Cycling to Russia - FIFA World Cup by bike

Cycling to Russia: to the World Cup by bike

Since founding Vivi Nation, I’ve been privileged to hear some amazing stories that have inspired myself and others to get fit and active. So, when I was told I needed to get in touch with an old school friend, Jamie Marriott, I looked forward to finding out what he was up to. I asked what he was doing and he casually dropped in his summer plans for the football World Cup in Russia. He mentioned he was cycling to watch it. I assumed to the pub. Then the penny dropped. ‘Sorry, what?’. It turns out he is cycling to Russia, where the tournament is being held. Wow. I certainly wasn’t expecting that.

My initial thought was ‘that’s mad’, but on second consideration I thought, what an incredible thing to do. Naturally, I wanted to find out why he was cycling there, instead of flying, and how it all began. So when he said he’d be delighted to share his story, I jumped at the chance to ask him some questions:

Chris: What made you want to cycle over 2400 miles to Russia for the World Cup 2018?

Jamie: It all started as an idea while out for lunch with my girlfriend. I was looking at the possible routes to drive from Berlin to Russia and trying to reduce costs for flying and other means of long unwanted travel from city-to-city. Katie suggested, “why don’t you cycle from Berlin?”. What an amazing idea, I thought. So I pitched the idea to one of my mates and he jumped at the idea straight away.

Another reason for doing this as well is trying to portray England football fans who travel away in a good light. I have been following England away since Euro 2012 and there is always negative press that is published in the English media, focusing on only a select few mindless idiots, which frustrates me quite a lot because I have made some amazing memories and brilliant friends for life.

FIFA World Cup Russia 2018

Chris: How much training have you done for it?

Jamie: The amount of training I have done thus far is absolutely nothing. Here in Berlin, I’ve found it very difficult to find any good routes, plus the cobbled road surfaces are less than ideal.

Saying that I would also need my bike over here, although it is still currently being used for Deliveroo services back in the UK!

Chris: Getting your bike back would be a good start! So, what do you think will be the hardest part?

Jamie: I think the hardest part of the cycle will probably be trying to communicate with Russian border guards and sleeping in tents for a couple of days in a row (trying to reduce costs)! I have had these problems in the past when on the Mongol Rally in 2013. So possibly stocking up on some filthy cigarettes and cheap vodka should do the trick!

I know that the majority of Europe is fairly flat going until Ukraine. I don’t think we will need to battle with much terrain or inclines, however, I think we will get that out the way on our way to Dover, so we will have a brutal first day, and then it’s all downhill right?

Chris: Summarise your route, starting from Emsworth in the UK.

Jamie: We have a pretty solid cycle route until we get to Ukraine via Berlin. We will have a guaranteed place to stay for free at mine. We are thinking about 8 days to Berlin and then after that heading South-East into Poland and cycling towards Jaroslaw, which is very close to the border, into Ukraine and heading in the direction of Lviv. We want to get to Kiev, obviously, post-Liverpool Champions League success, and towards Luhansk, where I have been assured it is safe to cross and one of the only places to cross into Russia by foot. Then the home straight to Volgograd.

Chris: Have you ever done anything like this before?

Jamie: In 2014, the same guy and I had a very spontaneous idea to cycle Lands End – John O Groats with no real cycling experience, but we thought, why not! We started up in Scotland with beautiful sunshine in August – 18 miles later it rained for the next 9 days continuously. So we managed to complete the cycle in just under 10 days, averaging around 90 miles a day on brutal inclines and horrendous weather. This gives us a bit more confidence and also we’re not on a strict time limit. Although, we have to make it for the first match. We have decided to cycle at a casual pace, nothing too demanding. Probably 10-12 hour cycling days, or until it gets dark.

We’ll be staying updated by Jamie on his quest so stay posted.

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Chris Smith
Founder of Vivi Nation, sports enthusiast, occasional triathlete, keen cyclist and optimistic Liverpool FC fan.

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