A MAN who had major surgery on his spine less than 12 months ago has completed a 260-mile cycle ride to Paris.
David Walker, 42, of Harpsden Road, Henley, needed two artificial discs to be inserted and spent three days in hospital and then months having physiotherapy.
The operation last July meant he had to give up his favourite sport of rowing but he still wanted to keep fit, so he agreed to join the cycle ride with 25 friends and work colleagues.
The cyclists, who were raising money for Cancer Research, took less than three days to complete the ride from the offices of Peter Brett Associates, a firm of infrastructure consultants in Reading, riding up to 75 miles a day.
Mr Walker said: “All of us made it to the finish line, which was great. We did it over three days and the weather was great the whole time. We finished under the Eiffel Tower and cracked open champagne to celebrate.”
The group, which included Mr Walker’s friend and training partner Nick French, 42, of Niagara Road, Henley, rode to Portsmouth on the first day before catching an overnight ferry to Caen.
They then cycled for 12 hours to Evreux in northern France before completing the final leg of the journey. Mr Walker said: “There was real camaraderie throughout the trip. When we got to the finish line everyone got a big hug. Because of my back problems I had been quite nervous so it was quite emotional to achieve what I did.
“I had agonising back pain during parts of the ride because the muscles are still getting stronger. I struggled during the long hill climbs and trying to cycle fast to keep up. It was a case of remembering to get off the bike regularly to stretch and having the sense not to push it too much.The support all the riders gave to each other was brilliant. Whenever I had a down moment there was someone else in a better place to keep me going. We all looked out for each other.”
Mr Walker was loaned a carbon fibre bike for the challenge by Rob Griffiths, of cycle shop Athlete Service in Henley Enterprise Park. “The bike was fantastic,” said Mr Walker. “It performed really well the whole way apart from a couple of punctures.”
The cyclists raised more than £4,000, including a £50 donation from Nigel Rainbow, landlord of the Three Horseshoes pub in Reading Road, Henley, Mr Walker’s local.
“We had so many donations from friends and businesses,” said Mr Walker. “It was really satisfying to raise that amount of money and it puts my back problems in perspective because there are people suffering with diseases like cancer who are going through a huge battle every day of their lives.
“Whenever I had a bad moment on the ride I kept myself going by thinking about them.”
Mr Walker needed a double discectomy after the discs in his lower back collapsed and put pressure on his spinal cord.
He said: “I had eight weeks of recovery when I couldn’t drive or walk without crutches. Since then I’ve had regular physio to build up the muscles.
“I spent a while looking for something to replace rowing but I’m not a big runner and I find the gym can be a bit boring sometimes.
“Cycling was always on my agenda but without a goal to aim for it was quite difficult to motivate and discipline myself to go out on my own.
“This challenge allowed me to go on long rides with other people and hopefully it will spur me on to continue cycling. There is already talk of another ride with work, this time to Amsterdam.”
To make a donation, visit www.justgiving.com/team-pba-cycle-to-paris