Posted by Rob Williams on 7th Jun 2017
On Sunday May 28th 2017, the Knights in White Lycra arrived safely in Ichinoseki, Iwate prefecture to complete their 550km 4-day journey. The purpose was to raise funds for their chosen charity Mirai no Mori who provide life-changing outdoor programs to abused, neglected and orphaned children in care, with the aim of transforming them into happy and successful young adults. Within the peloton were 40 male & female amateur riders spanning four decades and representing ten countries, all willing to subscribe to KIWL's motto to ''get fit and give back''.
Light rain greeted the riders as they departed from Ueno Park in the early morning of May 25th. As they headed north up the Kanto plain, the rain became heavier but fortunately it swept through quicker than they could ride and the rain jackets were discarded for the afternoon. 156 kms later, the Knights swept into Nikko but not before a rider's bike fell to pieces 5kms before the finish! Thanks to GS Astuto for providing a spare bike, the rider was able to complete the entire journey. As the riders relaxed in the hotel that evening, there some very tired faces but the recovery drinks (beers) had a magical effect as they flowed in true KIWL style!
As the curtains opened in the early morning of Day 2, it was evident that the gods had overlooked the Knights' sun dance and further wet weather was to define the morning of the 139km leg to Kitakata. A challenging 400-meter climb at the start of the day awakened the Knights from their slumber but they were rewarded with a flat route to Kitakata until an imperceptible gradient on the river path in the last 5kms took its toll on a number of riders. It was near this point that a Knight was lost to a fall who after visiting hospital and against medical advice, joined the evening libations in the hotel bar! The broken collarbone was too much to bare forcing him to bow out for treatment. Unconfirmed reports state he has responded well to a Guinness intravenous drip!
Just when the Knights thought they had overcome the worst, the topography for Day 3 was daunting at best. The 140km ride presented itself with an initial 600 meter climb, at the top of which was a frightening 4km tunnel. Fortunately most riders passed through without the fearful noise of hydraulic brakes at their backs. Emerging from the tunnel, the riders were treated to a family of monkeys going about their day.
The descent was a hugely welcome relief as some brave Knights broke speeds of over 60kms per hour allowing them to get back on track for the day. The mountain climate gave way to more favourable weather conditions as the riders entered Yamagata.
Having ridden through the hustle and bustle of Yamagata City the Knights were treated to beautiful views including Moon Mountain, a place for year-round skiing.
The ski resort of Obanazawa was the Day-3 destination which fortunately had no snow! The Onsen again brought welcome relief to tired legs, something the hotel staff must have suffered themselves judging by the number of times they had to run and re-stock the beer machine!
For the remaining 39 riders, it was just a small matter of 110kms before meeting the children at the care home in Ichinoseki. The morning of Day 4 was dry and there was a mood of mild celebration as the Knights set off for their final leg. However the mountains had different ideas and sure enough, the unique micro climate descended within minutes and yet another ascent had to be achieved in cold rain.
The final destination drew ever closer as the Knights enjoyed a tail wind and a long descent where speeds of 40kms per hour were effortlessly achieved. Plain sailing as the pedals did all the work, but the route had other things in mind and dealt the Knights a series of sharp hills 10kms from the end which drew out the remaining dregs of energy from the riders as they crawled into the hotel car park in Ichinoseki, some of them in tears.
After a short rest, the Knights dug deep and cycled the last 7kms to the home to be greeted by cheering, smiling children which made all the pain worthwhile. THE KNIGHTS HAD CONQUERED!!!
After hearing a tear-jerking speech in English from two very brave girls, each rider received a certificate of appreciation from the children in an emotional but uplifting ceremony followed by games and singing before we departed to high-5's and demands that the Knights return again next year!
Celebrations were conducted in true KIWL-style with a superb hotel dinner accompanied by copious amounts of frothy beverages. Gifts of appreciation were bestowed on the invaluable support car drivers, Jeremy Sanderson and Ivan Doherty. A few sore heads in the morning but the comfort of a Shinkansen back to Tokyo soothed stiff limbs.
Thanks to the generosity of corporate and individual sponsors, KIWL have raised a record-breaking Y11 million as of June 2017. The Knights are very proud that 25 kids will attend Mirai no Mori's winter camps for the next 3 years and in addition, enough was raised to make a decent investment in Mirai no Mori's ''Leader in Training'' program which delivers to the older youth, essential leadership skills and greater self-confidence as their time in care reaches an end. The Knights now return to their normal daily lives but with precious memories of camaraderie, team-work, digging deep to overcome adversity, lots of laughs, and above all, the pride of leaving a lasting legacy for the marginalized youth of Japan. The Knights wish to bow deeply and give huge thanks to the following:-
Corporate Sponsors: BNP Paribas, Thomson Reuters, Jaguar Land Rover, Icon Partners, Custom Media, Bell Helicopters, UBS, Harvey Nash, Robert Walters Japan, Ullink Ltd, Bonex, Boyd Moore Executive Search, Wahoo, FMP, Allied Pickfords, Nalsima, Opentext, Coto Technology, Eire Systems KK.
Supporters of KIWL: BCCJ Acumen magazine, Metropolis, GS Astuto, Adidas
Official Photographer & Videographer: Ivan Doherty and Melissa Rothmann
...and the hundreds of people in Japan and around the world who sponsored a rider, and gave their time to take part in fringe events.
2017 Knights in White Lycra: Andrew Abbey, Tory Akiyama, Daryl Binks, Jamie Bird, Egon Boettcher, Chris Bond, Pierre-Marie Bonnefond, Yogesh Chandwadkar, Roy Chen, William Chung, Andrew Cockburn, Robert D'Arcy, Nigel Dowdell, Andrew Drought, Ai Faithy-Perez, Shiima Hata, Anthony Head, Tony Higgins, Takashi Ikeda, Dan Lynch, Juan Enrique Macias, Andy Mackinlay, Kelvin Maung, Kazuma Miyake, David Nix, Kozue Oka, Tony Orr, William Ramsay, Paul Redbourn, Nick Rees, Phil Robertson, Sal Salvino, Peter Swinney, Midori Takeuchi, Paul Taylor, Richard Thornley, Darren Ward, David Wilkinson, Jo Wilkinson, Rob Williams.
Are you ready to become a Knight in White Lycra, to get fit and give back? For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
KIWl recently appeared in one of Tokyo's premier magazines for English-reading followers. Read what they had to say about KIWL here: http://metropolisjapan.com/knights-white-lycra/
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