Les Ferdinand.
The SRU are holding a celebration of Bill McLaren's life at 6.30pm tomorrow at Murrayfield. Those rumoured to be appearing the next day for the final 55km sprint include Ally McCoist, Jill Douglas, John Inverdale, Gavin Hastings and Andy Nicol. Should be lively.
THURSDAY 11TH MARCH - ANDREW CROKER
Dumfries - Lanark Distance: 92km. Done: 2833 km. To go: 55 km Weather: Overcast
I envy sportsmen that single sense of purpose - they know what they are trying to do - I can just see Lawrence and the boys heading in to extra time in the 2003 World Cup Final at the Telstra Stadium (I was there) - and saying 'not now Clive'. They knew what had to be done. And so with Team Croker, I needed the A team to take on Team Kimmage on the road.
At one point as we climbed up through the valley to Lanark I swear a golden eagle swooped across my path (Kenny Logan said extremely likely).
Fancy dress day has come to represent what this event is about. I sent a picture of me (pretty in pink)and Les Ferdinand (leopard print knickers) to a Spurs fan and he texted 'They used to call Les the black salmon, you look like the real thing'.
For now I have to say it is still fun. Not much on fines last night, but you have to admire the guy who fell off while trying to change the ring tone on his iPhone. We have not seen rain since the day we left Twickenham, and until today it had been sunny every day. Just 55km tomorrow, in a coordinated run into Murrayfield. There are nine of us who left Rome four weeks ago - some of whom I have just not ridden with at all - Bonzo, Greg, Pierre-Yves - I need to fix that tomorrow.
WE'RE DONE. DCS COMPLETED! - LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO
We have reached the finish line. The Dallaglio Cycle Slam has come to a close. It's over. We're through. Done.
We pulled into Murrayfield at 1:30pm this afternoon (after a slightly shorter 70km) with the core riders being treated to a guard of honour ceremony while the other riders formed a tunnel for us to cycle through. Accompanied by Kenny Logan, Andy Nicol and Gavin Hastings the Calcutta Cup rivalry was cast aside for the day as we rode the final stretch into Edinburgh (passing more stunning scenery, I might add). John Inverdale, Jill Douglas also joined us for the day as well as the stalwarts of the DCS - Les Ferdinand and Lee Dixon!
Emotions ran high at the finish line with the guys hugging and high-fiving. Families turned out to cheer us on the final fews metres and I was reunited with Alice and the kids.
It also goes without saying that we couldn't have done it without the support crew. The logistics of transporting 250 cyclists 3,000km across Europe don't even bear thinking about but they have run a slick operation. I will try to not leave anyone out: Event Directors Rob "Mocky" Mauchlen and Andrews Wells, the Green Room Sports team (Dickie Relton, Nicky Mckay and Nicola Bird, Big Gaz Smith (ferried all our day bags around in the grey transit) David Bennett (mechanic), Rob Bennett and French Freddie (went out in the early hours each morning to map out our route), Jo Gowing (sorted all our food), the doc Simon Morris, physios Rooster, Major Sally and Rich Follett, masseuse Jo, Ed Haskell (the bag man!), Hatts Coaches drivers Phil and Jason, 3663 lorry drivers Chris and Andy, the guys from Pitch on the PR (James, Ollie, Tom and Jo), Campo the cameraman and Nicky Turley from the Dallaglio Foundation. Job well done, guys.
A whole month on the road, 3,000km cycled, 6 international rugby stadia visited. We've had it all thrown at us - snow, wind, rain, punctures, potholes - but it hasn't stopped us. All the guys that have joined me have been remarkable and special mention should go the core riders who were with me every step of the way: Andrew and Joanna Croker, Mike Ryan, Antony "Bonzo" Lorenzo, Paul Kimmage and Greg Sim as well as William Hebing from Giant and navigator Pierre-Yves Marc. Legends.
CAPTAIN’S BLOG. STAR DATE 15TH MARCH - ANDREW CROKER
Sunday morning, sitting on the train to Kings Cross. It’s packed – some (not us) have paid £25 to upgrade to first, and are standing or sitting on the floor, Hardly seems worth it.
The Sunday Times sadly (yet again) has given no space to Paul Kimmage’s piece (Editor’s note: Click on Paul’s image to read his final DCS column). Their cursory hundred words today said Ally McCoist rode in to Edinburgh with us – news to me.
Reflections of the whole event will come in a few days. For now here is the social diary, match report and court circular from the last 48 hours.
Let’s get the match out of the way. England rugby fans travel as optimists, not with any sense of expectation. Jonny-bashing is the new sport but if he’d stayed on we’d have won because he has more lead in his pencil than Toby. They should put a net across the half way line and give the referee an umpire’s chair. Back and forth it went, and ended up at deuce. When was the penalty shoot-out introduced? Have I missed something?
By a mile the best bit was the Scots’ singing of Flower of Scotland – really powerful and moving, particularly when the piper stops playing and they sing the second half acapella. Then after the match (trust me, there was nothing in between) Gavin Hastings was the host in the massive hospitality and called me up to give the text number (text ‘SLAM to 70005, to give £5) – imploring everyone to do it – and two Scots came up to me and pressed £200 in my hand. The haggis was piped in, serenaded with Robbie Burns completely unintelligible ode (the bulging bladder looks like the egg thing in Alien) and was delicious. And what a beautiful city. Must come back for the fringe.
A simply outstanding end of tour party – hosted by Wasps owner Steve Hayes – at the splendid Malmaison Hotel in Leith.
Judge Damian Hopley made a surprise return, having spent the afternoon at Muirfield thrashing the SRU boss 8&7. A ‘dog licence’ as he called it. I pointed out that’s 7&6. Obviously.
Lawrence gave a long and passionate speech, primarily to thank everybody. “My mother Eileen died last year. She believed in me long before I’d done anything to justify this. Parents are the foundation of your life, and that’s why I now have my own Foundation’. He thanked everybody who’d made this happen – the fund-raising riders, the sponsors, the support staff, and those who had made individual contributions.
A bewigged Judge Hopley presiding, I was installed as Clerk of the Court. ‘Order, order’. The defendant, Lawrence Bruno Nero Dallaglio (his mother must have thought he would achieve something with that lot), also trading as Lorenzo Bowleglio, decided to defend himself - against the six charges, all relating to offences between the 12th February and 12th March.
Frankly you can’t win with Hoppers – he makes Herod look even handed – so you might as well take your punishment. The most serious charge was the San Remo Lunch Club – ‘I put it to you that on Tuesday 16th February, in San Remo, Italy, you willfully caused all the other riders, and the major sponsor Causeway, who had flown in a chef from Ireland for the party, at the company palazzo, to spend four hours in a car park in the pouring rain, while your group went for lunch”. In mitigation he had already apologised at the time so was found guilty on this and in fact all charges. It was close run, because of course the judge was present (in San Remo), and a co-defendant on this charge. As he took his punishment (six shots – one per conviction) his wife Alice knew she was in for a long night. Sorry let me rephrase that, she was going to bed, Lawrence was in for a long one.
In sentencing Lawrence asked for 72 similar offences to be taken in to consideration, including taking Phil Brown, Peter Nagle, Neville Upton, David Yarnton and others to Riva and the Ivy for lunch, on unspecified dates, choosing the wine, letting them pay, and persuading them to sponsor the Slam. He asked the Causeway boys for £50k and gave them places on the ride – they asked if they could make it £100k and skip the riding.
Richie then went for his party piece of drinking two pints of Guinness simultaneously - very close, but no cigar. Lee Dixon – father, husband, dog owner – was accused (and found guilty) of having his Giant bike as his screensaver. Gary sang the Gambler. Brother Seele – Elvis is in the building – gave us Suspicious Minds. They ran out of Chuckle Juice (Bulmers), Guinness, Red Bull, Sambucca and Kahlua. The other well-heeled hotel guests were thrilled with the singing, piping (lady bagpiper – the ‘blowfish’) until 3am, followed by the alarm going off at 4.30am (people going out) and again at 6.30am, Lawrence and the Ampleforth boys (coming in).
Special mention to Rob Mauchlen who got back to the city centre Premier Inn at 3.30am, went to bed, got a call, and went back to the Malmaison. And why did he do that? No idea. Ask him.
Should probably quit when ahead, but Saturday night found us in the Opal Lounge on George Street. The ratio of people we knew soon dwindled as it was opened to the public, and it soon filled up with revellers the same age as our children – teenagers. Kenny was strutting his stuff – on the recent Strictly tour he came last every night until they got to Scotland, when he won six on the bounce. I’d vote for him. Lots of friends, children, loved ones joined us – particularly Nicola Bird’s boyfriend Will who was her fiancée by the end of the evening. Sorry boys.
We have just stopped at Durham. The windows are flecked with rain, the first we have seen since Twickenham fourteen days ago. Amazingly lucky. I have a tan.
Everybody asks me the same questions. How is your thumb? (A: Seeing surgeon Wednesday). How do you feel? (A: don’t know, ask me in a few days). What are you doing next week? (A: working, if I can find the office). Best moment? (A: finishing). Worst moment? (A: getting sick, crashing). Hardest stage? (A: Italy). How are your legs? (A: fine). Have you lost weight? (A: a lot). For the one and only time in my life I was told – by Simon the doctor – to put on weight. Readers, I have worked hard on this over the last two days.
But THE best thing was this. They say you can make new friends, but you can’t make old friends. As you get older it’s harder to find time in your life for new people, but we have met some truly amazing people on this trip. We will meet again. We will ride again.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE DALLAGLIO CYCLE SLAM - ANDREW CROKER
“May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of His hand”. (Traditional Irish blessing).
'May the road rise up ....' means may your travels always be downhill (don’t ask), and goodness knows we all love the sun, and the wind at our back. Though I have to say that when the A20 outside Maidstone rose up to meet me a bit sharpish I didn’t feel so good, nor when it was tipping down not so softly upon our fields as we slogged along the Somme.
Cycling is very odd. It shouldn’t be that much fun, strung out in a line, sucking a wheel, force feeding on complex carbs, wiping your nose on the back of your glove, dodging potholes and traffic, fumbling with tubes, flogging up hills – but it is. In fact every single day is an adventure, packed with tales from the road. Is there any collective pursuit that is as challenging – mountaineering, sailing? More than anything I look back and realise there was an instant bond with anybody else who was prepared to do the same – raise sponsorship, give up their time, muck in, push themselves, and of course wear lycra.
To think that a dream – or madcap idea, depending on your point of view – to raise £1million for charity, has been achieved is quite incredible, and every single person contributed. Over 250 who rode, the support team, at least fifty companies who were involved, and the thousands who either texted or donated. If Sport Relief had most of its site traffic interested in the Slam, how much of the £31m was down to us? Well of course we don’t know – but I do know we were a LOT funnier than the comedians. How delightfully understated we were – let’s trivialise the 120km today – ‘Oh, it’s 150km now? Bring it on’. I keep coming back to our leader’s explanation. ‘A rugby player’s default setting is to show contempt for pain and adversity, you have to feed off it. The opposition hate it’. So no melodrama or whinging for us then. When the going gets tough, the tough put on full make-up and pink knickers. Mind you to be fair at one point David Walliams did do a THREE hour stint on the bike. Amazing – when I told Joanna she nearly fell off hers.
They say the definition of mixed emotions is seeing your mother-in-law drive off a cliff in your new car. Let me tell you that right up there is watching your wife steam past you on the front of a ten man chain. Twice. I know my place. Thank you for all the emails about the organisation, the advice, the blog and our achievement. Well, it was all worth it – and would have been if only for the new friendships – and a particular mention for the fellow members of the core group. Not for here, but each and every one had a touch of the ‘Systeme Jacques’ about them – doing it in their own way. Chapeau.
There was never a recruiting drive, it just captured people’s imagination, and you came. Our original plan was 100 riders, but we had to stop somewhere. Dave Brailsford (UK cycling and Team SKY guru) said ‘cycling is the new golf’. Well, I know what he means – it has taken off and works on every level – a bit ‘techie’, a bit fashionable, a bit cool. Was the ride a life changing experience? For me probably not, I was hooked already – but I sense for some it might be – and if the money we have raised is life changing for the people we are trying to help then we really have achieved something together. I still remember sitting in the lobby of the hotel in Grignan watching the Debra video on Greg's laptop with tears running down my face – and of course feeling ashamed that I had even contemplated feeling sorry for myself that day, banging away into the mistral.
The Slam was a game of two halves. A long hard miserable wet cold slog from Rome to London, and then a long hard beautiful sunny cruise to Edinburgh. It was all about the weather. Either way it was hard miles - and 15% is hard in any language or weather. It was a test of endurance on and off the bike. When you play golf if you birdie the last you forget the other 17 holes of tosh. At the end, as we rode through a deserted Galloway National Park in Scotland on a new ribbon of tarmac, under a blue sky, with a golden eagle circling overhead, who could remember the Genoa one way system in rush hour?
So life goes back to normal in theory, but it is hard to get it all out of your head. I am full of admiration for everybody who came, and those who supported us practically, financially or morally. Thank you all.
Finally, remember the only cure for post-slam depression is getting back on your bike. May God hold you in the hollow of His hand – and if it gets steep may He push you a bit.
See you on the road.