Hundreds of cyclists assembled at Watchet Harbour on the Somerset coast to take part in the 9th annual Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Coast to Coast (C2C) Cycle Challenge on Sunday 12th May.

The event, which is not a race, has become an annual spectacular and this year was no exception. Of the cyclists who managed to gain a place, 571 turned out on the day, including a total of 41 teams.

There were 549 cyclists who took part in the gorgeous, but sometimes gruelling 54-mile ride from Watchet Harbour to West Bay and a further 22 cyclists who completed the shorter 11-mile route which began at Drimpton and also finished in West Bay.

Once again, Watchet Town Crier, David Milton was great entertainment at the starting line; he ramped up the proceedings before sending the cyclists on their way at around 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. Many faces basked in the sunshine whilst awaiting the return of their loved ones, colleagues and friends.

Those who took part included former patients who had experienced the work of the air ambulance first-hand, others cycled in memory of loved ones, as a personal challenge to show their support for the Charity, or as a team.

It truly was an emotional day, with so many inspiring stories of courage and determination not only from the participants but also amongst the crowd.

In February this year, Sue Lamb suffered a heart attack in the early hours of the morning. Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance attended her incident and she was eventually flown to Royal Bournemouth Hospital. She came to the event to thank the Charity and everyone who was taking part and raising funds. Together with her granddaughter Sienna, they stood holding hand-made placards stating how the air ambulance had saved Sue’s life.

Angela Land was also a spectator; her husband (Chris) and son (Alex) were taking part. Chris has cycled the Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge for the past eight years. Sadly, their son Justin passed away in 2011 and although the air ambulance could not save his life, they were able to get his heart beating which enabled his organs to be used on five people, four or whom are still alive today. This year, Alex joined his dad and cycled in memory of Justin as part of his Duke of Edinburgh Award. After crossing the finish line, he said: “That was so hard, but I did it – and I won’t be doing it again!” But after a few donuts and a well-earnt drink, when he was asked if he’d be back next year, he replied, “Maybe”.

At 81 years young, Brian Pursall was the oldest participant who cycled the 54-mile route, whilst Merida Pearce (age 12), was the youngest and cycled alongside her dad.

The two youngest participants overall were Elisabeth Neill (age 7) who individually cycled the 11-mile route and fifteen-month-old Eva Hyde, who was buckled into a kindertandem bike, pedalled by her sister Emily, brother George and dad Dr. Phil Hyde.

The Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge is an event which certainly brings people together; there were numerous examples of this on the day. The Holland family came out in force with dad Simon cycling the 54-mile route with his 14-year-old son George, whilst younger son Alfred (age 9) cycled the 11-mile route with his uncle Dominic. Simon said: “Love the event! It’s always good weather and the ice cream at the end is good and well-needed.”

Three ladies who beamed as they crossed the finish line were Debra Kingman, Helen Jolliffe and Laura Richards. When asked why they looked refreshed, Laura replied: “Every time we stopped for a drink, we did our lipstick, no-one wants chapped lips do they.”

Bill Sivewright, Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Chief Executive Officer gave praise to everyone involved and said:

This year’s C2C was once again blessed with lovely weather. As the dust settles, I have heard nothing but compliments from 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, 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.

Unfortunately, this year the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance AW169 helicopter and on-shift Critical Care Team were unable to make an appearance due to operational commitments on the day.   

Last year, the Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge raised over £62,000. 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 1st August 2019.

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