Race to RWC 2019: March Highlights

From biting cold to biting dogs, watch Ron and James’ highlight reel and read about the inspiring and surprising moments they shared in March.

Ron Rutland and James Owens experienced quite a lot in the month of March as they left Europe behind and made their way across Turkey to Iran.

We checked in with our daring duo to find out how they’re doing and what they’ve experienced this past month. Watch the video below to relive their final moments in Europe and first in Asia – and read what they have to say about Turkey and Iran.

March highlights
James: March started with a few days off in Istanbul, a city I’ve always wanted to visit. Being joined by the DHL team made exploring the sites of the city even more special! The snowy mountains of Eastern Turkey made for some great adventures on the bike. One slight ‘detour’ stands out as the biggest highlight, with stunning views and terrain more suited to snowboarding keeping things interesting! And I must say Iran is a highlight in itself. Our whole experience in Iran has been unreal, with a massive variety of landscapes (snowy mountains to desert to grassy hills) and the most generous people you could wish to meet. We’ve had nothing but love as we crossed the country and were lucky enough to hang out with DHL and Iran Rugby in Tehran for another awesome city experience.

“Our whole experience in Iran has been unreal.” 

James Owens

Ron: Reaching and crossing into Iran was definitely a highlight for me. It’s a destination I’ve dreamt of visiting for decades. Same for reaching Tehran – and this with the added bonus of spending a very wet but hilariously funny afternoon/evening with the Iranian DHL team. Such kind and good people, and a treat to see the city through eyes of the locals. The month of march was spent mostly in eastern Turkey and western Iran. I can't imagine too many friendlier places on the planet. It’s really not fair to try and pinpoint one moment of kindness that tops the dozens of moments we were made to feel so incredibly welcome and humbled. 

“It’s really not fair to try and pinpoint one moment of kindness that tops the dozens of moments we were made to feel so incredibly welcomed and humbled.” 

Ron Rutland

Greatest challenges
James: The return of winter, including eastern Turkey hitting us with cold enough weather to freeze our faces (I have photographic evidence)! Over-eager dogs made sure to keep us on our toes, with the Turkish dogs in particular providing a good reminder to get those legs pumping up the hills. Ron confirmed that they weren’t all bark when he got a little close to one of our spiked-collar friends and got a bite on the bum for his troubles! The mountains began for real in March and exposed my lack of fitness and brought back a few niggles as the joints took more of a beating on some big climbing days. Safe to say I will be starting April with my body feeling more conditioned, and I’m glad to have got some good climbs under the belt!

Ron: Being bitten by a dog in eastern Turkey was a real challenge. It knocked my confidence for a few days. The cold was another! In one of our last days in Turkey, I had severe frost nip and was genuinely concerned about my fingers. The same about my toes in one of first days in western Iran. As a Vegan, I’m struggling to find some variety to my food intake – there are only so many cans of beans one can eat in this not-the-most-vegetarian part of the world!

Biggest surprise
James: The openness and generosity of people in Iran has been a positive surprise this month, especially given the preconceived idea many people have of the country. I had heard stories of how kind people were but was surprised by the extent of it. Every car honks and passes food and encouragement out their windows, and people open up their homes at any chance.  If we took everyone up on their invitations to join for tea and lunch, then we would never be able to leave. It’s been an amazing experience in a beautiful country with really wonderful people.

Ron: The sheer variety of terrain – truly incredible how I underestimated the beauty of eastern Turkey in particular.

Missing the comforts of home?
James: Having lived a fairly nomadic life since I was young, there aren’t too many home comforts that I miss. I’m actually quite enjoying not having all of the rubbish that I seem to accumulate everywhere I go. If my mum’s reading this, I wouldn’t say no to one of her famous spag bols! Otherwise maybe just dry shoes if that counts!?

“If my mum’s reading this, I wouldn’t say no to one of her famous spag bols!” 

James Owens

Ron: Very rarely do I feel like I’m missing anything...perhaps a good cup of coffee or easy access to good vegan food from time to time wouldn’t go amiss!

James: We have met a lot of inspiring individuals across March, but Nirantra Phramthong, a fellow tour cyclist from Thailand, stands out! 17 years ago, Nirantra’s ‘super mum’ took him cycling around South East Asia on a tandem bicycle and got him hooked. Over the years, they went on several tandem bike trips together and super mum would talk of her dream of one day visiting Norway. Unfortunately, she ran out of time, leaving Nirantra to complete the epic journey from Thailand to Norway with her in spirit. He was proudly rocking a super mum logo and photo on his bike when we crossed paths in Iran, and we were fortunate enough to hear his moving story. We will be following and cheering him and super mum on from afar as they make the final push on to Norway!

“I was incredibly moved by his approach and attitude to life and riding.”

Ron Rutland

Ron: Nirantra was the first fellow 'cycling tourist' we met since starting our journey in London. We met on a rural road in Iran as he was heading in the opposite direction. He'd been on the road 4 months, and we were the first he'd met, too. I was incredibly moved by his approach and attitude to life and riding, as much as the 'why' of his journey. That he’s on his journey Norway to fulfill her dream. It’s hard to explain, but I found my eyes welling up after we said goodbye and continued on our own respective journeys – inspiring and respect in equal measure. 

Hotels vs. camping
James: Apart from me pitching the tent upside down on the first night, the transition has been smooth and we’ve both been enjoying the camping! There is nothing quite like waking up surrounded by nature. We’ve now got our tent routine down and I can confirm that Ron gives great cuddles. Check back in after we’ve camped through the Asian summer and I’m sure we’ll have a few more complaints!!

“Camping is a big part of what makes an adventure an adventure.”

Ron Rutland

Ron: Compared to the standard of some of the rooms we found ourselves in, sharing a tent is a pleasure! And to be honest, camping is a big part of what makes an adventure an adventure. And spending more time in the outdoors is a good thing. Being a bit 'tight and cramped' a small price to pay. 

Funniest moment
James: Not all that funny at the time but looking back now it was when Ron celebrated the arrival of spring and contemplated getting rid of his jackets to save weight only to be cursing his borderline frostbitten fingers a week later. That has to be up there! The definition of an early celebration.

Ron: Teaching James to drive was an unexpected and hilarious addition to our day off near Lake Van in Turkey!

“I’m banking on DHL delivering me a new set of lungs and legs to get me through.”

James Owens

What do we have to look forward to in April?
James: What do we not have to look forward to in April?! We’ll be dusting off Iran and no doubt experiencing plenty more generosity before we take on the ‘stans’ and head up into the scary mountains. Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan all await this month, with serious anticipation now building for the Pamir Highway – a dream destination for cyclists. This month will see us down as low as sea-level and up as high as 5,000 meters. I’m banking on DHL delivering me a new set of lungs and legs to get me through...

Ron: The second half of our journey across Iran, and reaching, we hope, proper 'spring' as we cross the deserts of Turkmenistan! 

Follow and join!
Ron and James are currently in Turkmenistan. Follow their progress here on DHL InMotion, where you’ll also find regular updates, photos and messages from Ron and James as they pedal their way to Rugby World Cup 2019™. Follow Ron (Twitter and Instagram) and James (Twitter and Instagram) and reach out to find out where they’ll be next! 

You can also sign up to join the duo for part of their adventure or make a donation to ChildFund Pass It Back. 

Learn more about ChildFund Pass It Back at

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