Herefordshire’s hills are alive with the sound of music – as a ‘rat pack’ of cyclists pedal their way to raising £30,000 for blood cancer patients.
Over 50 members of FTO Hereford, a social cycling group, have signed up for Vélo Birmingham – a 100-mile closed road sportive that passes through the county on Sunday, September 24.
And they are very much riding ‘Their Way’ as they bid to boost Cure Leukaemia’s £1million appeal to expand the world class Centre for Clinical Haematology (CCH) at Birmingham’s QE Hospital, which enables blood cancer patients across the West Midlands to access potentially lifesaving treatments.
FTO Hereford are using their weekly training rides – which set off from the Bunch of Carrots pub, Hampton Bishop, every Sunday morning – to ensure they are in tune for Vélo Birmingham.
When the going gets tough, they take their minds off their aching limbs…by breaking into song!
Phil Brace, co-organiser of FTO Hereford, said:
“When our legs start to burn, my fellow ride organiser Tim Pattison will start singing and gets everyone else joining in.
“He has a great voice. He’s a Rat Pack sort of guy, so it’s either a Sinatra or Buble track.
He’ll even adapt the lyrics to suit the cyclists and scenery around him.
“Vélo Birmingham is quite a challenging course, so we’ll be in for a right sing song!”
Organised by CSM Active, in partnership with Birmingham City Council, Vélo Birmingham starts and finishes on Birmingham city centre’s Broad Street. The route will take riders of all abilities through Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Sandwell and Dudley.
Although Vélo Birmingham’s 15,000 general entries sold out in just four days, limited spaces are available via Cure Leukaemia.
FTO Hereford are among almost 730 cyclists fundraising for Cure Leukaemia at Vélo Birmingham, which is expected to help raise over £1m for charities across the region.
Phil is delighted the route will take in his native Herefordshire countryside.
“It’s shaping up to be a fantastic, superbly organised event,” added the 51-year-old.
“Allowing thousands of cyclists onto closed roads is great for the region’s health, tourism and, of course, charities. I can see nothing but positives that the route is coming through Herefordshire.
“There are lots of hills around here, so it’s going to be a challenging course, but we train every week on hills. Hills are our friends!”
FTO Hereford, a quirky take on the name of Hereford's former pro cycling team NFTO (Not For The Ordinary), are well on their way to reaching their fundraising target thanks to an annual charity ball Phil throws.
This year’s bash saw a barn at Lyde Arundel – donated free of charge by the venue – converted into the set of Wham’s ‘Club Tropicana’ video.
Phil and Tim know how to put the fun into fundraising, but the very serious reason they get in the saddle is never far from their minds.
“We’re lucky to be fit and well and even when it gets tough on the bike, it’s nothing compared to what blood cancer patients are going through,” added Phil, who became fully aware of Cure Leukaemia’s work after meeting patron Geoff Thomas – the former England and Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder who was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia in 2003 – at a fundraising event.
“We raised around £60,000 when we rode Cure Leukaemia’s London 2 Paris event two years ago and we’re looking for another big total.
“Blood cancer is an horrific disease which has affected the lives of a business partner and a family friend. I’ve also seen the evidence of how Cure Leukaemia are helping patients in Herefordshire.”
All monies raised for Cure Leukaemia will go towards the £1m the charity is committed to raising before the end of this year to fund the £3.2m expansion of the CCH, where over 100 patients from Herefordshire have accessed potentially lifesaving drug and transplant therapies in the past three years.
The project is being driven by charity co-founder Professor Charlie Craddock CBE, who played an important role in the treatment of ex-footballers Geoff Thomas and Stiliyan Petrov. Charlie will join CEO James McLaughlin and Trustee Dr Guy Pratt in cycling Vélo Birmingham.
“We’re extremely grateful to Phil, Tim and the rest of the FTO Hereford team for the phenomenal efforts they go to, and amounts of money they are raising, to help Cure Leukaemia fund the expansion of the CCH and in turn save more lives,” said CEO James.
“Their 50-plus riders from Herefordshire are an integral part of our Vélo Birmingham cycling team.
Anyone wishing to join us can still do us, but places are limited.”
To ride Vélo Birmingham for Cure Leukaemia, email Velo@cureleukaemia.co.uk
Cure Leukaemia's £1m Centre Appeal 2017