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Cyclists beat uphill challenge for charity

By Lucy Todman | Mid Wales | News | Published:

Two men with a love of cuycling joined forces to take on Britain's toughest challenge.

Last month Matt Hart of Torq Fitness Consultancy, which has its head office in Trewern, set off from Land's End with his good friend Dr William Tan, who is a hand cyclist from Singapore heading for John O'Groats.

And just nine days later, Matt, Will and two other riders plus a backup driver completed the trip - having tackled some of the toughest terrain in the country.

And it was all the more remarkable as Will has overcome great adversity and is currently battling stage 4 terminal cancer.

He and Matt have cycled from London to Paris to help beat blood cancer together on many occasions and have decided, along with two other friends and the support of their driver, to take on this huge challenge in an attempt to raise some significant awareness and sponsorship support for the charity Bloodwise who fund research into the treatment of blood cancer.

Will is a celebrated Paralympian, neuroscientist and Medical Director based in Singapore. He contracted Polio when he was two years old and has been unable to walk since and in 2009, he was diagnosed with stage 4 (end stage) Leukaemia and given months to live.

But he has defied the odds and this was just his latest fundraising trip.

There were logistical issues to deal with ranging from mechanical tweaks needed for Will's hand-powered bike to how to get his specially designed bike up hills. The answer was a pole which linked their bikes together so that they can combine their power outputs on the climbs.

On the first day, Matt crashed twice getting to grips with the new power-sharing system they had developed, so he was nursing cuts and bruises for the remainder of the trip.

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But it was the dire British weather that was the hardest aspect for the team to master. Days of rain and cold temperatures meant they had to stop for unscheduled pitstops for hot chocolate along the route and Matt's bottom bracket fell foul to the downpours.

Entering the Scottish highlands brought the arrival of sunshine and the team were then well on target to hit their nine-day deadline.

Matt said: "There were truly great moments that will never be forgotten, but these were perhaps eclipsed by a schedule that we’d set ourselves, which on reflection was far too ambitious given that our task wasn’t simply to ride over 100 miles per day for 9 days, but we chose the ‘pretty way’ which added almost 100 miles to our trip overall, plus a significant amount more elevation, as well as our key objective, which was to work with Will, a disabled person, to help him succeed in the challenge too.

"In terms of fitness, the team had it. Mine was pushed to the limit, simply due to the increased calorie expenditure compared to riding on my own. My knees also suffered and if it wasn’t for a special potion I got from Will, which I combined with arnica, it could have finished our challenge. Will’s disability means that he has no abdominal muscles, so cannot produce the power that other hand bikers can who don’t have his level of disability, but even so, his fitness and determination was remarkable.

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"We had beautifully sunny days on days two, five and six, which we won’t forget. Day three was the wettest day any of us had ever had on a bike and the others weren’t much better. I think for me, this was the hardest part – dealing with the cold and relentless headwinds. On the last day we faced 9 degrees, rain and a 25mph headwind and we battled so hard to stay warm.

"Our schedule was so tight and we were so cold that we couldn’t stop for long, even when we wanted to rest. How much easier this challenge would have been if we could have stopped and sat at the side of the road in the sunshine every now and then. We were never afforded such a luxury – it was a relentless battle of attrition.

"We did it though! Despite all the adversity, there could have been other factors like my knees packing in, or us getting multiple punctures or a mechanical that couldn’t be resolved that would have stopped us from getting to our destination, so we are so thankful for small mercies. Yes, it was really tough and seemed impossible at times, but it could have been worse. Will said that this was the hardest challenge he has ever done, so I’m bizarrely very proud to have been a part of that."

The team have so far raised more than £2,500 for Bloodwise. To donate go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/bloodwise-lejog

Lucy Todman

By Lucy Todman
@shroptod

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star and Shrewsbury Chronicle based in Shrewsbury.

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