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  1. #1
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    The Ashes: who loves cricket enough to cycle from England to Australia?



    With the third Test about to begin, one 'crazy Pommie' looks back on an epic journey to see the first ball in Brisbane

    theguardian.com, Thursday 1 August 2013 15.17 AEST


    After taking 14 months to ride through 23 countries, Oli Broom arrives in Brisbane for the start of the 2010-11 Ashes series. Photograph: Oli Broom
    On the eve of the first Test of the Ashes 2010-11 series, I was taking the last few pedal strokes of millions up a short incline a couple of miles from the Gabba when a flash convertible pulled up alongside me. The driver leant across his female companion to ask if I was the "crazy Pommie bloke" who'd cycled all the way from Lord's.

    I was. And I'd been called crazy, or a version of it, by almost everyone I had met during the past 14 months in 23 countries. But there in Brisbane at the end of my journey, having seen so much of our planet from the saddle of a bicycle, it seemed that "crazy" would, in fact, have been coming up with the idea of cycling to the Ashes and then not giving it a crack.

    I'd first thought about it two years earlier. I'd already decided to go on a long bicycle journey but I knew needed to aim for an event to keep me motivated during long days in the saddle. When a friend told me she was moving to Australia I knew my destination could only be the Ashes.

    I shut my eyes and imagined rolling up to the Gabba, ordering a cold beer and watching the first ball of the series. I could not conceive of a finer ending to a bicycle ride.

    I left Lord's on 10 October 2009 with 17 friends in tow. They all turned around when we reached the ferry at Dover. I spent most of the months that followed alone.

    I hadn't trained at all, and I nearly had to call the whole thing off after my knee gave me trouble at the start. But it improved, helped along by intense exercise.

    It took me two months to cross my first continent because I stopped every few days to wield the bat I was carrying on the cricket fields of Europe. In Serbia, Bulgaria and Turkey, Vladimir, Slobodan and Saif got me out, each time cheaply. I scored a lone half-century in Vienna before being caught at square leg, the seventh victim of a nine-year-old girl. Later, in Syria, I gathered a bunch of hippy travellers for a game in Old Damascus; in Sudan I taught cricket to a bunch of Nubian nomads dressed for the occasion in white floor-length tunics; in Indonesia I played at the Pancawati oval, high amid Java's volcanoes and surely one of the world's most beautiful grounds.
    (That's the ground we built.... http://teakdoor.com/construction-in-...lubhouses.html (Building a cricket ground and clubhouses) )

    After crossing 22 countries, I spent a week on a Danish-owned cattle boat, voyaging from Jakarta to Darwin. I hadn't really looked at a map of Australia until then and, while I knew it was a pretty sizeable paddock, it came as a surprise that it would take me 70 days to pedal across the country.

    I didn't find much cricket in Australia; in fact, apart from spiders, grazing cattle and handlebar moustaches, I didn't find much at all. In the tiny settlement of Roper Bar (population 12), I asked a girl in the shop where I might find the next town. "A thousand miles that way," she replied, pointing south. I chuckled nervously. She didn't chuckle at all.


    Oli Broom on the road out of Longreach. It took him 70 days to cycle from Darwin to Brisbane. Photograph: Oli Broom

    But I did eventually make it to Brisbane and, as I leaned on my brakes and came to a halt outside gate two of the Gabba, I was enveloped by a small group of friends and family. They had all left London within the past 36 hours; the trip had taken me 412 days of turning pedals.

    I felt lucky to have survived the Turkish winter, the Sudanese desert, dengue fever, Delhi belly and outback headwinds with my health, and my mind, intact. But I was not so lucky in Melbourne: representing the Marylebone Cricket Club in a game at the MCG on the day after the fourth Test, when England had already retained the Ashes, I got a reminder that my future lay in adventure rather than in the game that I had pedalled so far to watch.

    The former England spinner John Emburey threw down a half-tracker that the batsman pulled out towards deep mid-wicket, where I was fielding. As I ran in, diving forward, I caught my finger on the hallowed turf and it snapped from its base. I spent the rest of my time in Australia in a cast, the sorry victim of a few blades of grass.

    More than two years have passed since I completed my journey to the Ashes and still there are times when I long to be on the open road in Sudan or India or Australia, hands leaning on a couple of dirty socks wrapped around handlebars, legs turning gently and wheels taking me onwards, towards another night's sleep in an unfamiliar place. Sometimes I even yearn to feel the bite of a cold headwind or the thrill of a winding descent. I'd be crazy not to.

    Cycling to the Ashes by Oli Broom is published by Yellow Jersey Press, $32.95 (16.99), ebook available
    The Ashes: who loves cricket enough to cycle from England to Australia? | Sport | theguardian.com

  2. #2
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    billy the kid's Avatar
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    mad-dogs and englishmen go out in the midday sun
    but 412 days riding a bike alone
    to watch a game of cricket
    for whatever reason, the guy has balls
    and probably blisters the same size on his botty.
    amazing ride.

  3. #3
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    daveboy's Avatar
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    Good on him.

  4. #4
    IV
    Wally Dorian Raffles's Avatar
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    "crazy" pom

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