The two-wheeled quest of Ron Rutland and James Owens, racing from London to Tokyo for Rugby World Cup 2019™, saw many highlights in the month of May. Reaching the highest point of the Race to Rugby World Cup in the Pamir Mountains (4603 meters on the Pamir Highway), pedaling the Karakorum Highway (a cyclist’s dream), savoring Indian cuisine (can you say curry?), and hearing a first-hand Everest experience in Nepal (Race to RWC meets DHL Everest Quest).
The boys checked in from the Himalayan highlands to share some of the best moments from May. Watch the video below to relive their this stage of their journey and read some of their personal highlights.
Ron: I have to name four highlights this month – and, believe me, there were more.
Cycling the Karakorum highway down the Hunza valley in Pakistan was probably the most amazing road I have ever ridden...in my life. Meeting DHL’s Roland in Kathmandu only a matter of days after completing his Everest summit. I could have spent days listening to his tales – emotional and inspiring in equal measure. Reaching halfway, and finally hitting summer proper – within days of each other – was certainly high points we were looking forward to. And meeting both the DHL Pakistan and DHL India teams – such amazing welcomes and enormous efforts on respective activations. The memories and laughter will stay with me for a long time.
“…probably the most amazing road I have ever ridden...in my life.”Ron Rutland
James: May has taken Race to RWC through Tajikistan, China, Pakistan, India and into Nepal. What more could you want from an adventure?! The Karakoram Highway topped the highlight list this month and is firmly in the running for best stretch of the trip so far! The world’s highest paved highway is every cyclists’ dream and didn’t disappoint with 4,600 of the best meters of descent you could ask for – with the awesome DHL team waiting in Lahore to spoil us and top it all off.
Just being in India and taking in all of the hectic sights and sounds (and curries) was another highlight this month. I absolutely loved the (positive) assault on the senses and getting to enjoy a culture so different to anything I’ve experienced before. This was all enhanced by spending time in Chandigarh with the DHL and Rugby India team as we got kitted out in a turban and learned a few of the local greetings!
“What more could you want from an adventure?!”James Owens
Last but not least, how about Nepal?! Who doesn’t want to cycle in the Himalayas? I’ve been loving being joined by DHL’s superstar cyclist Fiona Taag and my old man as they put Ron and I through our paces on some punchy hills! I have been fascinated by some of the cultural similarities between Nepal and much of South East Asia – really starting to feel close to home now!
Ron: The draining summer heat and humidity of India and Nepal, which resulted in drinking 10-15 liters of water a day, and still hardly needing the bathroom! A fever-inducing case of 'Chandigarh belly'! And battling a new saddle – the results are not pretty!
“…drinking 10-15 liters of water a day, and still hardly needing the bathroom!”Ron
James: As I start to get fitter, the weakest link has shifted slightly from being myself to my bike! It’s been a tough month on my trusted stallion as we cruised past the 11,000-km mark. Many tour cyclists will tell you that everything starts breaking after 10,000 km and they may well be onto something! A broken spoke, snapped gear cable, busted pannier and a few punctures later and my bike has been craving a bit of TLC this month.
We are getting properly stuck into the hot and sweaty Asian summer now and struggling to chuck back enough water on the bike. Staying hydrated and avoiding looking like a lobster is harder than you would imagine when you’re spending eight hours a day out in direct sunlight.
Staying fit and healthy is always going to be key on any adventure. Team Race to RWC have been going strong so far but had the first setback this month with Ron being taken out by a curry for a day or so!
If you could each one country’s cuisine for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Ron: India, no question!
James: Indian cuisine has been out of this world, I could live off chicken tikka masala and garlic naan.
Ron: I was surprised by hard it was to sleep at altitude. It turns out the tales of restless nights high in the mountains are true!
“Staying hydrated and avoiding looking like a lobster is harder than you would imagine!”James
James: Meeting Roland in Kathmandu fresh off his successful Everest summit was the best surprise we could ask for! Having gunned it from Chandigarh and raced through 1,200km in 8 days in the hope that we would catch him before he left, we were told that his flight was brought forward and we missed him by a day. Limping into Kathmandu after a long day in the saddle and there he was, waiting for us at the front of the hotel with an ice cold Everest beer alongside Race to RWC’s number one support rider, Fiona! The big days on the bike couldn’t have been more worth it after a great afternoon of picking Roland’s brains and hearing all about his unreal achievement.
Who would win in a one kilometer sprint cycle race between the two of you?
Ron: At the moment, James! A definite change of guard from the first few months, to be fair.
James: The real question is whether the 1-km is downhill or uphill! Ron is the king of descents, there’s no catching him once he sets off with his friend gravity. There would be nothing sprint-like about either of us going uphill but it would probably be a more even race.
Who has been the most interesting person you've met?
Ron: Great question!!! And very hard to choose. But, if I have to, then I would say Richard Mulholland – an Englishman we met in Tajikistan who has been on the road two years and has no plans to return to the UK for the foreseeable future. His unique and alternative outlook on travel and life really hit home for me.
“It’s not every day that you get to hear from someone who has climbed the highest mountain in the world.”James
James: We have met some incredibly engaging and interesting DHL staff in India, Pakistan and Nepal this month, but we also had the pleasure of meeting DHL superstar and Everest summiter, Roland! It’s not every day that you get to hear from someone who has climbed the highest mountain in the world. I have a lot of time for people who get out there, push their limits and do cool things but a whole new level of respect for people who stay grounded and humble throughout. I loved hearing and feeling Roland’s sense of pride and passion for DHL Everest Quest and was moved by his genuine commitment to share his journey with others (DHL staff who joined and through funds raised for Direct Relief). Roland, you’re a champion, keep on inspiring!
Ron: James trying to change gear and film himself at the same time, then realizing too late that he'd run out of hands to ride with. All caught on film of course!!
“All caught on film of course!!”Ron
James: Ron’s face when we reached India and he realised he was in veggie heaven was priceless!
What are people's reactions when you tell them what you're doing?
Ron: Mostly disbelief to begin with! And very often followed by "I wish I could do that", which is then followed by us saying “If we can do it, anyone can!”
“You’re crazy, you do know there are planes?”James
James: We are travelling with magic letters that explain our trip and have been kindly translated into local language by all of the awesome DHL country offices! There are three different types of reaction we normally get when people hear about our trip or read these magic letters:
1) “You’re crazy, you do know there are planes?” (Usually followed by nervous giggles).
2) A blank expression! (You can hear the cogs ticking and them trying to visualise a map, before helping out by naming the next country that we’re cycling to – reaction changes to #1)
3) [My personal favorite]: “Japan is an island....” (A very observant reaction followed by me pointing out that the UK is also an island [Revert to #2]. Why catch one ferry when you can catch two?!)
Follow and join!
Ron and James are currently in Nepal. 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!
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