Hundreds of cyclists assembled at Watchet Harbour on the Somerset coast to take part in the 6th annual Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Coast to Coast (C2C) Cycle Challenge on Sunday 15th May.
The event, which is not a race, saw a total of 539 cyclists turn out on the day, in what has become an annual spectacular. 525 cyclists took part in the gruelling but glorious 54 mile ride to West Bay in Dorset and a further 14 cyclists completed the shorter 11-mile route which began at Drimpton and also ended at West Bay.
Watchet Town Crier David Milton once again brought a local personal element to the starting line. He motivated the cyclists with humour and enthusiasm and after encouraging the cyclists to visit one or all of our four pit stops on-route, they were set on their way.
Of those taking part, there were former patients who had experienced the work of the air ambulance first-hand. Others cycled in memory of loved ones, as part of a team, or simply as a personal challenge to show their support for the life-saving Charity.
Crowds were seen gathering at various points along the route; cheering and clapping as the cyclists rode past. An electric atmosphere began building at West Bay as families, friends and colleagues began arriving in support of those taking part.
Chris Priddle from Minehead, Andrew Leach (Weymouth) and Michael Walkey (Bridport) were the first three cyclists to cross the finish line. Chris, who works for the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue service said: “It was my fourth year taking part raising funds for Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance. The atmosphere at the start is fantastic and the route is simply brilliant.”
It took fifteen year old Jack Courtney three hours and ten minutes to cycle the 54 mile route. He was delighted to be the first Under 16 to arrive, as was the first woman, Rosalind Willicombe.
At 78 years young, Brian Pursall was the oldest participant of the day, and cycled the full 54 miles. The youngest cyclists were Eva Ellis, Freddie Griffiths (pictured with dad Peter) and Olivia Reid, all aged 10 who completed the 11 mile route.
Sue Maynard cycled in memory of her 25 year old son Anthony who lost his life after a road traffic incident. Anthony was on a training ride when he was hit by a van back in 2008. Sue’s husband Dave was unfortunately unable to join her on the day due to illness but said: “It’s amazing that a mother who loses her son whilst cycling decides to get on a bike herself and ride in his memory. If that’s not courage, then what is?”
David Cooke took on the 54 mile challenge riding a handbike. Attending around five sportive events a year and keen to support local charity events, he was delighted to gain a place after missing out last year. “This was a really good hilly event supporting a great cause. The pit stops were really good and the people I was riding with were great. The second half of the route was really challenging, in particular the hills after the 30 mile point. The downhill parts of the route were fantastic.”
Brian Ramsay took part with his two brothers, Derek and Keith. “In 2009, following a mountain bike accident on the Quantock Hills, I was airlifted to Musgrove Park Hospital. I suffered a couple of broken vertebrae in my neck and due to my location; the land ambulance couldn’t reach me. Thanks to the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance’s fast response I fully recovered, so after 7 years I decided it was time to repay the debt and raise some money.
Twenty five teams entered the event this year. The biggest group by far were Team o’ Tumblers who once again came out in force and have already raised thousands of pounds in sponsorship. The team’s organiser Rupert Rees said: “We were delighted to be able to take part and support this wonderful event for the third year running. Our team of 38, many of whom are not regular cyclists are supporters of hunting and racing. Everyone involved is extremely committed to not only completing the challenge, but also to raising as much as we can for the Charity which ultimately saves lives. So far this year, our total raised is fast approaching £25,000 and we expect more sponsorship to come in. We would like to thank all the organisers and volunteers for making the day very enjoyable. We’re already looking forward to 2017”.
A large gathering of friends and family were seen on the bank of the finishing line holding a banner in support of three participants. The youngsters were awaiting the arrival of their Grandad - Jamie Grant, Dad – Vick Jones and ‘Chiken’ – Ian Hoskins. The banner praised each of them individually: “Well done to Grandad for giving up smoking”, “Dad for getting over 20mph in training” and to “Chiken for finishing the race!”
Representatives from the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance also set themselves challenges this year. Chairman of Trustees Roger Morgan, Chief Executive Officer Bill Sivewright and Pilot Phil Merrit completed the 54 mile event. Medical Lead Dr. Phil Hyde cycled the 11 mile route with his wife Hannah and their children George (3) and Emily (5) on a tandem bike with a tag-along and a front seat.
Bill Sivewright said: “After every year, I seem to say that it was the best Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge yet and I am delighted to be able to say it again this year. Listening to feedback from those taking part enables us to make any improvements if needed. An added bonus this year was the weather which really boosted people’s spirits at the start line and along the route. The reasons why people enter the event are many and varied and I must say that completion is often such a relief for riders, families and friends that the finish line can be quite an emotional place to be.
“I am particularly proud of the staff and army of volunteers who did such a fantastic job in making sure that the cyclists were directed safely, fed and watered. Their enthusiastic support was a huge lift for those taking part. As ever, we are incredibly grateful to all the riders who took on the challenge and to those who sponsored them on their quest. A final thank you goes to the 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.”
Last year, the Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge raised over £64,000. Prizes will be awarded to those who raise the most in sponsorship in the following categories: Adult, Under 16 and Team. For 2016, Bicycle Chain have donated a Giant Defy 4 and Liz Avail 4 road bike which will be awarded to the person who raises the most in sponsorship in the Adult and Under 16 category. These will be presented later in the year when all funds are received. Closing date for sponsorship to be received is 1st August 2016.
High resolution images and videos of the event are available and free to download by clicking HERE