Steve Craddock, H4H supporter and fundraiser, recalls his time on the Cycle 4 Heroes challenge on Armed Forces Day, riding alongisde some of our very own beneficiaries.
Cycle 4 Heroes was an amazing day and it was great to see so many riders taking on the 100km cycling challenge. The ride was started by our Guest of Honour, Tracey Crouch who is the MP for Chatham and Aylesford and the Minister for sport and the Olympics.
The weather was kind to start off with and the route was shown in all its splendour with far reaching views across the Kent countryside. Then, at about 1400, the heavens opened.
Those who were unfortunate to have still been out on the road were subjected to a serious soaking, but spare a thought for our trio of hand cyclists who were more exposed to the elements as they battled their way around the course.
The first 33 miles to the feed station were a treat as riders set off through Rochester and Grain, then onto the Hoo Peninsula. Some of the highlights of the ride were at the highest point on Grain where both the Medway and Thames estuaries can be seen simultaneously. Then there was Cooling Church made famous by Charles Dickens in the novel Great Expectations, and past the wonderful gatehouse of the 12th Century Cooling Castle.
The first half of the ride was punctuated by a few steep climbs which got the competitors' blood pumping. By the time they reached the feed station they were ready for some well-earned snacks (since the feed station was at the Railway Arms pub, several riders also enjoyed a quick pint!).
The second half of the ride was a real test of fitness and determination, culminating in 3 miles of steep climbing to the top of Vigo hill. The reward was a brilliant high speed descent where the our wounded hand cyclists reached speeds of over 40mph. For us fully abled cyclists, it was very difficult to keep up with them.
If the hills were a challenge for the fully abled, imagine the 3 lads who were having to propel their way up using only their shoulder and arm muscles! Ben Zissman, Chris Jones and Lee were the real stars of the show, providing proof that with the right support and encouragement severe physical injuries do not prevent these truly courageous guys from achieving sporting excellence.
We finished the last 5 or so miles in a downpour of Biblical proportions.. At the end of the ride we were to form a large peloton and ride into the main arena on the Great Lines, however due to the weather, Armed Forces Day was brought to a premature end, so we sent the bedraggled group of riders home with a medal and a great deal of pride.
I must mention at this point that as we were cycling my good lady Beverly and Mary Drain were manning the Help for Heroes merchandise tent. Even with some horrendous weather they still managed to sell almost £2000 worth of Help for Heroes merchandise. So a big thank you to them.
The total amount raised on the day was over £10,000, almost every penny of which will go to help guys like Chris, Ben, Lee & Brian Kilgannon get their lives back on track and to ensure that if they are in need of help at anytime during their lives, Help for Heroes will be there with the support they need.
Photo credit | Tom Smith | Full album here