Today saw the West 100 hero ride get underway from Tedworth House Recovery Centre. They set off slightly ahead of our West 100 Sportive riders who will depart from Tedworth House at midnight tonight!
Several first-time Hero riders admitted to nerves but once the group had bonded during the inevitable pre-ride group shot, they were all rearing to go come 10.00am. With the safety brief done, nothing could stop these enthusiastic cyclists from hitting the tarmac and beginning their 100-mile journey through to Windsor (albeit with an overnight stop in Guildford at the 50-mile mark).
They were joined by the West 280 riders who had set off from our Recovery Centre in Plymouth on Wednesday, therefore already having endured three full days in the saddle. The Plymouth riders gave extra encouragement to our 35 West 100 riders and were also glad of the extra company for the final 100 miles of their leg.
A scenic route saw the cyclists ride through towns and villages including Andover, Whitchurch, Basingstoke and Odiham, before finally arriving at their overnight stop in Guildford. However, despite several picturesque views along the way, our hardy cycles had to endure some tough undulations before they could enjoy the beauty of the view. It was hardly the flattest day of riding but having seen other Hero Ride challenges set off in the days past, their motivation and determination was sky high and they all gritted their teeth and cycled even harder, knowing the prize of a Windsor reunion with the Help for Heroes family was a mere 24 hours away. But it was certainly a challenge and the cyclists were all glad they put in hard training beforehand.
Our Band of Brothers riders on their recumbent bikes had an extra tough task but the smiles on their faces remained throughout the day as they cycled alongside 70 fundraisers and supporters. Our amazing chaperones and volunteers also ensured the water stops and lunch breaks contained some much needed refuelling items (including much-loved Jelly Babies, which proved the most popular!)
Band of Brother Michael Matthews, of Cardiff, a former Lance Corporal, was one of the wounded 100 taking part in Hero Ride this year. He decided to do the West 100 because setting off from Tedworth House Recovery Centre meant a great deal to him.
“The charity turned my life around, especially the times I spent at Tedworth. They helped me with my mental health issues, funding my bike and also gave a huge amount of support to my family. So it only seemed right that I would start my Hero ride journey from a place that means so much to me. Help for Heroes gave me my life back and taking part in Hero Ride is a small token of thanks. I was in a dark place but because of this amazing charity my life is a happy one again.”
The riders ended the day in a state of euphoria, knowing they are already half way through their challenge. They tackled everything with a great level of gusto and promised they had reserved energy ready to face Box Hill tomorrow before finally reuniting with our other hero riders in Windsor.
Big or small, every donation makes a difference to our wounded Servicemen and women and their loved ones.