Help for Heroes team is taking on the world's toughest cycling challenge

Friday 21 April 2017

A Help for Heroes team of eight wounded, injured and sick veterans and service personnel will take on one of the world’s toughest endurance cycling events, the epic 3,081 mile Race Across America (RAAM).

The team, plus two reserves, is made up of individuals who suffer from psychological and physical wounds, and they will push themselves to the limit both physically and mentally in the pursuit of finishing the RAAM in under seven days.

The RAAM is the world’s preeminent and longest running endurance cycling race and is considered by many to be the one of the world’s toughest endurance cycling events. The riders are using the challenge as a recovery tool, as well as aiming to raise £100,000 for Help for Heroes as a way of giving back to a charity which has supported them since injury.

Starting in Oceanside, California competitors pass through 12 states, covering over 3,081 miles and climb in excess of 170,000 feet before finishing in Annapolis, Maryland. To achieve their seven-day target, the team will need to maintain an average speed of over 18.3 mph covering a minimum of 440 miles a day.

Andrew Perrin, 37 of Barnet, London, served for 12 years with the Royal Signals and Ten Signal Regiment. He went on to develop Crohn’s disease and depression and anxiety, putting him out of active service. Since injury and discharge, life has been difficult for Andrew. Originally cycling was his method of rehabilitation, but it soon became his method of escape.

Meet the RAAM 2017 team

He explained: “Cycling is the only time I feel sane and calm. My mind becomes clear and I can focus on the positives in life. I always need a challenge or goal to get through life at the moment. This will be the first big challenge that will test my physical and mental abilities. I fear the challenge but hope to come out the other side much better from it. I feel privileged to be involved especially in the company of the other members of the team. I want to represent the voice of the hidden wounds and, hopefully, overcome all the self-doubts that I will ultimately face.”

The team will be captained by former 40 Commando Royal Marine and now military Paralympian Joe Townsend, 29, of Eastbourne. Joe was injured in 2008 after standing on an Improvised Explosive Device and lost both of his legs in the blast. Following 14 hours of surgery at Camp Bastion, he was flown back to the UK where he spent five weeks in a critical care ward.

He explained: “Sport has given me a purpose in life after having my career ripped away from me. It is the reason I get out of bed every morning, it’s my job and it shapes my choices in life. I love a challenge and having completed some of the toughest sporting challenges, I need to keep pushing myself. Post Rio 2016 I wanted to do something for myself because training for a 4 year cycle is incredibly hard, especially to keep motivated psychologically.

“I want another taste of the military humour and camaraderie that cannot be found in civilian life. I need a top up of this every now and again to remind me of how I operate as a person.”       

Lead Strength and Conditioning Coach at Help for Heroes, Jon-Paul Nevin, said: “A challenge like Race Across America helps to emphasise the power of sport in the recovery process for our wounded, injured and sick. Sport is incredibly powerful as a means of rebuilding confidence and providing a sense of empowerment, as well as aiding physical and mental recovery. By taking part in this epic feat and demonstrating their strength and determination in both training for and completing this challenge, the riders will hopefully inspire many others who are trying to rebuild their life post-injury.”

The riders hope to raise £100,000 for Help for Heroes.

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