Hajj Ride was a pioneering ride by eight British Muslim cyclists who rode from London to Madinah in Saudi Arabia, in order to perform the Hajj pilgrimage and raise vital funds for victims of the civil war in Syria (and later Rohingyan refugees fleeing the genocide in Myanmar).
Hajj Ride was a remarkable experience, covering nine countries in total, crossing four seas and climbing three mountain ranges. The team was on the road for around 6 weeks, covering 2000km on their bikes.
The ride started with an incredible buzz, the promotional trailer introducing the cyclists and their mission. Friday July 14th was the day the Hajj Riders started their mission, surrounded by well-wishers and family gathered outside the East London Mosque in Whitechapel.
The Hajj Riders were joined for the first three days of cycling by 20 additional brothers who were completing the London to Paris leg of the journey. This group provided much motivation and continued supporting the group once they got back to the UK.
From Paris the journey continued with the Hajj Riders spending their first days camping of the journey. The riders then rode through Tour de France territory conquering the Col de Chevreres on their way to the top of the mountain in Belfahy.
Week 1 ended with stays at mosques in Belfort in the east of France and Rheinfelden on the southern tip of Germany, before the riders headed into Switzerland.
The Swiss leg of the journey started with a fairly flat ride to Zurich, where we were met with thunderstorms and lightning. The Swiss Alps then beckoned, with the climbing ramped up once the picturesque Lake Geneva was passed.
The first stint of heavy climbing saw the riders reach Vaduz in Liechtenstein, a valley bordered by mountains on both sides. The toughest physical experience of the journey then followed, a day in which riders were reminded of the scale of the challenge. Morning storms in Vaduz forced a delayed start, with strong headwinds battling the riders to the afternoon stop in Valbella. The notorious Albula Pass then followed, with all the riders reaching the town of Bergun.
With the road then going ABOVE the clouds, and the dark setting in, half of the riders required support to reach the peak, which at 2,315m above sea level is more than double the height of Mount Snowdon in Wales and over one-quarter of the height of Mount Everest.
The punishing day ended with a stopover in the town of Zuoz, nestled at the bottom of the mountain. The riders then continued south through Switzerland, overtaking the support vehicle which suffered some mechanical difficulties and crossing the Italian border.
The riders beat the support vehicle to the night’s stop in Aprica, with the following day spent following the beautifully scenic River Oglio down to Brescia. This day also saw the first medical call out for the support drivers, with one of the riders taking a tumble over a kerb besides the incredible Lake D’Iseo.
With no lasting injuries, the team reached the Islamic Cultural Centre in Brescia safely for some much valued spiritual recuperation. With the local community providing great support and encouragement, the team then headed out on the longest ride of the journey, a 130 mile adventure to Venice.
The riders completed the incredible mainland Europe stage, enjoying a celebratory meal in a car park in Venice.
More to follow…..