Racing for heroes

Help for Heroes fundraiser. Taking part in a bike ride across America is Damian Bourke (right), a principlal othodontist at the Orthodontic Centre , Chequer Road. Giving him a send off are l/r Dan Marsh (Site Manager Waites Construction) who donated a cheque for �200, Ben Parkinson and Chris Parkinson (who will be part of the back up team and reserve rider). Picture: Malcolm Billingham D4222MB
Help for Heroes fundraiser. Taking part in a bike ride across America is Damian Bourke (right), a principlal othodontist at the Orthodontic Centre , Chequer Road. Giving him a send off are l/r Dan Marsh (Site Manager Waites Construction) who donated a cheque for �200, Ben Parkinson and Chris Parkinson (who will be part of the back up team and reserve rider). Picture: Malcolm Billingham D4222MB

A TEAM of cyclists - including a war veteran’s dad - is taking part in one of the world’s most gruelling challenges to raise money for Help for Heroes.

The Pro-Am Doncaster group tackling the 3,000-mile Race Across America includes Chris Parkinson, father of Ben Parkinson, and orthodontist Damian Bourke, as well as top pros John Tanner and Kevin Dawson.

Doncaster's John Tanner (centre) in action.

Doncaster's John Tanner (centre) in action.

The race, now in its 30th year, is one of the most gruelling endurance races in the world. The route passes through 12 states, 88 counties and 350 communities, climbing 170,000 feet en route.

Not content with completing the challenge, the team - called ‘The Strategic Lions’ - have set themselves the task of not just winning, but setting a new record time in this year’s race.

The team, made up of eight riders and 11 support crew, will start the race on June 18 in California and will finish five-and-a-half days later in Maryland on the east coast.

Damian, 47, a father of five. of The Orthodontic Centre in Chequer Road, said: “I’ll just be happy to finish the race, but we’re all a team so we’re got the same goals. I’m just going to do my best.

“It’s been difficult fitting all the training in with working and family life. But I’ve managed to get about 200 miles in on the bike each week.

“I do most of training in a morning, getting up at 5am. Sometimes my wife Brigid gets up with me and we go for a run.

“We are being split into two teams, and each team will have around eight hours biking and eight hours off. Then the support vehicles will drive ahead ready to meet the bikers to swap again.”

Bessacarr man Chris Parkinson, of Parkinson’s Dental, who is the father of Bombadier Ben Parkinson, the paratrooper who was seriously injured in Afghanistan in 2006 and is one of the most serioously wounded servicemen to survive, is in the support team and is a reserve rider.

Former national chammpions, and local cycling legends, John Tanner and Kevin Dawson are also part of the team.

Kevin said: “I’m really looking forward to the challenge of doing the race.

“I’ve been training since November and so I can’t wait to start now, I just want to get started.

“We’ll probably do about an hour each cycling flat out, and then have an hour or two off to rest and then go again. It’s high-intensity, it’s not just a casual ride.”

Kevin said that the worst thing for the amateurs undertaking the ride would be having the necessary mental strength.

He said: “It’s a physical and mental experience. You have to get on the bikes again even when you’re tired and aching and hurting.

“When you’re used to that – like John and I are – it’s difficult, so it will be a struggle for the people who aren’t used to it. I think that’s what they’ll find the hardest.

“It’s a test of your mental strength too.”

The team has been assembled and organised by Castleford-based Strategic Team Group (STG). Managing director Andy Watson, 41, has been living and breathing the race.

He said: “The logistics of getting the to start of the race have been a nightmare and put us as a disadvantage really. We’re taking 16 bikes with us and they have to be rebuilt once we’re over there.

“We’ve got to get around £1,500 worth of food as we’re not stopping while the race is going on. The logistics of it has taken a lot to sort out and get ready.”

The cycling team includes STG staff Andy and Stuart Loben, with Sportscover Strategic Pro Cycling Team riders Ash Brown, John Tanner, Kevin Dawson and Chris Last and Collin Humphrey as well as Damian Bourke.

n For further information, or to make donations, contact Andrea Coley at The Orthodontic Centre on 01302 366466 or just call into the practice at 3 Chequer Road. To donate to the cause, visit: www.bmycharity.com/strategiclions