Kenny Smith is a longstanding supporter of the MS Trust, having amongst other things completed numerous London Marathons, trekked in the Sahara Desert and founded the MS Circuit Challenge at Goodwood. Here he tells us about his latest challenge, cycling from London to Brussels via Amsterdam in August 2014 along with his daughter Amy.
As ever, as soon as I come home from one challenge I instantly start looking into what's next on the list! I successfully completed a fantastic Kilimanjaro trek in October 2013 but I wanted to get back on my bike and felt the next challenge should be a cycle one.
After completing the London to Paris ride for the MS Trust in 2012, I'd already looked into doing the 3 Cities so it had found its way near the top of my ever growing to do list. I booked on to the ride, but this time with company - on this challenge I was joined by the eldest of my three daughters Amy, who is a very keen cyclist and jumped at the chance of doing this with me!
Day one: London to Harwich
After an early night and after packing, unpacking and repacking it was nice to settle the nerves in the bath before getting up for the journey to London. We got up at 4.45am and checked and double checked the kit, gave the bikes the once over, filled our water bottles and then we were ready for the challenge ahead!
It was an early start and our friend Ben arrived with his van to get us to the start line. We left London at 9.45am and our first stop was at mile 24 for water and a banana. Lunch was at 12.45pm after completing 48 miles and lots of hills! As ever the food by provided by Skyline was top notch.
We fought our way up plenty of hills through the Essex countryside and through the country's oldest town of Colchester. We got to Harwich at 6.30pm having completed 94 miles and so many hills. Everyone seemed to struggle today as we didn't realise just how many hills we would face!
Two pints of ice cold lager and a cheese burger and chips before we boarded the ferry was just what the doctor ordered! We boarded the ferry at 9.30pm and the shower was more than welcome. Our gear was sorted for the morning and it was an early night for us on board the ferry.
Today we totalled 95 miles and we were mobile for 7 and a half hours.
Day two: Hook of Holland to Amsterdam
We enjoyed a good night's sleep and a filling breakfast on the ferry before arriving in Holland early in the morning. We made our way to the cargo deck to retrieve our bikes and once the ferry docked we went to the holding area for a briefing and to top up our water bottles before our day's cycling.
Riding along the Dutch Lowlands and passing canals was so pretty. We rode along some amazing cycle paths where motorists gave you the right of way at junctions! The hardest part about today was the head-on wind in places, and some of the cobbled paths were uneven and hard work on a carbon bike. It seemed that one part of the ride was through the desert because of all the sand and the dunes!
The food at lunch was fantastic as always, and once refuelled we made our way through beautiful historic cities and towns and over some massive bridges. The roads into Amsterdam were so long and straight it really was a pleasure to ride today, though we did get some rain after lunch. We arrived at the hotel and couldn't believe the amount of bikes that are locked up in what must be the world's largest multi-storey bike park outside the hotel!
After a filling dinner we decided to wander into town which was a bit of an eye-opener in places, but it's a beautiful city with some fine architecture
Today we rode 68 miles.
Day three: Amsterdam to Turnhout
A very early start today as we headed out of the city and back into the countryside through the Dutch Lowlands, mostly on cycle paths of brick and cobbles. It was still rather flat with only the odd incline but the head-on wind still wasn't doing us any favours.
It was so nice to see windmills that were working and I enjoyed seeing people on barges going up the canals as I cycled past. The paths were again long and next to some very busy main roads that seemed to be full of lorries. The weather was hot at times with what looked like rain, but we were lucky that we all stayed dry.
The final miles were never ending and I was growing more tired so I just wanted to get out of the saddle and enjoy a nice shower. We ended our day in the gothic town of Turnhout, and my first stop was for a beer before a shower and the evening meal. We both got to bed soon after dinner and slept really well.
Total we totalled 115 miles and were on the go for 10 hours.
Day four: Turnhout to Brussels
We had a staggered start today so that the slower riders got to the lunch stop at the same time as the faster riders. We left Holland and crossed over into Belgium through quiet villages and we faced a few hills. We had the odd rain shower and it was a lot cooler today.
There were a few steep hills that we had to ride up but then we had the joy of riding down other big hills and reached some very fast speeds! We all met just outside the city of Brussels in a beautiful country park which was around 3 miles to the finish line in the square.
We chilled out with a drink for around an hour before we assembled for a team photo and then we lined up for the procession into town. Within a mile of the finish the rain came and it poured buckets. We were all soaked but it didn't dampen our spirits as we arrived in the square and we finished our cycle ride! Almost 350 miles and lots of money raised for the Multiple Sclerosis Trust
We had our photos taken and made our way to the hotel for a glass of champagne and the keys for our room. We phoned home, had a well deserved shower and made our way down for the celebration meal. Spirits were good and the drink was flowing. We finished off the night partying in a local bar and headed home in the early hours to get some well earned sleep.
Today we rode 73 miles.
Day five: homeward bound
This morning we were up early, had breakfast and went out for some sightseeing and souvenir shopping before making our way to the Eurostar on our way back home.
The 3 Cities is a fantastic challenge that I would highly recommend. It's a fantastic way to see Holland and Belgium, and because most of the ride is on cycle paths you don't have to worry about traffic.