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'Missing man' bike ride

Helen sets off from Land's EndHelen Wright is raising money for the RAF Benevolent Fund on a bike ride in memory of a friend who died from wounds sustained in Afghanistan. Helen tells us more in this blog.

On Thursday 22 December 2011, my good friend Squadron Leader Ant Downing was seriously wounded. The vehicle he was travelling in was caught in an explosion in Afghanistan.

He was flown back to the UK, but died of his wounds the following day.

Ant was a great friend to many, and a true inspiration, whether through his professional work as a RAF engineer, competing in extreme sporting events, as a stalwart member of the mountain rescue service, or simply drinking copious amounts of tea and chatting.

In 2007, Ant had some leave to use up and spontaneously decided to cycle across the USA on his own.  25 days and 3,091 miles after setting out from San Diego, he arrived in Ocean City on the Atlantic coast.

I wanted to honour his memory somehow, and a long distance cycle from Lands End to his home village near Dover seemed appropriate.

I could not match the distance he completed. But I hope that doing it solo on a tandem, mirroring the tradition of a 'missing man' formation for lost aviators, will be a fitting tribute and raise money for the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund.

By Helen Wright

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