Blesma announce team taking on the world’s toughest cycling challenge
On June 18th, a Blesma team of 18 limbless and injured service personnel will take on one of the world’s toughest endurance cycling events, the epic 3,081-mile Race Across America (RAAM).
Starting in Oceanside, California, competitors pass through 12 states, covering 3,081 miles and climb in excess of 170,000 feet before finishing in Annapolis, Maryland. It continues to stand as one of the toughest events in the world and a tribute to human endurance.
The Blesma team will consist of fourteen veteran who suffer from physical wounds, with some Members having lived with life altering injuries for 33 years, while others are just two years out from their injury. The team will be pushed to their limits both physically and mentally in the pursuit of finishing the RAAM in under nine days.
Blesma Members Wil Browning, Dan Richards, Alex Krol, Luke Delahunty, John Williams, Grant Jenkins, Simon Khan and Matt Edwards will make up the team’s cyclists, while Members Ken De Soyza, Steven Williams, Terry Morgan, Michael Preater, Richard Parker, and Michael Mitchell will act as the support crew. Blesma Outreach Officer Jas Suller and volunteers Marc Roffey, Benjamin Beatty and Liana Finlayson will also be assisting the team.
Scots Guard Veteran Wil Browning, who lost his left forearm and hand due to having a rare medical condition known as thoracic outlet syndrome as well as being diagnosed for complex PTSD, has been appointed captain of the team.
Wil said: “I been cycling since the age of 11. I wasn’t going to let my amputation stop me. Cycling gives me freedom and it allows me the time to not think. Taking part in RAAM as part of an amputee team would show others that cycling is totally inclusive. Riding my bike with one hand has shown that there is ability through disability.”
“As a team, we want to cross America safety as a team and show that disability is not a destination or a barrier to taking part in tough physical, mental events. It’s an opportunity to do it differently. Taking part in RAAM as part of an amputee and paralysed team shows others that cycling is totally inclusive. I know riding my bike with one hand has shown that there is ability through disability.”
Team Captain Wil Browning said the team have been working hard and sticking to their training. “We have had to adapt and learn to live with so much uncertainty, but we always had the belief that one day RAAM would happen.
“Everyone has worked hard. It’s a massive challenge. We will visit some emotionally dark places and will have to dig deep to pull through. We all share a nervousness excitement.”
The team will set off on Saturday 18 June 2022. To achieve their nine-day target, they will need to be covering a minimum of 385 miles a day.
While a number of the team have chosen to fundraise for the challenge, the aim for the challenge is to help the team progress in their recovery, adapt to life after limb loss and espouse what is possible beyond life changing injury. Team Members will also be guided to become a lead or mentor for fellow injured veterans or wider community post event.
Activities Manager at Blesma, The Limbless Veterans, Jess March said: “Having a Blesma team take part in Race Across America is a burning ambition of Blesma’s. The team have a range of injuries, and many being injured generations apart, however they have all found cycling to be a shared passion and motivator in their recovery. Their teamwork and military spirit will be vital in completing this major challenge. The end goal is to finish the race with an even stronger team spirit than we started with.”