The challenge, which coincided with the start of Air Ambulance Week 2021, saw hundreds of participants cycling either a 55-mile route from Washford Cross Park and Ride in Watchet to the seaside resort of West Bay, or a shorter 11-mile route starting at the Royal Oak public house in Drimpton, also finishing in West Bay.
The event, which was cancelled in May 2020 and then postponed from May this year, gave the charity chance to raise some much-needed funds.
Watchet town crier, David Milton set the cyclists on their way at 11am. The route included a mixture of quiet back roads, some very demanding hill climbs and equally hairy descents.
The cyclists were well-supported along the route – spectators cheered them on, and three pit stops provided a well-earned rest and refreshments for those that wanted it.
Amongst those who took part were former patients who had experienced the work of the air ambulance first-hand. Others cycled in memory of loved ones, as a personal challenge, or as a team.
The oldest participant to complete the 55-mile route was 82-year-old Brian Dale. Brian said: “This event is wonderful. A couple of the hills were a handful, but fortunately I got towed along at times by some of the groups, which was very handy. I took part about four years ago; it really is a brilliant event and everything on the day was perfect.”
Rowan Murless, age 12, was the youngest participant to complete the 55-mile route, cycling alongside his dad Joseph. The two youngest cyclists overall were George and Emily Hyde (aged 9 and 11 respectively) who cycled the 11-mile route, alongside their dad Dr Phil Hyde.
The challenge was an emotional event for Andrew Studley, who had been waiting since 2019 for an operation to remove an acoustic neuroma (a type of brain tumour). Speaking at the finish line, Andrew said: “On 1 June last year, I was unable to walk after having the operation. This has been a big thing for me; I have trained a bit over the past month and it’s my first big ride of the year. When I went through my home town of Drimpton and saw my mum, dad and girlfriend there, it was super emotional. It was brilliant and I loved it.”
Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance chief executive officer Bill Sivewright said: “This year’s event was very special and many of the riders expressed their gratitude to the charity for making it happen. Having an event that attracts such an amazing range of people taking part seems entirely appropriate for a service that is there for anyone who needs us. As ever, we are incredibly grateful to all the riders who took on the challenge and to those who sponsored them on their quest. I have to say a huge thank you to the small army of volunteers who made the whole day possible and to our event sponsors, pit stop locations, local councils and the police and ambulance service for their support in helping to make the day such a success.”
For 2022, the challenge will return to its usual May date. Online registration will open in January 2022.
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