October 2009
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Oli Broom: I'm on my way to The Ashes

October 15th, 2009 by TWC in Miscellaneous


Oli Broom is cycling to the 2010-11 Ashes, and he’s on his way. Please go to the bottom of the page and donate to one of his chosen charities.

The past few months have been so full of research and organisational errands, that I have barely had time to consider what I have just set out to do. Last Saturday’s departure date crept up on me to such an extent that at 11pm the night before I had not practised packing, had never ridden the bike “fully loaded”, and I had less than 100 songs on my ipod … that’s one song to listen to every four days.

Last week was fantastic. On Tuesday evening I attended the Lord’s Taverners Captain’s Dinner at the Hyde Park Hilton, in honour of the 30 living England cricket captains. Twenty of them were there, and I managed to sneak photos with two legends of the game: John Edrich and Tom Graveney.

Chris Tarrant, President of the Taverners, also wandered over and seemed genuinely interested in what I was up to. I even managed to get Tony Greig to autograph my Mongoose, but stayed off the wine as I had accepted an invitation to talk to the boys at my old school, Caldicott in Farnham Royal, about the trip – at 8.30 the next morning. It was great to go back.

I spoke in assembly and then answered questions in a couple of classes afterwards: What happens if your bike gets stolen? Why are cricket bats made out of wood? Were you good at cricket when you were younger? All good questions, and I am still pondering the answers. I hope they enjoy following my progress, and I look forward to going back with a few more stories up my sleeve when I get back in 15 months time.

My leaving party was on Thursday and I must thank all my friends, who made it so special. It was a night I won’t forget, not least because of the 400 photos someone managed to take with my camera – well done whoever you are.

After a family meal and a good night’s sleep on Friday evening, launch day arrived. As I hid under my duvet and enjoyed the last few moments in my own bed for a long time, I wanted nothing more than to pretend it was just another day. Having spent the last few years dreaming of a time when I wouldn’t know what the next day held in store, for those few minutes I craved stability and normality.

Had I really arranged for sponsors, media and friends and family to come to see me off as I began cycling around the world? Why exactly had I decided to cycle around the world? If indeed I was to leave on this unbelievable adventure, I certainly wanted to pedal off quietly, and without a fuss. I contemplated another “last” as I got into a nice warm shower. It was all too much to take in and I had to sit down for a while to think, for the first time in weeks, about what I was actually doing. I kept reminding myself of something I had read recently: “It doesn’t have to be fun, to be fun.”

My mood improved as Dad and I drove to Lord’s. We both commented what a beautiful morning it was. By the time we arrived, it had clouded over and begun to rain. Within five minutes of arriving, I stood on the Nursery Ground waiting for my Sky News interview to go live. As they began to introduce me live on air the ear piece fell out onto the ground and I panicked.  I still haven’t seen the footage, but wouldn’t be surprised if the first few seconds are of me scrabbling around.

The rest of the launch went smoothly and my thanks go to all who helped arrange it, and especially the MCC who presented me with a replica Ashes urn that I shall pedal all the way to The Gabba. After a tearful first farewell, I was away, cycling down to Dover with 17 friends, and not to Australia on my own.

The last few weeks have been some of the best of my life. I have met childhood heroes, got used to being interviewed, spoken to a school and received important support and encouragement from companies and individuals keen to invest in this adventure. I have cried a bit and laughed a lot. I have realised how much my friends mean to me. At times I have been scared and apprehensive, at others excited and relaxed.

I have to pinch myself that I am actually cycling to Australia. I expect most of the next year to be fun, but know plenty of it won’t be. Leaving my family and friends at Dover was probably the least fun thing I’ve ever done, and yet the promise of what lies ahead encourages me. Part of the fun will come with achievement – as I sat on the ferry and stared out to sea in those first few minutes alone, I realised that.

Since writing this blog Oli Broom has cycled solo from Dunkirk to Ypres. So far he has been given two carrots and an apple and 4,000 songs for his ipod, and had his lights nicked.  Next entry coming soon.

You can follow Oli’s journey on thewisdencricketer.com, or at www.cyclingtotheashes.com, or on twitter at http://twitter.com/cyclingtoashes. Oli is aiming to raise £50,000 each for the Lord’s Taverners and the British Neurological Research Fund (BNRT). Click to donate.

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