Wounded soldiers yesterday launched one of Help for Heroes' biggest fundraising adventures to date, with a beefed up mass cycle ride taking place later this year.
Two different teams will leave Tedworth House in Wiltshire as part of the national Hero Ride event, which is inviting any budding cyclist and fundraiser to arrange their own sponsored cycle ride in aid of the Help for Heroes cause.
The event, in the first week of June, is aiming to get thousands of people across the country on to two wheels, with the wounded heroes from the Wiltshire rehabilitation home leading the way.
Some 2,000 will take part in the official rides, which have grown out of a Battlefield Bike challenge that began some years ago in the early days of the Salisbury-based veterans' charity.
That will still take place over eight days in northern France and Belgium, but will be joined by a bigger effort in this country which will see wounded service personnel lead different rides all gathering in London on June 8.
Wounded paratrooper James Tattingham is among a team called "Dawn Raid Sportive" team who will leave the Tedworth House Recovery Centre and aim to get to the mass meet up in London in just one day, catching up with a team called "Puffing Peddlars", who will do the same route over two days.
"Having been a resident at the Help for Heroes-run Recovery Centre, Tedworth House, I have benefitted firsthand from the amazing donations from the great British public," he said. "After finishing Hero Ride 2013, it was very clear that I wanted to take part in this years' ride. Having had some tough times last year, the training for the rides has given me something to focus on and allows me to enjoy my time spent outside. I urge you to jump on a bike and sign up to Hero Ride 2014; I can't thank Help for Heroes enough," he added.
British Tour de France cyclist Mark Cavendish is a patron of Help for Heroes, and said as many people as possible should get involved, either in the official rides, or arranging their own.
"The Hero Ride is an amazing opportunity to cycle alongside our wounded men and women, and to hear their inspirational stories," he said.
"I've seen how Help for Heroes supports them and their families, and in 2014 that support is going to be more important than ever. I'd urge anyone who has ever thought about doing something life-changing or challenging to do their bit and sign-up to the Hero Ride 2014. I hope to join the ride myself, and my wife Peta will be taking part in her third Hero Ride." he added.
Last year the first Hero Ride event raised £1.1 million, with 1,300 people taking part.
"Hero Ride 2014 is going to be even bigger and better. Their target is to beat last year's total by getting 2000 cyclists to help raise £1.5 million and show our young men and women that the Great British Public are here to support them for life," said a Help for Heroes spokesman.
"There will also be new Hero Rides for 2014, coming in from Edinburgh, Manchester and Cardiff. Each ride will have its own special feel and present a unique challenge, but they will all join together at Blackheath Common. Participants also have the chance to organise their own Hero Ride from wherever they choose,"she added.