This Hospice Care Week hear about how the Team Ashgate MTB got on during the Hope Valley Challenge

It’s Hospice Care Week (9th-15th October) and this year Polaris are supporting our local Hospice, Ashgate Hospicecare. You can support them too by making a donation when purchasing goods through our website, or by visiting www.ashgatehospicecare.org.uk.

Team Ashgate MTB, made up of 4 people with a professional connection to Ashgate Hospicecare, decide to take on the Hope Valley Challenge last month to raise money for the 24/7 Hospice at Home Appeal.

Matt Corbishley, Director of HR and Support Services, recalls his experiences of the event.

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The Friday night before the event, we all checked the weather forecast and crossed our fingers for a dry day. It had rained a LOT in the last 72 hours. Thankfully, it was given as ‘cloudy with a 20% chance of rain’. Despite trying to get an early night I found it hard to sleep and before I knew it the alarm was going off.  It was 6.00 a.m. I’d prepped most of my kit the night before and had already put my bike in the car, so just needed to top up my water and load my bag with last minute essentials, before forcing down a large bowl of porridge and driving out to Hope in the early morning light.

I arrived in the car park at Hope to a sea of vans and cars and some very expensive looking bikes. Jonathan, Chris and Mark all arrived and I handed out our fantastic looking hospice branded Polaris MIA jerseys. They looked great, and as we found out later, performed pretty well too! As we queued up to register and receive our race numbers to fasten to our bikes, Mark announced that he had prepared by consuming an enormous full English breakfast! Clearly a braver man than me, but I assumed, being the Hospice’s Chef, it was all part of a careful calorie controlled plan.

It was nearly time to leave and by this time I had butterflies in my stomach (no room for butterflies in Mark’s stomach), thinking about the gruelling task ahead. The Hope Valley Challenge is the equivalent of riding to the top of Ben Nevis, and then some, over 28 miles.  Time for one quick selfie of us all in our jerseys and then the couple of miles ride to the start line in a field at the bottom of Win Hill.

It’s an amazing sight to see hundreds of riders gathered together for a mass start, and before we knew it the air-horn had sounded and we were off. We wanted to stay together so waited for the solo riders (and very fit riders!) to set off on the single file roman road up to Hope Cross. Some riders were already walking which slowed down the whole field but by the time we reached the top of ‘The Beast’, the field had already thinned out slightly.

The previous few days’ rain had made it very humid and the huge rocks were like ice. I ended up having to walk a couple of sections (obviously I had the wrong tyres – nothing to do with my lack of ability you understand). With arguably the most technical section of the ride dealt with, we then blasted down to Ladybower before the first killer climb; a switchback through steep thick mud onto the shoulder of Win Hill again. A quick run down Win Hill took us back to Hope Cross and over the other side to Edale. Here while having our first food stop, we witnessed at least one bloodied face from an ‘over the bars’ crash here. Not very reassuring!

We headed through Edale and then it was time for the next killer climb up Jacob’s Ladder.  Not actually rideable so time to shoulder the bike for a long hike to the top. It was incredibly hard work. At least we had the joy of a descent from Kinder down to Hayfield. Actually it turned out to be another rocky technical descent which seemed to cause every muscle to tense. That was the easy bit done! Time for another food stop and some of Mark’s homemade flapjack and some energy gels before the long slog, uphill, from Hayfield to RushUp Edge. This for me was the most challenging part. An unrelenting climb on mostly technical ground, which had me off and walking in many places.

Then, the sky darkened and the rain came. We reached our final food stop on RushUp Edge and continued to climb up increasingly muddy single track. Just when we thought the end was in sight, marshals directed us back down to the bottom of Mam Tor to climb up again.  By this time, the rain had turned the entire hill into a mud bath.  Carrying the bike and walking was the only option for much of the section and I don’t think I was the only one who reached a mental lowpoint! But, we kept our sense of humour despite the rain and falling over in the mud and before long we were at the top of Mam Tor. It was only at this point that I realised I still only had on my MIA jersey. I was still warm and felt comfortable, and genuinely very impressed.

The final ride back to Hope was fast and we clocked in a time of around 6 1/2 hours. We were greeted with a bottle of beer each, which we drained whilst waiting to wash our bikes down. We were exhausted but satisfied and with a rush of endorphins. It was a great day out, and certainly a real challenge. Worth every moment though to raise much needed funds for Ashgate Hospicecare, our patients and their families. Will I do it again next year? Ask me once the memory of carrying my bike up the mud on Mam Tor has faded!

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It’s not too late to donate. Please visit their fundraising page at: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/AshgateMTB

£1,000 could pay for 13 visits to patients in their home. Giving them the choice of where they are cared for and allowing them to remain with their loved ones when it matters most.

Each week 16 people miss out on specialist hospice care because we don’t have enough Nurses in the community to reach patients in their homes. Donating will help us to reach those people so that they don’t die alone or in pain.