Eight wounded, injured and sick military personnel and veterans have been named as part of a Help for Heroes team to take on Megavalanche – one of mountain biking’s toughest challenges.
The group will next week (July 4-10) be hitting speeds of 60kph, crossing a 2km frozen glacier and twisting through 20km of mountainside forest with tortuous climbs as part of a Help for Heroes-supported group of wounded, injured and sick veterans and serving personnel. If successful it will become the first disabled team to complete the Alpe d’Huez Megavalanche - the longest downhill race in the world.
Leading them will be Colour Sergeant Roger Coates, who runs the Battle Back programme at Help for Heroes Recovery Centre in North Yorkshire. Help for Heroes is a founding patron of Battle Back - an MOD initiative that uses adaptive adventure training and sports rehabilitation to help seriously wounded service personnel gain independence and confidence.
The riders have been training since January as part of Help for Heroes and Battle Back’s extensive Sports Recovery programme.
The Alpe d’Huez Megavalanche takes 1,400 participants from 20 countries through four days of training and racing from Le Pic Blanc to Allemont.
Having personally entered Megavalanche twice, CSgt Coates knew exactly what training, equipment, commitment and motivation was needed to take part.
“Sport provides optimism, self-belief and confidence in what can be achieved, and this is proven to be of particular importance to this group,” he said. “All of these benefits can be translated outside of sport and into day to day life, sport helps with coping strategies and resilience – which is so important on an individual’s recovery journey.”
The race will see riders hit speeds of up to 60kph down a black diamond ski run, amongst some of the world’s top downhill bikers.
“Our cyclists will need to cross a 2km frozen glacier pushing, pulling, dragging and lifting each other from one icy plateau to another. Another 20km will see them twisting and turning through a dense mountainside forest with a couple of short but tortuous climbs thrown in for good measure. Finally a decent along a steep forest track at high speed will see them across the line and into the history books,” described CSgt Coates.
“But, while most people take part in Megavalanche as individuals, we will make sure our group works as a team so as to help each other out. And, to avoid injury, we won’t be taking part in the infamous mass start but will hold back so as to ensure the safety of our riders at all times.”
The team members are:
Yianni Karakousis (Anglesey)
David Evans (Co Durham)
Kevin Bradnick (Surrey)
Simon Taylor (Norfolk)
Martyn Gibbons (Lancashire)
Jon Quinlivan (Co Durham)
Austin Billings (Serving)
Rachel Kipling (Serving)
Reserve - Joe Kelsey (Serving)