Wing Commander John Shields from RAF High Wycombe is taking part in a tough cycle challenge through Tuscany along with a few of his colleagues to raise money for our work. In this guest blog, John tells us more about the challenge.
The genesis for our challenge started in April last year, when as an effort to regain some form of fitness and after realising that high impact sports were taking their toll on my ageing body, I decided to take up a low impact sport.
So, after investing in a new bike and a lot of Lycra, I decided to turn myself into a fully fledged MAMIL (Middle Aged Man In Lycra). I was instantly hooked and was keen to set myself some demanding targets.
However, after endless hours on the exercise bike and the local lanes, I wanted a more ambitious target. A recent family holiday to Tuscany provided the answer to my quest.
While staying in the town of Gaiole in Chianti, I discovered that the town was the start and finish point for the 205km L'eroica (the heroic) route.
The concept of a long distance bike ride across both tarmac and white gravel tracks immediately grabbed my imagination. On return to my post at Air Command, RAF High Wycombe, I discussed the opportunity with my equally aged colleagues and soon we hatched a plan to tackle the Tuscan roads.
For me this unique event is a culmination of a year's hard work and training. Nevertheless, I am still a novice rider and stepping into the unknown.
I have never ridden a bike for more than a couple of hours, so five hours of cycling over three days was always going to be a significant challenge.
The challenge is all the greater given the fact that we'll be tackling some significant hills - approximately the equivalent of climbing Ben Nevis each day!
The physical challenge, including the long and difficult climb into Montalcino at the end of a long and hard first day of riding, will be offset by the stunning Tuscan scenery and cycling in a group of ten colleagues and friends.
For me, the event can be summed up as a celebration of our family; our first day of riding coincides with the 96th anniversary of the RAF and the first anniversary of the Air Capability department, the area of Air Command where the majority of the riders, myself included, work.
Therefore, it will come as no surprise that we have elected to support two charities which celebrate our family. The RAF Benevolent Fund is an obvious and very worthy choice for our first charity and our second charity is Maggie's, a cancer charity, which we choose because they have helped and supported my family over the last three years.
By John Shields
To sponsor John and his cycling team visit http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/team/RAFItalycycle.