Hundreds of cyclists assembled at Watchet Harbour on the Somerset coast to take part in the 8th annual Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Coast to Coast (C2C) Cycle Challenge on Sunday 13th May.

The event, which is not a race, has become an annual spectacular and this year, a total of 549 cyclists turned out on a glorious sunny day. 524 cyclists took part in the gorgeous but sometimes gruelling 54-mile ride from Watchet Harbour to West Bay and a further 25 cyclists completed the shorter 11-mile route which began at Drimpton and also ended at West Bay.

Watchet Town Crier David Milton, ramped up the proceedings before the cyclists were set on their way from 11.00am. Crowds were seen gathering at various points along the route; cheering and clapping as the cyclists rode past and the four well-stocked pit stops provided a well-earned rest for those that wanted it.

An electric atmosphere began building at West Bay as families, friends and colleagues began arriving in support of those taking part. They didn’t have to wait too long before the first male cyclist Martin Mitchell crossed the finish line at around 1.40pm. The first female to arrive at West Bay was Ros Willicombe.

The youngest individual cyclist was Reuben Foster who completed the 11-mile route, whilst twelve year old Archie Causley was the youngest to complete the 54-mile route. At 81 years young, Lindsay Fortune was the oldest participant on the day.

Once again, representatives from Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance which included staff and a number of their Clinical Team joined in the event and cycled with their families and friends. 

Of the many others who took 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. 

In July 2016, Chris Pinnell suffered a cardiac arrest while out cycling with his friend George. He has no recollection of the incident but has done all that he can since recovering to support the Charity. Chris said: “My brain blocked the events of what happened that day but apparently I collapsed, became unconscious and stopped breathing. George spent twenty minutes administering CPR in a bid to keep the oxygen pumping around my heart and brain. After being airlifted to Bristol Royal Infirmary Intensive Care Unit, I underwent an angioplasty (a procedure to widen narrowed or obstructed arteries or veins) and had two stents put into one of my arteries. I remained in an induced coma for the next 48 hours. It is clear that I owe my life to George, the NHS Paramedics and of course the team at Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance; it was certainly the intervention of the professionals that ensured I got to hospital in time and in a stable condition, which was critical to my survival.” Chris’s wife Caroline cycled the full 54 mile route, whilst he took part in the 11-mile cycle with their two young sons Louie and Jake.

Chris and Angela Land have supported the Charity for a number of years; Chris has taken part in the Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge for the past seven years. Sadly their son Justin passed away back in February 2011 and Chris has cycled in his memory ever since. Angela said: “Although Justin could not be saved, the team at Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance were able to get his heart beating which enabled his organs to be used on five people, four of whom are still alive today.”

There were further happy scenes when Dave Parker joined in the celebrations at the finish line. He had taken part in a large cycle event on the Saturday to help raise funds for the Charity but relished the opportunity to meet with Doctor Sean Santos who was one of the crew working on the air ambulance on the day of his incident.

A total of 46 teams entered this year; each cheering on their respective members as they crossed the finish line. Team o’ Tumblers were once again ever present and came out in force to show their support. The team’s organiser Rupert Rees said: “Team o’ Tumblers have been in existence for five years following the overwhelming success of Team Fiona in 2013. We are solely devoted to raising funds for Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance via the Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge. In the five years nearly 100 people mainly from the Cattistock, Blackmore & Sparkford Vale and Portman hunts have joined the team. This year the 31 team members have raised nearly £20,000. We are immensely proud to have now raised over £100,000 in five years. Role on 2019.”

Bill Sivewright, Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Chief Executive Officer gave praise to everyone involved and said: “This year’s C2C was blessed with the best possible cycling weather; dry roads, clear sunny skies and not too warm. The buzz and energy around the start at Watchet certainly reflected that. Even after the first series of climbs, the enthusiasm was undimmed and was maintained right to the end. Speaking to those who took part, it was clear that everyone had their own special reason for taking part however there were two common themes throughout; ‘I/we wanted to support the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance’ and for those who had participated before ‘It is very friendly and so well organised.’                           

“The logistical challenge of setting up the start and finish lines, together with the pit stops would test any organisation. But, add to that, the safe marshalling of around 600 cyclists over 54 miles of public roads and the true scale of the undertaking and that challenge looks extremely daunting. I am incredibly proud of the staff and army of volunteers who did such a fantastic job of managing the event in such a warm and friendly manner throughout.

“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, Wessex FM, BBC Radio Somerset, local councils and the Police and Ambulance Service for their support in helping to make the day such a success.”

The day was made even better when the Charity’s AW169 helicopter and crew made a brief appearance before being tasked to attend an incident.  

Last year, the Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge raised over £74,000 (including gift aid). Prizes will be awarded to those who raise the most in sponsorship in the following categories: Adult, Under 16 and Team. These will be presented later in the year when all funds are received. Closing date for sponsorship is 1 August 2018.

Next year’s event takes place on Sunday 12th May 2019. If any individuals or businesses are interested in helping or providing support, please email: [email protected]

High resolution images of the event are available and free to download by clicking the following link:

Pictured below are those mentioned within this news article: