by Dave Rogers
Dave Rogers tells us about his inspiring journey from tragedy perched on the seat of his bicycle, and the reason he rides his bike - his daughter, Jasmin.
Contact Dave through the Jasmin's Journey pages on Just Giving
My daughter died when she was 18 weeks old.
There’s no real other way to say it. I’ll never see her again, never hear her breathe again, never see her face – her face when she was alive – again. I’ll never know what she might have done. But in fact, I do: she got me back into cycling.
Jasmin suffered from a medical condition that was not spotted in the womb by the hospital that was looking after my wife. She was born in chaotic scenes – I delivered her up to her shoulders before the ambulance crew arrived – in our house in north London. But she was a breech – meaning she came out feet first – and she came out so quickly that she got stuck. As a result, she suffered massive oxygen deprivation. When she was born I thought she was dead.
The shock of seeing our first child’s lifeless body taken away by an ambulance crew will stay with me always.
That she lived 18 weeks is nothing short of miraculous. At five days old, after a series of tests, we were given her life expectancy by the hospital she was in. Once she was off the ventilator, we were told, she might live maybe five minutes, an hour, maybe a few hours, a day, a few days if we were lucky. Basically, she’s going to die so prepare yourselves.
When she did pass away, I was consumed by a lot of anger – anger directed at the hospital that hadn’t picked up her condition which if they had would have seen her born by C section. In short, she’d be alive and well today.
I must admit, the anger was starting to consume me. It was then I hit upon the idea of doing a charity cycle ride in her memory. If it came off, we would do one every year. It sounds drastic but I would say it pretty much saved me.
So in late 2014 I set about getting fit. I ditched rubbish food and pretty much gave up alcohol. I went to the gym as much as five times a week. My weight tumbled. I went from over 15st to a few pounds above 12st by the time the first edition of Jasmin’s Journey set off in summer 2015. I felt the fittest I’d been since my teens, early 20s when I’d ride 100 miles in four hours and when I was time trialling up and down the A1 in West Yorkshire.
Jasmin’s Journey was definitely a charity ride as opposed to a sportive and the plan was to go from London to Harrogate in six days. It turned out to be 450 miles and, bar a couple of rain showers, done in the blazing summer heat, the sort of surreal weather we sometimes get in the UK which sees you riding through the Pennines in plus 30 degrees temperatures.
The ride was not easy. I wanted people who did it – five did the whole thing and four others joined us for bits of it – to feel that they had achieved something. The ride headed west out of London into the Chilterns and the Oxfordshire countryside, up through the wonderful surprise that was Warwickshire and the country around Wolverhampton before heading right to cross the Derbyshire Dales and the relentless brutality of the hills that took us from Yorkshire mill towns in the Pennines to the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales at Skipton.
It was a carefully chosen route with the ride starting from our house in north London – where Jasmin had been born – via the three London hospitals she was in and on to a park up Highgate Hill where we used to take her in her pram. Strategic stops were made at Wolverhampton – where my wife is from – and in the Yorkshire Dale where we scattered her ashes. The ride finished In Harrogate, the town of my birth.
You had to be fit to do it so when a friend who admitted that he’d barely ridden a bike since he’d done a paper round said he wanted to do it and do it all, I did wince and think: “Blimey.”
I needn’t have worried. One of the reasons for doing Jasmin’s Journey was to see if we could get someone left field along, someone who wouldn’t necessarily know what a sportive was, what Strava was, had never worn lycra. It was important to me because that person, for me, became the spirit of Jasmin’s Journey. A guy who was out of shape when he said seven or eight months before the off that he fancied it, got into shape and completed it. That’s what the ride is all about.
That was back in 2015 and last year’s ride was done over two days with the first day following the route of the Etape du Dales – a famous and very hard sportive over 110 miles of Yorkshire Dales hills. The course record is something like five hours. We did it in nine.
But that’s the point. It’s not a race, no one is left behind and everyone gets around. We’re doing another one this September over a weekend.
Since I began cycling again – after my youth was overtaken by life I let things drift – my weight has stayed down and I marvel at how popular the sport, which I’ve always followed even when the bike has been stashed away, is today. The technological advances continue to amaze as does the cost of being a cyclist.
I realise how much I love cycling. When I’m out on my bike it gives me an inner peace. It puts me into a different frame of mind. It sounds daft I know but it feels that my daughter is with me, like she’s never really gone away. And I have Jasmin to thank for all of that.
Photographs © Dave Rogers