Ride of Remembrance blog: A challenging but rewarding day

Sunderland dentist Michael Oliver
Sunderland dentist Michael Oliver
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A long, challenging but rewarding day, that started early – we were on the road well before 8am, anxious to beat the worst of the oppressive weather.

The tactic worked well and we well underway before the sun could do its worst.

There was a steep climb away from out hotel at Durbuy first thing, which really woke us all up, but after that we headed into the Ardennes Forest and through names synonymous with the Battle of Bulge in 1944

One of out stops was at the site of a notable action, with an American Sherman tank marking where Lt Col Samuel Hogan overcame overwhelming odds to beat off a German attack and then, when surrounded, managed to slip through the German lines to safety.

Most of the towns and villages we rode through had well-kept memorials to those who served and died in Ardennes during the Second World War.

We dropped down into Laroche, a lovely small town, central during the Battle, and which is overlooked by a intimidating fort. Sunderland dentist Michael Oliver could not resist the square’s fountains, perfect to cool down – Michael and I also cooled off in an inviting river later in the day.

We also past near to Bastogne, famous for Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe’s response to an order to surrender the town when surrounded by large German forces over Christmas of 1944. The acting commander of the 101st Airborne Division replied “Nuts” and fought on.

As yesterday, the temperatures were in excess of 30 degrees, so whereas German and Allied troops approached tree lines with dread and trepidation – fearing ambushes – we welcomed them for the drop in temperature and shade.

It was a long, long day, with a real sting in the tale. Ten miles out of Sedan, our destination, was a horrendous hill that only the very fittest among us even tried.

That dip in the river got me through it!

We arrived worn out, but proud of our achievement – and in awe of the bravery shown by soldiers on both sides of the Battle of the Bulge.

We’re hoping the next day may be a little easier – instead of climbing the 6,000 ft we did today, our challenge is more like 2,000 ft.

However, whereas today we cycled 76 miles, tomorrow we need to 96. Wish us luck!