Flintoff and Dallaglio

Flintoff and Dallaglio

A quick cycle ride has always been a good way to stay in shape, but rugby legend Lawrence Dallaglio has taken it to the extreme, having just completed a bike ride of epic proportions for charity. The former Rugby World Cup winner wasn’t alone though, joined by Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff amongst others.

Tonight we get to see the results on Discovery with Flintoff and Dallaglio’s Big Ride and we talked to its star about just why he did it.

So what can you tell us about the 2012 Cycle Slam?

We started 30th April and ended about five weeks ago and cycled from the first ever Olympic stadium in Olympia in Greece and finished at the Olympic stadium in London. It was twenty two days of cycling and the aim was to raise £2.012 million for three charities.

They were the Dallaglio Foundation (which raises money for cancer research), the Andrew Flintoff Foundation (which was raising money for children’s hospitals and replacing physiotherapy units) and Virgin Unite (which gives disadvantaged kids a chance in life) and we partnered up with Virgin Media as well.

You did a similar event in 2010, how did this compare?

The event back in 2012 was a similar distance, but this one was a little bit further. This one was much more demanding though, because we were cycling from Greece through Italy, going through both the Apennine Mountains and the Italian Alps, we got to Switzerland and went through the Swiss Alps and we did some pretty tough cycling in France as well.

Overall, from a cycling perspective, this was a much harder challenge, we were cycling sometimes over 200 kilometres in one day, we were climbing more than 3000m in one day. So I think overall it was very, very tough, we were doing some days that wouldn’t be out of place on the Tour De France itself, which for amateur cyclists was pretty tough.

Last time in 2010 we had some pretty bad weather in the form of snow, wind and rain, whereas this time we had very different weather, but it was very hot at times. Cycling in high the high 30s [degrees] sounds very nice, but it can really take it out of physically.

It was a huge challenge, but I didn’t do it on my own, I had the help of Freddie and other sportsmen like Lee Dixon and Graeme Le Saux did the whole thing as well along with other ‘core’ riders, along with our fundraisers who came along to do a stage each and at the minute we’re on course to reach our target , we’re at just over £1.9million now and we’re going to keep the project open until September time, so after the Olympics and we’re very hopeful we’ll bridge that gap and make our target.

What keeps drawing you back to cycling?

Well, I think that it’s about the fact that after my rugby career it’s a good sport for me to do personally. I’ve obviously had a lot of operations and injuries and running on roads is not ideal for someone like me.

More importantly than that I think the reason I chose cycling is because it’s so inclusive, it’s a really good way of getting people together for a common cause, and it’s becoming increasingly popular in the UK thanks to the success of Team GB cycling, but it allows people who might do a huge amount of training to become part of something like the Dallaglio Flintoff Cycle Slam.

That was the main reason, you can pick people who are very amateur cyclists. On the first day I was in a group of about 15 cyclists and we had to cycle about 176 kilometres that day, and four in my team had only ridden 60 kilometres in their lives. The other thing I really like about cycling, you have that sense of achievement at the end of the day. When you’ve been on a bike of seven or eight hours you get that euphoric feeling of achieving something really special. Very few people ever train for eight hours in one day, let alone five days consecutively, let alone a month.

Not only is it an individual sport, you’ve got to get through a certain amount, but it’s about looking out for each other out there on the road, it’s about helping each other when someone’s struggling and encouraging each other. I like the ‘teamness’ as well.

How was it teaming up with Freddie Flintoff again?

Well, he’s just a tremendous bloke and a great athlete, he’s kept himself very fit and I’m slightly responsible for getting him into cycling in the first place, it’s cost him a fortune. But he enjoys it, he very much wanted to part of it again and he’s such a great guy. I think we’ve become very good friends as a result of all that.

Graeme Le Saux got involved this time, and I don’t think him and Lee Dixon were necessarily best of friends coming in to the ride coming from rival football teams, but they became really good friends on the trip and Graeme was a fantastic addition to the core rider team, he’s a brilliant bloke, very, very fit and I think we all really enjoyed ourselves.

So what exactly is the Dallaglio Foundation?

I set it up in the back end of 2008 when I lost my mother to cancer and the two principles causes that we’re very passionate about and we raise money for is Cancer Research UK but also about recognising young people and the development of youth talent as I lost my sister when she was 19 who was an incredibly talented ballet dancer.

I have a dinner every year called ‘8 Rocks’ in November which raises money for Cancer Research, I just did a golf day last week, which was for the prostate cancer project, Cycle Slam goes towards that as well.

But I’ve also got a youth development program I’m running called rugby for change which is working with disadvantaged youths in pupil referral units and using rugby as way to improve their self-esteem and their lives. There’s also a scholarship program for young, talented players.

Why do you think sport can be used to help people?

Well I think it’s about engagement, the strap line for the foundation is ‘powerful together’, and making people feel like they can be part of something and part of a team. If you look at the values of most sports, especially rugby, it’s about respect, teamwork, honesty, discipline and trust. I think those are things a lot of us take for granted sometimes, but they don’t have that inherently built into their upbringing, environment or their education.

I think sport has the ability to inspire people because of its togetherness because that you get a deep sense of satisfaction and achievement and a bit of self-esteem as well. I think it’s got a lot to offer people and the Rugby for Change programme, ever since we launched it has been incredibly well received and has helped give people a chance in life.

What’s the thing you miss most from your rugby career?

Working in elite sport is a huge privilege and a huge honour. Working with some of the most challenging people in that environment is great because it really pushes you to push yourself.

You miss that collective sprit and camaraderie and everyday banter that you get in a competitive, high performance environment, but you don’t miss being injured and all the little bits and pieces that goes with that. It provides you a great opportunity when you retire to concentrate on other things that you didn’t have the opportunity to do when you were still playing.

How did completing this enormous journey compare to your achievements during your rugby career?

It’s not dissimilar really, because it’s about the collective and that enormous sense of achievement and pride in doing something together, be that running to the top of a mountain or beating Australia in rugby it is about that deep sense of collective achievement.

It’s great fun when you do things on your own but it’s a lot more fun when you do things with other people and you can hold hands at the end and say we did it together. That’s really what the cycle slam is about. We’ve raised an extraordinary amount of money, but it’s through that collective ability to pull together. That’s what attracted me.

There’s obviously a physical attraction, it’s not easy and we didn’t want it to be easy, so we set ourselves a very punchy physical target and a very punchy financial target, especially in this climate. But in sport, just like this, you’ve got to set yourself high targets and push each other to achieve those.

So what were the highs and lows of the event for you?

I think there were a number of amazing moments to be honest. Each country had its highlights, but this one day in Italy we climbed over 3000 metres in one day, and I was with a group that took about 11 hours to complete the whole day which was an absolutely monumental effort. Freddie’s group came in 14 ½ hours later and we’d all sat down for dinner and the entire group got up and went out to see them in and gave them a standing ovation. It’s moments like that that really bring it home and show the power of the collective spirit.

There were some really tough days cycling in France where we had the two worst enemies of any cyclist, wind and rain. We had a head wind and driving rain which made being out on the bike incredibly difficult and really have to be strong mentally. Other than that, the end of each stage was a huge thrill and achievement for the whole group.

For me cycling through Italy and going from Brindisli in the south through Bari, past Siena and all the way to Aprica which is a ski resort made those 10 days very memorable indeed.

So, what’s next for you?

Well, having done a challenge in 2010, and another in 212, we’ve created something that we might have to continue to do. So I think there’ll be another one of these in a couple of years by popular demand rest assured. I haven’t been able to have a rest completely, but I’m looking forward to planning the next on in a few years’ time.

Right now though, it’s back to the family, back to work and we’ve got a wonderful summer of sport coming up with the Olympics. Being a Londoner, born and bred, I’m very proud to have the Olympics here and excited to be honest, it’s only a few weeks away.

Finally, you only ever played for London Wasps in your career, why did you stick to them, when so many players move about?

The temptations and the offers are a bit different now to when I was playing even though I only retired a few years ago. For me, playing rugby was about playing for England and Wasps provided me with all the tools I needed to get selected for England.

We were one of the top clubs in English rugby at that time, we were competitive on a European level, and I was part of a winning team and that was something I was very happy with. And I love living in London, so I didn’t have any reason to leave quite frankly. I was given the opportunity to get paid slightly better by going elsewhere, buy for me it wasn’t about the money, because then I would have played elsewhere, it’s about the whole lifestyle.

From your family, to yourself, your ability to be successful and win trophies, where you’re happy to live, because rugby’s only 80 minutes, the rest of the time you have to live there.

Although, looking at some of the French clubs these days, what they pay players and some of the more exotic places like Toulon, Biarritz, Paris, who says that in the current era I wouldn’t be tempted to take a little sabbatical down in the south of France.

Flintoff and Dallaglio’ s Big Ride is on the Discovery Channel  on Thursday 5th July at 9pm

FemaleFirst Cameron Smith