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Gloucestershire Business News

First teams complete cycling challenge for Ben

Teams of cyclists from Gloucester and South Wales were the first to complete a virtual bike ride to Istanbul, in memory of 22-year-old Ben Brown.

It's been just over two weeks since seven teams of cyclists set off to cover the 4,600 miles (7,700km) from Loughborough to Istanbul to raise funds for suicide prevention charity, Papyrus. Bike Club from South Wales completed the challenge on Saturday, while the Gloscycling Penguins completed the challenge yesterday). 

The cyclists are following in the footsteps of around 800 walkers and runners who have also taken part in the challenge - some of whom are still going. 

Members of the Punchline team were proud to play their part in running and walking for the Gloucester Penguins, which completed the challenge earlier this month.

Between them, the teams have just broken the £30,000 fundraising target and the figure is still rising.

Ben's stepdad, Mark Hartery, who runs event management company Aitch and Aitch Bee with Ben's mum Helen, said: "All of the teams of cyclists are making good progress. Some are still on their way to Istanbul and some are on their way back. There's between 20 and 35 people in each team - around 200 cyclists in total.

"There have been some amazing achievements - we had a group of guys from the Gloucester team who cycled from Gloucester to Weston-super-Mare and back. 

"And team leader Rob York took a group of nine out on Saturday and they each did 100k. We've also got guys who aren't cyclists, who just wanted to get involved. They've dusted off their bikes and have been putting in 30 or 40km. It is incredible."

Rob added: "I wanted to support Mark and Helen through recent events and also make people aware of mental health issues and support the charity. I started with the walk and run, and moved on to the cycling.

"The team was mainly ex-rugby guys, connected to Longlevens RFC, and also some family and friends of Mark and Helen. We're social cyclists and it was good to get together and get out on the road, with social distancing in place. There were about 24 of us, going out early for morning starts and fitting cycling in before and after work. We did a mixture of small social rides and some longer rides - a couple of the guys did over 200km and a few of us did 100km.

"One of the group was on a spin bike at home and lots of guys were putting in 10, 20 and 30km rides. We went out as individuals as well as larger groups to get to Istanbul and back. It's been great to support Mark and Helen through this tough time and to raise funds for charity."

The South Wales team included former Welsh international rugby player, Jonathan Davies, while the Gloucester team included a number of ex-Gloucester Rugby players.

Ben, who died at the end of April, was a member of Typhoon Squadron on the Loughborough University Defence Technical Undergraduate Scheme - and a valued member of the Punchline Delivery Team.

Ben's squadron is still out walking and running and is leading the way against the other three squadrons taking part in the challenge.

Mark Hartery said: "From the perspective of Helen and myself, we continue to be blown away by what everyone is doing. It was lovely when all of these macho ex-rugby players shared some heartfelt messages when they completed the challenge. The challenge has helped them to talk about things more. Hearing that people are talking about mental health and some of the issues they're struggling with is music to our ears."

Fundraising and awareness raising won't stop for Mark, Helen and their friends and family when the Loughborough to Istanbul challenge is over. Next they have a fundraising auction planned, with their good friend Rob York of AMS Auctions in Gloucester and Cheltenham. People have been very generous with their donations, so they hope to raise even more money for Papyrus.

You can support the challenge and donate to Papyrus here https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/loughborough2istanbul 

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