Over 400 committed cyclists swept across the scenic Chiltern Hills in Rennie Grove Hospice Care’s seventh annual Chilterns Cycle Challenge on Sunday 19 March. Starting and finishing in Aylesbury, the event was held to support the nursing services the charity provides for patients in Bucks and Herts with cancer and other life-limiting illnesses.
Not deterred by the blustery day, the lycra-clad challengers came together to take on two different routes from the centre of Aylesbury out to Kimble, Longwick and as far as Bledlow Ridge, then returning to Kingsbury Square through the Hampdens and Butlers Cross covering either 35 or 75 miles.
Andy Colsell from Lacey Green was the first to roll bravely out of bed on a Sunday morning. Taking on the ultimate 75-mile track around the Chilterns, Andy was embracing the challenge ahead. “I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “This is my first Rennie Grove event.” Andy had decided to take part in memory of a close family friend – Dennis Claydon, who also lived in Lacey Green. “I’ve got a photo of Dennis on my back today so I can remember him when I’m out there.” After Dennis passed away having been cared by for Rennie Grove, Andy wanted to raise some money for the charity. “I grew up with Dennis, we were very close, and I wanted to do something where I could raise some money for the cause and to remember him at the same time.”
Paul Dean of High Wycombe returned to the Chilterns Cycle Challenge for another push to beat his best. “I’ve done this particular event every year now, bar one,” explained Paul. When asked what brings him back time and time again, he noted that “it’s just a really good event. I like that it’s a challenging route, and what’s great is that it’s an early season target with it being in March. Most importantly, it’s for a very great charity. Me and my mates try and help out when we can.” Embracing the challenge element, Paul faced the hills head on, beating his personal best on the 75-mile route in an exceptional time of 4 hours and 11 minutes. Back in the centre of Aylesbury, Paul ended the day on a high note: “I’m glad to have done even better than last year, even with the wind. I really enjoyed it; I always do,” he enthused.
Alasdair McMillin of St Albans came in to Bucks with his seven-strong group to take on the longer route, having done other cycling events in aid of Rennie Grove in the past. Calling themselves Team Forge, Alasdair explained their connection with the charity: “Most of our team are, and have been for many years, involved with Rennie Grove individually, and now as a group. We got together to cycle to the Isle of Wight 18 months ago, where we raised £65,000.” After that whopping ride, Team Forge were ready to tackle something closer to home. “It’s a great one to do as a team event. It’s good to get the team together - we have good camaraderie. We’re all doing the big 75 miles, and we’re going to give it a good go and see how we get on.”
For some, the Chilterns Cycle Challenge is quite literally closer to home than maybe they’d want. Martin Findlay of Saunderton signed up for the 35-mile route, a path that goes right past his front door. “I’m going to be riding right past my house, it’s going to be difficult not to drop in for a break!” joked Martin. Local man Martin is one of many Bucks residents who has returned to the event, having done it multiple times in the past. “I think I’ve done this one at least two or three times,” he said. “I like that it’s good for a general keep fit exercise, as well as being a way to help to support Rennie Grove.” He also points out that the atmosphere adds to the spirit of the Cycle Challenge, stating how it’s “good to meet people out on the route, it makes things more interesting. I’m more of a mountain biker myself but I still really enjoy coming here each year.”
Friends Jenny Greene and Amanda Woodward came to Aylesbury from Princes Risborough to take on the 35 mile route through the local villages as a warm up for a bigger challenge. “Jenny’s doing Land’s End to John O’Groats in July,” explained Amanda, “so this is part of her training.” Though both were first timers to the Chilterns Cycle Challenge, they were excited to get out into the countryside for a bike ride in aid of local charity. “It’s going to be good to be out there with good company. The people here are upbeat despite the windy weather, and it’s great to be getting some training whilst doing something for a great cause,” said Jenny.
Many cyclists set off from Kingsbury Square by themselves, or with friends, family and colleagues, even as couples. Rebecca and Andy Garlick from Hemel Hempstead took on the 35 mile route together “for a good cause”, said Rebecca. “The route is meant to be beautiful, and the event itself didn't seem too serious, it seemed more fun than others.” At the start of the route, both Andy and Rebecca were in high spirits: “We’ve done a lot of cycling together for a few years,” Andy explained. “We’ve not got a time in mind in terms of how fast we want to get around, we’re just going to get out and enjoy it.” When they crossed the finish line, the pair were greeted with medals and cheer. “We really enjoyed it, it was very hilly in parts but that was okay because it was beautifully scenic all the way around.”
Matthew Rush from Aylesbury took on the 75 mile route with friends Tarek Maani and Nigel Lee. Part of the AP Tri Club (formerly Stoke Mandeville Tri Club), the trio were grateful for Nigel’s motivation round the route. Nigel works for Grant & Stone, who sponsored the Chilterns Cycle Challenge.
Matthew says: “It was a really tough route, particularly with the wind. We’ve not done this event before, but we have done other cycle challenges and this has to be a favourite.
“It’s wonderfully picturesque with the rolling hills and stunning countryside. I think the fact that we are supporting a good cause whilst doing something we enjoy makes it all the more meaningful.”
Tarek adds: “We couldn’t have done this event without Nigel today – he was the main motivator. I think without him, we may have given up at some of the more challenging areas of the route.”
Karen Bailey from Rickmansworth cycled the 35 mile route with her daughter, Georgia and her niece, Courtney. Karen says: “It was a family effort. We all motivated each other to carry on and rise to the challenge, especially at the hillier parts of the route. Despite the wind, we thoroughly enjoyed it and we would definitely do it again. The Haribos and marshals alone helped us to keep going mile after mile.”
Hazlemere resident Celia Dulieu teamed up with her daughter, Katie and they were joined by Chloe Watkins. The trio used the 35 mile route as a training ride for a tougher challenge. Celia explained: “We started off doing the cycling as a bit of fun. We’re cycling to Paris this year too so we thought this would be a good training exercise and it’s important to us that we do events like this that support good causes.
“The route was beautiful and the event itself was really well organised and sign-posted. The marshals were brilliant at keeping us going, giving the event a lovely community feel. We would certainly do this event again.”
Also from Hazlemere were Caron and Francis Wicks and Emma Folker. Caron said: “We’ve done this event before and we both know people who have used Rennie Grove’s services, so are aware of the work they do in the local areas.
“It was a fantastic route, and the hills were made even more challenging by the wind but the marshals kept us going with their motivational cheering as we reached each point. It’s a very well organised event and we would certainly come back again.”
Friends Bill Marshall from Princes Risborough and Mike Crawshaw from St Albans joined forces to tackle the 75 mile route.
Mike said: “Bill has done the 35 mile route before but I persuaded him to do the 75 mile one this time!”
Bill added: “The Chilterns Cycle Challenge is the only cycle event this early in the calendar that offers such a long route. It’s perfect for training for longer cycle challenges later in the year and it’s also a really nice event. Very friendly and well sign-posted.”
Gillian Barnett, Director of Fundraising and Marketing for Rennie Grove Hospice Care said:
“The Chilterns Cycle Challenge was a fabulous way to kick off Rennie Grove Hospice Care’s events calendar for 2017, with so many individuals and groups coming together to raise funds for the care we provide for local patients and families. We hope to raise £30,000 from this event which is well on the way to funding one of our specialist hospice at home nurses for a year.
“We are incredibly grateful to everyone who turned out today, despite the wind, to raise money for us and equally to everyone else who made the day possible including staff, volunteers and sponsors. The chocolate treats provided by Ocado were particularly welcomed by our tired finishers. Our fantastic marshals deserve a special mention too for giving up their time to cheer on the cyclists and help ensure their safety all around these very long routes. And special thanks to our headline sponsors Grant & Stone, whose financial support means that more of the money raised can go directly towards patient care. It was a great community effort to support a service operating in the heart of the local community.”
You can view and download pictures of the day from our Flickr site.
To find out more about the rest of Rennie Grove’s active events in 2017 or to see others ways to support the charity, visit our events page.