Hundreds of cyclists assembled at Watchet Harbour on the Somerset coast to take part in the 4th annual Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Coast to Coast (C2C) Cycle Challenge on Sunday (18 May).
Not designed as a race, the event saw cyclists of all ages and abilities set off on a ‘gruelling but gloriously sunny’ 54 mile ride to West Bay in Dorset. Some cyclists completed a shorter, 11-mile route which began at Drimpton in Dorset and also ended at West Bay.
In total, 546 cyclists turned out on the day, many of whom reside within the two counties. Others came from as far afield as Essex to take part in what has become an annual spectacular. After being encouraged to pay a visit to one of the four pit stops on-route to refill their water bottles and enjoy the refreshments, the cyclists were set on their way by the Mayor of Watchet, Cllr Loretta Whetlor.
Of those taking part, many had experienced the work of the Air Ambulance first-hand and were delighted to be able to play their part on the day.
Ben Winter (pictured) from Christchurch was airlifted to hospital after he broke his neck and back whilst out mountain biking. Ben said, “Had the Air Ambulance not been there that day, it is extremely likely that I would now be in a wheelchair or indeed no longer alive. I always meant to ‘give something back’ and whilst I am embarrassed to say that it has taken me almost 8 years to actually do so, now is that time. The term ‘better late than never’ springs to mind.”
Team entries were ever popular. Groups of people from the emergency services, sporting clubs, businesses and family and friends, all joined together in a unified effort to raise funds.
One team cycling were ‘Team o’ Tumblers’ who represented the horse racing, eventing, hunting and farming community. Their line-up included the recently retired National Hunt Jockey Joe Tizzard, Georgina Nicholls (wife of horse trainer Paul Nicholls), horse trainer Harry Fry, Emma Barber one of the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Masters who was airlifted last year along with a whole host of others. The group had set themselves a fundraising target of £10,000 however announced at the finish that they had already exceeded that total.
Other participants took part in memory of a lovely one, or simply wanted to challenge themselves and show their support to a charity close to their hearts.
Andrew Peters and five year old Arthur (pictured) from Bridport cycled the 11 mile route from Drimpton on a tandem bike. Arthur is the cousin of Adam Sherring who cycled the 54 mile route last year on a tricycle! Arthur said that he loved every minute of it and the best part was coming down the hills.
Publicity of this year’s event was heightened prior to the event with the help of eight year old Olivia Reid from Maiden Newton (pictured with Amy Fox) who appeared on the BBC Radio 2 – Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Friday 17th May. Olivia took part in the 11 mile cycle and then helped to hand out medals at the finishing line, before reliving her excitement with Chris Evans on Monday (19 May), when she explained how her day had gone.
Bill Sivewright, Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Chief Executive Officer said, “We are delighted that this year’s event was once again well supported. We were bowled over by the fact that within three weeks of registration opening, it was sold out!”
During 2013 the Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge raised over £60,000 for Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance. This year’s event has already generated £40,000 with additional sponsorship money still to come in.
The Charity is awarding prizes to those who raise the most C2C sponsorship in the following categories: Adult, Under 16 and Team. These will be presented during National Air Ambulance Week celebrations which take place in September.
As well as sponsorship of the cyclists, there are two other ways in which donations can be made in support of the event. These can be made online via the Charity’s website: www.dsairambulance.org.uk or by mobile phone by texting: COAS04 £10 to 70070