How Fleet Cycling's charity challenge supported two members battling illness

Fleet Flyer
The inaugural Fleet Flyer was enjoyed by hundreds of cyclists of all ages
When two members of Cycling UK Member Group Fleet Cycling were struck by illness, their friends in the group rallied to put together an event to support them. The group's publicity officer Lisa Chapman describes the success of its inaugural Fleet Flyer charity ride and how Fleet Cycling's efforts have helped support two of its committee members with serious illnesses.

Fleet Cycling in Hampshire was founded in 2014 and organises regular rides for all abilities locally as well as trips away in the UK and abroad. Several members have done Land's End to John o' Groats and one member racks up an impressive 15,000 miles a year!

The first annual Fleet Flyer Charity Cycling Challenge took place on Sunday 13 May 2018, raising £6000 after expenses and bank charges. There were three routes through glorious Hampshire, with the longer 87-mile route taking in the beautiful Test Valley. The weather was glorious sunshine and breezy, which was amazing since the day before it poured with rain, with an occasional lightning bolt thrown in!

Youngest riders

Over 300 riders took part, with the youngest solo cyclist, six-year-old Emily, covering the 22-mile course with her father, raising £280 for the Berkshire Cancer Centre Charity Fund. Emily says, “I enjoy raising money to help people”.  

The youngest to complete the 54-mile course was 14-year-old Dom. He says: “I have been cycling since I can remember and always cycle to school. Dad organises the Fleet 20 bike ride each September and we get 600 riders of all ages doing distances of 10, 20 and 30 miles. So I have been doing the 20 route for a long time, and would help him test out the others".

It was a great day and I was really pleased with my achievement.

14-year-old rider Dom

"In preparation for this year’s Fleet Flyer we took the train to Winchester and rode the 38 miles home, we have also been doing 20 and 30 mile routes on Sunday mornings. I was nervous of doing the 54 and woke up with a stinking cold, but decided that I had to go for it.

"The stops were well-spread out and the treats kept us all going. We never intended to get a fast time but even with Dad blowing out a tyre we still finished well ahead of the broom wagon and made all the stops. It was a great day and I was really pleased with my achievement.”

On a beautiful day, North East Hampshire MP Ranil Jayawardena sent the initial group of cyclists off bright and early on the 87-mile ride with an inspirational speech. A team of volunteer marshals, including Cycling UK member Ken Cook who noticed an appeal for volunteers in CycleClips, ensured the route was safe and enjoyable for all. 

Fantastic feedback 

The feedback from people taking part in the event was outstanding:

“Kudos to Graham and the team of marshals for putting on a great event today.”

“I wanted to congratulate you again on a great day on Sunday! I did the 54-mile route, which was beautiful! A lot of the group have been saying positive things about Sunday as well, congratulations! If there is anything our group can support with in the future, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

”On behalf of the Hart Breeze ladies and their mechanic Derek for putting on such a fantastic event. the four of us completed the 87 and are pretty pleased with ourselves. I had a puncture in Longparish which delayed us a little. Thank you to all the volunteers for their hard work on a very long day.”

Supporting Fleet Cycling's Graham and Colin

The event supported two charities:

  •  Transplant Sport
  •  Berkshire Cancer Centre Charity Fund

These were chosen as they have directly made a difference to the lives of two of Fleet Cycling’s committee members, Graham Ellicott and Colin Waters. Graham, Treasurer of Fleet Cycling, and a recent liver transplant recipient, says: ”Transplant Sport transformed my life. Without their promotion of the organ donor register, I could have waited much longer for my donor liver, much to the detriment of my health.They have inspired me to get fit after the transplant operation. I am in training, with Transplant Sport’s support, to represent GB at the European Transplant Games being held in Sardinia next month.”

Graham’s describes how his cancer was discovered: "On 19 July 2016, the hottest day of the year where I live in northeast Hampshire, I led a 60+ mile cycle ride in the morning for Fleet Cycling, went home, showered and then went for what I thought was to be a routine hospital appointment. That’s when my life changed forever - as I was sat down and told carefully that it was pretty certain that I had primary liver cancer and that my local hospital could not help me any longer. I was referred to one of the six liver transplant hospitals in England who would consider me for further treatment, including possibly a liver transplant.

To cut a long story short, a year ago, following nine months of tests/assessments/interventions I received a new liver! I owe thanks to a lot people in the medical profession, while not forgetting the donor’s next of kin, who took the very generous decision with regard to organ donation at what must have been a very difficult time in their life.

Early on, during my nine month evaluation period, I was made aware of Transplant Sport and the work that they do to help all involved with transplants, plus the campaigning work that they do to raise the awareness of the need for donor organs. I set myself two goals: pursuing my love of cycling via them plus at the same time trying to raise some monies for them so that they can continue their amazing work. These goals resulted in me becoming involved with GB Transplant Cyclists and in the Fleet Flyer Charity Cycling Event. As a result of these goals, I will be riding for Team GB and Northern Ireland in the European Transplant Games in Sardinia.

The return to the bike and the company of cyclists was amazing for me.

Graham Ellicott, Treasurer of Fleet Cycling

Cycling and cyclists helped immensely during the run up to the transplant as my fitness meant that I tolerated all of the medical procedures with few problems plus the camaraderie and support of  fellow cyclists helped me cope with the mental ups and downs of the transplant process. After the transplant, my consultant eventually allowed me back on the bike after 12 weeks, with the proviso that I spin the pedals and don't overdo it! The return to the bike and the company of cyclists was amazing for me, clubs modified routes to allow for my recovery, rode with me when I couldn't get up the hills and generally provided the encouragement that I needed to believe that I could retain my previous level of fitness.

And if you're still reading this and haven’t already filled in an organ donor card then I urge you to do as the surgeons are ready and waiting to save lives but there is a shortage of many organs including livers!

I am so proud that the Fleet Flyer will help fund essentially needed equipment for future patients.

Colin Waters,  Secretary of Fleet Cycling

Colin Waters, Secretary of Fleet Cycling, said: “When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I was stunned and it immediately affected my outlook on life. The Berkshire Cancer Centre helped me to come to terms with my cancer. The treatment and kindness I received from all the staff, at every level, was outstanding.  I am so proud that the Fleet Flyer will help fund essentially needed equipment for future patients.”

Fleet Cycling, a Member Group of Cycling UK, along with sponsors Pedal Heaven, Dimension Data, R Collard and Everyone Active raised an amazing £6000 for Transplant Sport and Berkshire Cancer Centre Charity Fund.

Such was the success of the Fleet Flyer that a date has already been fixed for next year: Sunday 12 May 2019.