What an absolutely phenomenal day the Puffing Pedallers have had this Saturday - from extreme weather and thrills and spills to the laughter, friendship and truly inspirational people taking part in Hero Ride this year.
There was a definite air of anxiety as cyclists began arriving at Tedworth House Recovery Centre in the morning (not least due to the weather forecast for the day of torrential rain), and sure enough at 09.00, over 60 cyclists set off to a roar of thunder!
In true Help for Heroes spirit though, everyone pedalled on through the driving rain with determined faces and, with the wind behind them, made astonishing time, arriving early at the first water stop at the Hurstbourne Inn between Andover and Whitchurch. Special mention from this stop to Danna Cable and Charlie Corbett for their hugely helpful support in getting the gazebo up and all important snacks laid out in the lashing rain, ready to welcome the Puffing Pedallers in!
Despite the soggy bottoms, debates over Blondie vs Beethoven to get you through the weather conditions, and one bent wheel following a particularly dramatic tumble, the mood was one of positivity and camaraderie with ample opportunity to chat and get to know one another.
One of the most striking things we noticed was the effort people had gone to simply to be on the ride! Eddie Wright, 62 cycled 191.4 miles on Friday from Manchester to Wiltshire in order to start the ride with the other Puffing Pedallers at Tedworth. “I couldn’t get the Thursday off work so I set off at 04.00 on Friday to be here. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I would recommend taking part in Hero Ride to anyone. Even if you can’t ride a bike – learn!”
Also far from home, we met the lovely Wendy Peters, 72 who travelled especially from Majorca to take part and raise money for Help for Heroes, “I was born in the middle of World War Two and can appreciate what the services and these wonderful men and women have done for our country.” Wendy and her husband Simon (who travelled to Tedworth secretly on Saturday to wave her off) have to date raised over 35,000 euros and have no plans of stopping there!
As the rain stopped, the Pedallers continued on their way towards lunch in Basingstoke. A truly magnificent spread was laid on at Viables Community Centre which unbelievably was eaten alfresco as the weather did a U-turn and we were able to enjoy the sunshine, reflecting on the rain of the morning!
Military mum Emma said, “The rain was actually amazing – I needed windscreen wipers for my glasses! I had to keep drying them at every roundabout, and the mud and water kept spraying up around me – it just got funny!”
Also enjoying the sun at the lunch stop were members of the Band of Brothers (BoB) taking part in the Puffing Pedallers ride this weekend. When quizzed about his preparedness for taking part in the ride this year, BoB Paul Prior had this advice to offer… “I would recommend that a little training might help! I did a 12k the other week but did stop for cocktails and lunch with friends! Also, a car with a rope attached to it could be pretty helpful!” So there you are – advice for Hero Ride 2015!
The cycle to the end from lunch seemed a breeze in comparison to the rainy first half, and everyone commented on the amazing number of cars hooting their support as the Puffing Pedallers made their way through Aldershot towards Guildford, where the support team had fun waving in many happy and relieved faces and directing them to the nearest pub! Then early nights were the order of the day as tired arms and legs needed resting ahead of the final day of Hero Ride on Sunday 8 June, joining all the other rides in London in true Help for Heroes style!