Neil Hill’s cycling challenge for Young Lives vs Cancer

15 May 2024


After the London to Paris ride we completed in May 2022, a group of six riders joined together to come up with a follow-up challenge!

We settled on "Sam's to the Dams" (Bristol to Amsterdam) last summer and presented the idea to Young Lives vs Cancer (YLVC) which they jumped on and set about organising for us.

Olivia's Dad, Chris had also done a couple of other events to raise money like "Ride London" and "London to Brighton" and we decided to launch Olivia's Fund to consolidate all the fundraising under one banner.

Plans were set, training commenced, and fundraising began.

Training was good initially, but the ability to get out on the road beforehand was severely impacted by the weather in late 2023 and early 2024. In fact, I was only able to take my bike out on the road twice in 2024 before the ride, the rest of the time was spent training indoors.

The end of April came upon us all quickly and we soon found ourselves packing and setting off for Bristol on 30th April.

We arranged a pre-ride meal for anyone interested and we soon began to make new friends…


Day 1: Bristol to Oxford (via Sams House)

Mileage = 75 miles

Climbing = 2,825ft


DAY 1 .éEY±NÄtiONAL 'AbidSCAPE ate e cen Gloucester ('THE COTSWOLDS swindon 20 mi 40 mi Okford ROUTE PROFILE 60 mi Bäthf$' 600 ft 300 Total Ascent: 2,825ft Total Descent: 2,700ft

Day 1 route map


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Bikes ready to go the night before at registration


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“The start”


We started at 7.15 am and visited Sam’s House in Bristol first which was amazing, then we cracked on.

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Outside Sam’s House 


Our group set off at a good pace and were quickly pushing forward. Getting out of Bristol in rush hour was a bit of a challenge - after clearing the city we managed to find a good pace. We arrived at the first water stop as the leading group and pretty much stayed at the front for the day.

There were some big hills at around 50 miles, and I suffered some issues with quad and calf cramping which was pretty tough, but I managed to get through it and worked through the rest of the day.  

We finished the ride into the hotel in Oxford at just before 4 pm - we might have worked in a couple of beer stops (Guinness purely for medicinal purposes).


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Water break (Joe, Neil, and Andy) 


Day 2: Oxford to Stanstead

Mileage = 87 miles

Climbing = 3,275ft (with a 25% gradient section!)


DAY 2 3anbgry Oxfoa Ne+åury Newp6ft:Paghell Milton Keynes Bletchleyq Sandy Biggleswade Ro om Le chworth Leigh%oh Buzzard ' Steyenage L t6n F) ' Webmyn.G@rden qty/ odåéSd6Fv%t— St Alban Chippihgtßpme<l' 20 mi Reading' 40 mi ROUTE PROFILE o 60 mi Total Ascent: 3,275ft Total Descent: 3,150ft

Day 2 route map


So day 2 was tough!!

We were up at 5 am and it was absolutely tipping down when we were due to leave the hotel, so we held back for an hour after everyone else had left. 

After a while, we set off from Oxford heading cross country to nearby Stansted airport, which involved climbing up over the Chiltern Hills which were horrible! One climb was 900ft and at one point it hit a gradient of 25% which is pretty extreme. All in we travelled 87 miles and just under 4000 feet.

We arrived at the hotel around 4 pm and they’d arranged the spa and complimentary foot massages for us which was well received! 

It was a long day but very rewarding.

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Coffee stop

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Arriving at Stansted


Day 3: Stansted to Harwich (and the overnight ferry to Rotterdam)

Mileage = 57 miles

Climbing = 1,125 ft


DAY 3 Haverhill Braintree_ Chelråsford 000 Ipswiqh Woodb -geli I'L_DEDÅÅM.ÜALE. NATIONALtLANbsgÄPE Colch ster 10 mi 20 mi 30 mi ROUTE PROFILE 50 mi 40 mi Total Ascent: 1,125ft Total Descent: 1,450ft Bieentwood _

Day 3 route map


Day 3… And I thought it couldn’t get worse! 

Day 2 was physically tough, but day 3 was psychologically tough.

The weather was another level over yesterday. The heavens opened before we set off and pretty much stayed like that for the whole day with little respite! There were literally rivers running down most of the roads we were riding - which hid all manner of ills… "Masked potholes" were the order of the day!

It was only really 60 miles, but it was wet and cold. 

Our group had seven punctures due to all the hidden debris. The rain was washing shards of flint off the fields onto the roads, which were embedding in tyres and ripping them to pieces.

We finished at about 3.30 pm and had a few consolation pints… 

At 9 pm we waited in the open-air queue to get on the ferry to Rotterdam. 

All good but another tough ride!


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Waiting to leave Stansted (Neil, Sam, and Chris)


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The start of Day 3 (just before the heavens opened!)


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En-route - wet and cold (Neil & Chris)


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 The 8th puncture! (Kenny this time not Sam!)


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Bar staff had to mop the floor twice and put up a caution sign! (Chris, Sam, Neil, Kenny, and Grant)


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Dry and warming up at the day 3 evening meal - before the overnight ferry


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Waiting to board the ferry at Harwich for the overnight crossing


Day 4: Rotterdam to Amsterdam

Milage = 60 miles

Climbing = 625ft


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Day 4 route map


After the overnight ferry from Harwich we disembarked to bright sunshine and a flat run from Rotterdam to Amsterdam, 80% of which was on dedicated cycle lanes and paths.  

As we went to set off from the port, our group had another puncture, so we were delayed departing.

The route took us up the coast from Rotterdam along the beach cycle paths which were beautiful until we turned in land at Leiden towards Amsterdam. 

An absolutely beautiful day of around 60 miles. 

We had a few crashes as people got tired, a couple of which were a bit nasty, but riders got up, dusted themselves off and continued, but it put us a bit behind.

We finally regrouped around six miles outside Amsterdam and all rode in as a group finally reaching the Rijk Museum at around 4.30 pm. We rode through the main entrance archway and were greeted by a large group of well-wishers and family… it was incredibly emotional.

What struck me again on this ride is the people you meet and their story’s and reasons for riding for YLVC. Everyone was there for a reason, whether they had directly lost children, or family members, or had friends who had, we all rode for a purpose! It was humbling to hear and also create a bond and friendships for life. I met loads of amazing people who I will definitely stay in touch with.


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The ferry coming into port at the Hook of Holland


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Waiting for Sams puncture at the port to be fixed


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Finally ready to leave the port (Chris, Amanda, Neil, Kenny, Rob, Lee, and Sam)


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En-route along the coast


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Rendezvous point outside Amsterdam ready to ride in 


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Calum, Neil, and Sam


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Team Olivia's Fund at the finish (Lee, Sam, Calum, Neil, Chris, and James)


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Celebration - "Bikes aloft!"

The total funds raised by the 26 riders had reached £65k on Saturday evening - which is enough to fund 1000 nights for families to stay at YLVC Home from Homes as their children receive, hopefully, lifesaving treatment in the specialist cancer hospitals where they are located. 

And whilst we said, “This was it!”, the impact the funds have on families and a few beers, inevitably led to the question being asked of “So… what’s next?” Well, nothing for a while but watch this space!!! 

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