Hundreds of cyclists assembled at Watchet Harbour on the Somerset coast to take part in the 5th annual Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Coast to Coast (C2C) Cycle Challenge on Sunday (May 17th).
The event, which is not a race, saw a total of 553 cyclists turn out on the day, in what has become an annual spectacular. 532 cyclists took part in the gruelling but glorious 54 mile ride to West Bay in Dorset and a further 21 cyclists completed the shorter, 11-mile route which began at Drimpton and also ended at West Bay.
Watchet Town Crier David Milton 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, before they were set on their way by the Mayor of Watchet, Cllr Peter Murphy.
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. At 76 years young, Jeffrey Davey was the oldest participant of the day, and cycled the full 54 miles. Our youngest cyclists were Olivia Reid and Georgie Neville-Rolf (aged 9) who completed the 11 mile route.
Matthew Norris from Bridport, Steve Toogood and Kevin Watts from Minehead, were the first three cyclists to arrive in West Bay. Matthew was first to cross the finish line last year and has taken part in the event for the past four years.
Nick Ruffell took part for the first time and celebrated in style. “I have only been cycling for a year but really loved it! The hardest part was the hill climb around Cricket St. Thomas, but the best part by far is this celebratory can of Newcastle Brown Ale!”
Friends Helen Challis and Cindy Bodycombe from Bridport cycled the 11 mile route whilst their husbands cycled the 54 miles and said the atmosphere was amazing. “We never expected to be greeted with people lining the streets and hope everyone doesn’t think we completed the 54 mile route that quickly.”
Bob Spoors from Taunton, cycled from his home to the starting point at Watchet before completing the 54 mile route. “I have participated in many sportive events but this is the first time I have entered the Coast to Coast Challenge. It’s by far the best event I have done with plenty of pit-stops along the way. I stopped twice, once at Ilminster Ambulance Station and then at Drimpton. A lady at Drimpton asked me if I would like something to drink or a cake or banana. I said I wanted a cuddle and she obliged. Simply brilliant!”
Colin Poole from Loaders suffered a stroke three years ago whilst driving. The results left him with poor speech and he struggled to walk any distance at all. One year ago, as part of his recovery he bought a bike and prior to the event had only cycled a maximum of 30 miles. He was welcomed at the finish line by his partner of 20 years and a gathering of supporters waiting to congratulate him.
The Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge also played a part in a personal challenge for Clive Dickin, National Director of the Association of Air Ambulances. Clive’s challenge began on Saturday 16th May in Worcestershire and culminates in London on Wednesday 20th May by which point he will have cycled over 350 miles in a total of five days, raising money for five air ambulance charities in the process.
Kay Joy took part for the second year. She is pictured with her bull terrier Betty and cycled as part of the Auto Bitz team. “I loved the event last year, but this year was even better because I was much fitter and have a new bike!”
A gathering of cyclists wearing blue t-shirts saw Team O Tumblers once again come out in force raising thousands of pounds in sponsorship. Patrick and Lavinia de Pelet, both of whom are 74, completed the cycle and have raised over £2,000. Rachael Green who set up her own JustGiving page has already raised approximately£1,200.
Even fancy dress played its part on the day with James O Sullivan, Lee Phipps and Paul Cooper from Cotford St. Luke sporting tutus. “We always dress up on Sunday’s so today is no exception. The event is fantastic. The signposting is brilliant, so you really can’t get lost on the way and everyone at the pit-stops is so lovely.”
Ten year old Martha Pearce rode 54 miles with her dad Eddie and godmother Deborah Alexander. They were greeted with a ‘YOU DID IT’ banner as they arrived in West Bay.
Bill Sivewright, Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Chief Executive Officer, who completed the 54 mile route said:
“Taking part in the event is a really great way to get a good perspective on the organization and running of the event. Mingling with the riders at all stages and getting right into the atmosphere was really uplifting.
“I am full of admiration for all those who pushed themselves, in some cases, well beyond their normal limits to complete the Challenge. I must also say a huge thank you to all my team; that includes staff, volunteers and those who turned out just to help us on the day. Their incredible hard work, dedication and boundless enthusiasm all fuelled what I believe is our best event to date. Our thanks also go to the event sponsors, local councils, police and the Ambulance Service for their support in helping to make the day such a success. Here’s to next year!”
Last year, the Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge raised over £60,000 for Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance. This year, prizes will be awarded to those who raise the most sponsorship in the following categories: Adult, Under 16 and Team. These will be presented later in the year when all funds are received.
As well as sponsorship of the cyclists, there are two other ways in which donations can be made in support of the event. These can be made online HERE or by mobile phone by texting: COAS05 £5 to 70070
Photographs and videos taken on the day are FREE to download by clicking HERE.