Young and old, trained and untrained the H4H team are always humbled to see the participants of the annual Big Battlefield Bike Ride turn up for registration!
This year an astonishing 294 riders have joined us to ‘do their bit’ for the men and women of our Armed Forces who have suffered life-changing injuries or illnesses in the service of our country. Ever more poignant are the 50 wounded personnel and veterans who are riding alongside us to ‘give back’ and prove there is life beyond injury.
Paralympian Jon Allan-Butterworth is joining the ride this year. He was severely injured whilst serving in Iraq in 2007 and has been supported by Help for Heroes since. Speaking with fundraisers at the welcome dinner, Jon-Allan spoke about his motivations for taking part in 2013:
“I took part in the very first Big Battlefield Bike Ride ride in 2008 and it was partly what inspired me to get into cycling. This is my opportunity to give back to my wounded comrades and if I can maybe inspire more guys to get on bikes and enjoy all that cycling has to offer then it will be a great success.”
At 0700 our fundraisers joined together at Les Invalides for the official welcome to the ride. The team were honoured to welcome Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall to the send-off, who spent time meeting with the wounded and fundraisers before wishing the riders well.
All 294 cyclists then departed from Les Invalides - a pretty phenomenal sight for the impatient Parisian traffic! The team unanimously agreed that the many horns blaring must have been encouragement…
Then the challenge really began. A tricky 26 miles through rush hour and a heavy down pour was probably not the start the team had envisioned during their months of training, but everyone took it in their stride and arrived at the lunch stop to a very welcome buffet, warm blankets and steamy cups of tea.
After lunch the Battlefield Guides offered respite from the rain at mile 44 in the tiny village of Nery. Cyclists heard about the British fighting retreat to the River Marne during the First World War while stocking up on everyone’s favourite Big Battlefield Bike Ride fuel – Jelly Babies!
The final push through the rain brought the team to mile 64 where everyone gathered at the Armistice Clearing in the Forest of Compiegne for a reading with the Pedalling Padre, Father Roger Dawson.
Roger took the time to thank everyone for battling through a difficult day’s cycling and remind us why perseverance through life’s struggles is so important:
“Successes keep us going, they give us the confidence, we need them they are important. But failures also contain lessons and are the test of a person to keep going in the face of adversity.”
While a particularly steep challenge for day one, the spirit of the ride prevailed and the team are excited about taking on day two!
Please pray for sunshine for us!
Text RIDE to 70900 to donate £5 to Help for Heroes.
You will be charged £5 plus your standard network rate. Mobile Text Telephone helpline - 01494 750 500.