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On 5th - 7th October, a group of 40 emperor penguins squeezed Into lycra and took on the challenge to cycle 120 miles from London to Amsterdam.

This year, the Emperor Foundation supported three charities close to our hearts, The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Alzheimer Scotland. Not only have we smashed our target to raise £48,000, not one person managed to fall off (although Hanal had a few close calls!).

The weekend began bright and early at the glamorous Holiday Inn in Brentwood. Thanks to Ian’s top tips before the ride, we were kitted out in padded shorts, thermal layers, gloves and of course, our new Emperor jerseys. For many, it was a definite case of ‘all the gear, no idea.’

After some safety reminders from the Global Adventures team and a classic Steve Kemp pep-talk, we were off. All ready and raring to go, we encountered our first hill less than five minutes in and while struggling to use our gears properly, we began to realise the challenge we’d signed up for – only 119.9 miles to go!

The first water stop was a welcome sight with snacks galore. Stocked up with flapjacks and energy drinks we were off again for the second leg. Cycling through Maldon town centre was a challenge, the combination of a hilly town, stop/start traffic and a huddle of cyclists made for tricky navigation.

We had been warned about the long climb to the lunch spot and it wasn’t an exaggeration. Luckily more food awaited us at the top. We can’t fault all the food that was laid on – more than enough to keep us going for another 30 miles.

After a few more hours on the bike and yet more snacks, we made it to Harwich. Never been so excited to see a Premier Inn! A quick freshen up and it was already time to walk to the ferry port. Given the challenge we’d all endured; navigating country roads, traffic and never-ending hills, this was the simplest part of the day. However some (Katy) struggled more than others to keep hold of essential travel documents and if it wasn’t for Kingsley and Chris saving the day, we may have been one penguin short in Amsterdam!

On the ferry we all met in the bar (where else?) to celebrate seeing the back of those Essex hills. Lloyd spent his time in the bar convincing everyone that he definitely had ‘no regrets’ about choosing to cycle the whole way on a Brompton. Some celebrated harder than others and looked a little worse for wear at the breakfast buffet the next morning. Arriving in the Hook of Holland, we organised ourselves into three groups based on how able we were feeling the morning after. Surprisingly the selftitled team ‘Elite’ comprised of mainly those who looked a little rough at breakfast. Kudos to Ian and George who were still half asleep, with more alcohol than blood in their systems when we set off again. Surprisingly none of us felt too achy or awful, or at least we thought we didn’t. There was a chorus of groans, first as we sat on the saddle and another as our legs started pedalling.

racers with the bikes on the finish line

The second day cycling was bliss. Everyone was in high spirits, knowing that Holland was flatter, shorter, more scenic and with lots of safe cycle paths. The leadership from the Global Adventures team was second to none and for the majority of the time everything was plain sailing – not a small feat corralling 40 cyclists across Essex and then Holland. That said, one team did end up taking the ‘scenic route’ on day two, racking up a few extra miles due to some misdirection from Colin, their leader. After two long days of cycling, the extra miles weren’t well received...

Eventually everyone made it to the centre of Amsterdam and all teams met in the Vondelpark before cycling to the hotel. A couple of glasses of bubbly later, we finally got into our hotel rooms and got ready for our dinner. At this point, we’d all gained some wisdom concerning two things: 1) the best part of cycling long distance was the no-regrets carb loading and 2) the best part of cycling to Amsterdam was the well earned night out.

The next day we had some time to explore the city before heading back to the airport. While some explored the Moco Banksy exhibition and others went to see the iconic ‘I AMSTERDAM’ sign, some decided to immerse themselves in Dutch culture, really breathe it all in. What happens in Amsterdam, stays in Amsterdam, right?