More enduro firsts for Help for Heroes - Scottish style

Friday 26 May 2017

Earlier this month, a Help for Heroes team of mountain bikers took part in Macavalache - a mass start enduro challenge down the steep and rocky slopes of Glencoe.

The group of eight wounded veterans and Serving personnel, plus former H4H staff member Ed Lowman as support rider, were all led by CSgt Roger Coates who runs the Battleback programme at Phoenix House.

As they proudly crossed the finish line together, they became the first disabled team to do so. Anita Bartram, the only female in the team and, at 54, also the oldest, rode the first adaptive trike to make it down the slopes too.

Here is Roger's report of their achievement:  

The sun shone, the facilities both at the hostel and the Glencoe Mountain resort were second to none and the people went out of their way to make us feel welcome. 

Stage One was a real eye-opener. We suffered a puncture on the rear of the trike. We quickly decided that fixing the puncture would take too long so Anita raced the whole stage on the wheel rims, slipping and sliding all the way down. We all came in together and secured our place in the mass start stage.

This presented our biggest problem of the whole challenge. Because snowfall had been very light this year, there was a significant distance between the top chairlift and the snowy start line. Our team had a range of physical injuries, lower limb trauma from explosions, gunshot wounds, sports damage and spinal impairment. Others on the team suffer from mental injuries which make them vulnerable in high stress situations and anxious about being in crowds.

The task of climbing the mountain, while towing the trike and carrying two bikes at a time, really stretched the team to its limits. But, just when we thought we were going to have to settle for starting further down the hill, some of the other riders came to our aid, dropping off their own bikes and coming back down the hill to help us. Without doubt, this action saved the day and got us to the start point in time for the 1500hrs kick off. It clearly showed what a cracking bunch of people the MTB Enduro community are.

The countdown began and before we knew it, we were flying through the snow and  down the hill at crazy speed, with snow flying behind us and rocky, super steep trail sections in front. This time the trike fared much better, leading the way - reaching top speeds of more than 40mph - and leaving the ground on countless occasions. Due to the number of early punctures, we split into two groups, one assisting the trike and the other managing the punctures and technical problems as they arose. When we came to the bridges, the trike’s wheels overhung the sides and we needed help. This time, the spectators came to our rescue - some of them even jumped into the river to help get the team across.

In the distance we could hear the pipes playing and it brought to mind how incredible the support from the Scottish Help for Heroes representatives had been. They had manned the gazebo all day from the early hours and never stopped giving us support and entertaining the spectators.

Eventually, the front group was overlooking the finish line but had to wait for the remainder to catch up. As soon as we were all together, we set off for the finish line, leaping the jumps, drifting the corners and generally hooning about like mad banshees. We finished almost last, apart from some of the racers who had suffered unfixable mechanical failures, but fully achieved our aim. As we crossed the line, all the spectators plus most of the riders cheered us in and we felt thoroughly spoiled by all the praise.

The prizegiving was truly memorable. I was given the opportunity to thank all those who had helped us out and then, totally unexpectedly, Anita made it to the podium in the Female Veteran's class! The crowd went wild and the team was jubilant. What a way to finish off the event and what an epic challenge to have been part of. 

To see just how much of a challenge Macavalanche was for our guys, here is the link to the official race video which includes a clip of the H4H team and a comment from Roger at the end.

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