Blazing Saddles … The Ultimate Charity Bike Ride
People in Nexia Solutions do a lot of work for charity and always like to talk about it! The latest event supporting nominated charity, “The Weston Spirit”, took place on a damp Friday in July with an epic cycle journey that eclipsed any stage of the Tour de France. By aiming to ride 176 miles in a single day, the eight gutsy cyclists, including six from Nexia Solutions, were taking on a gruelling challenge. Some atrocious weather, featuring high winds and driving rain, made matters even more interesting. The Nexia Solutions team competing against the distance and elements was Dan Mathers, Gareth Thomas, Kevin Hodgson, Helen Steele, Louise Eden and Peter O’Brien. Supplemented by two other dedicated cyclists from the Sellafield Ltd business – Stephen Kittley and Robbie Huston, the group began the ride at 6am at the George and Dragon pub in a stormy Great Budworth. Driving the support van and providing much needed encouragement were Gill Warburton and Toni Fell, also from Sellafield Ltd. The Cheshire Cycleway takes in Prestbury, Gawsworth, Audlem, Malpas, Beeston, Chester, Wirral, Delamere Forest and Great Budworth again. For the first hour, the wind was behind the group so, despite receiving a soaking, the effort required was reasonable. The next hour was spent tackling some severe climbing into the hills at the back of Bollington on the edge of the peak district. With rain and a 20mph wind gusting up to 35mph, there was some difficult riding. But, having successfully negotiated the hills and descents, the group were expecting an incident free run to lunch. In probably the only shaft of sunlight throughout the day, manageable wind and little traffic the group were rocked by a bad crash. Riding in row 3 of four rows of two cyclists, Gareth Thomas crashed out of the event. Travelling at between 18mph and 20mph, his front wheel touched the wheel in front for a second or two and he lost control. Gareth hit the tarmac hard, badly grazing his face. Everyone was shocked and there was quite a lot of blood. Kevin Hodgson, who is first aid trained, treated Gareth before he was driven to hospital to be checked over. Although he suffered painful injuries and was shaken up, he was fine and was discharged soon after although he did reflect that six months training had been undone in a couple of seconds. For the remaining seven, the ride continued stopping for lunch at Audlem at around half way. Because of the crash and bad weather, there was some slippage in the already tight schedule. After lunch, there was a long drag to Chester via Marbury, Malpas and Beeston Castle although the group increased average speed despite experiencing even more terrible weather. An unscheduled stop to repair simultaneous punctures to both wheels on Peter O’Brien’s bike meant further delays.
Once a circuit of the Wirral was completed, which included the last stop at Parkgate near Neston, the cyclists headed for the hilly area around Delamere Forest as darkness closed in. Once through the forest and sharp descent at Acton Bridge, the group quickly reached the finish at Great Budworth and applause from the regulars at the George and Dragon. They arrived just after 11pm, around an hour and half behind the original schedule. Dan Mathers summed up the mood of the riders. “It was good to reach the finish after 12 hours and more in the saddle,” he said. “We were all very tired but elated at finishing the event and being able to raise so much money for good causes. “Our satisfaction was balanced out by disappointment for Gareth in that he was unable to complete because of his crash. It was a relief that he came through such a heavy spill relatively ok.” In the end, the group rode a total of around 1,400 miles on one of the most demanding cycle courses in the north-west. Over £2,000 was raised for The Weston Spirit and other charities including Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and the Wigan and Leigh Hospice. Nexia Solutions has been working closely with The Weston Spirit this year as part of its Corporate Responsibility (CR) strategy. The charity was co-founded in 1988 by Falklands War veteran, Simon Weston OBE. He and his two partners, Paul Oginsky and Ben Harrison, look to offer inner city youth an alternative to exclusion, apathy, unemployment and crime. The Weston Spirit operates 11 centres around the UK, where young people aged 13-25 can work, learn and socialise together in a safe, non-judgemental environment. To date, more than 72,000 young people have been helped and supported. Having recovered from his accident on the ride, Gareth Thomas reflected on the event: “While it was bad luck for me to crash out, I have to accept that I was really fortunate to escape without broken bones or more serious damage. Thankfully, the other seven managed to finish and take advantage of the generosity of our sponsors. “We had close support from various corporate and individual sources including engineering systems company NIS Ltd who made a very generous donation, Bramhall Contract Motors who provided our support van, Risley site Café Continental who donated all of the food and drink, the Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) who kindly supplied our cycling kit, Lime Print Solutions, the Rippleffect online agency and the Weber Shandwick PR consultancy. “Last but by no means least, many thanks to all of the individuals who made donations. We are very grateful for all of the support we received.” Gareth said he was “disappointed” to have not completed this year’s ride but is already planning to take part in a 100 mile organised bike event around Cheshire in September and another one in October. He is already considering doing the full Cheshire Cycleway again next year. We wish him the best of luck!