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On Sunday 19 September Karl will be riding the 70km route in the 2021 MKFM Tour de Vale. This will be the first time Karl has taken part in the annual charity cycling event and he is very much looking forward to taking on the challenge in support of WheelPower.
Recently we met up with Karl to find out more about his story and his motivations to sign up for this year’s event …
Karl lives in a small Buckinghamshire village called Steeple Claydon with his family and works for Buckinghamshire Council. Like many other people, the Covid-19 pandemic meant additional time spent at home and the importance of being active took on extra significance for both our physical and mental wellbeing. Karl decided during this time that he was going to start cycling, he then purchased a road bike and set himself a charity challenge.
“Three months ago I bought myself a second hand bike to provide me with the means to exercise from our home in Steeple Claydon. I used to ride a lot when I was younger and already had a leisure bike, but I wanted to take the next step into cycling. I now have a Giant Defy 1 road bike which cost £275.00, it has been reliable and enjoyable to ride. Over the last 3 months I have built up my training and I now ride about 3 times a week, every other day if I can. I tend to ride a 10/15 mile route around the Claydons and vary it each time if possible. The furthest I’ve done so far is 32 miles, and I have been up the hill to Brill twice which was really satisfying!”
“The first time I went out I did 10 miles and loved it. I’m really enjoying the satisfaction and it's been great for both my physical and mental health to jump on my bike in the evening or at the weekend and ride around the Buckinghamshire countryside. I would like to ride with a local club and I am aware of a great one in the Claydon’s, but the timings of their rides don’t quite work for me right now. I think riding with others would be great, but I’d worry about keeping up at first!”
As his confidence and enjoyment of cycling grew Karl was looking for a challenge to take part in and saw a post on social media that brought his attention to the 2021 MKFM Tour de Vale. He signed up straight away, set up a Just Giving page, and continues to ride as much as he can in readiness for the event.
“I signed up to the 2021 Tour de Vale because I thought it would be a good challenge for me, but also because of my awareness of the fantastic work of WheelPower through my 13 year old step son Joshua, who is a wheelchair user himself.”
Karl continues, “As Joshua reached the age of 6 he started to lose his balance and was falling over more often. He had lots of tests done at this time and was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia which affects his nervous system. It is a degenerative condition and he is gradually losing the ability to walk. He uses his wheelchair virtually all the time now and is struggling more and more each day. In addition Joshua also has autism which affects his communication and anxiety levels.”
Joshua is passionate about sport, whether it be watching it on TV, playing it on his PlayStation, or taking part with local clubs or at school. Before lockdown Joshua attended training sessions with the Aces Wheelchair Basketball Club at Stoke Mandeville Stadium. Caroline ( Junior Team Manager) continues, "Joshua became involved in Aces Junior Mini's Wheelchair Basketball team in 2019. He is a very determined boy who was always keen to listen and learn and work hard to improve his basketball skills and enjoyed taking part in a team game. He showed real potential in the sport and we hope to see him back at Stoke Mandeville Stadium in the future."
"He loved playing basketball but struggled to keep it up due to the energy levels needed to take part. Joshua’s condition affects his heart and that in turn means that he gets tired very easily. Unfortunately these weekly sessions also took place on Friday evening which, after a long week at school, was difficult. Being at the stadium was really inspiring though and watching the speed of the seniors playing was amazing to see.”As well as basketball Joshua had also played Boccia, tried Sports For All and went on a sailing day through Bucks Learning Trust.
Like so many other disabled people lockdowns have meant that Joshua has not been able to attend any local clubs over the past 15 months, but he has enjoyed getting back at school with his classmates and teachers. Karl continues, “Joshua is now back at school where he receives physio every day and takes part in regular sports sessions with his friends. He loves to play football at school and is a natural leader on the pitch. The school has been a great experience for him and when playing sports the children are all able to find strengths in each other and show real teamwork.”
“When at home we will go out as a family around the village and Joshua now has an electric scooter which provides him with extra freedom, but it has been hard to motivate him to stay active as his condition has progressed. Household tasks like cutting the grass was something we could do together, but much to Joshua’s frustration he can no longer push the lawnmower as he used to.”
“Because of the coordination and fitness required to take part in competitive sport Joshua asked me recently if disabled people are able to be coaches and managers. It would be good to find out about more opportunities for Joshua to engage in sport in any way possible in the future and we look forward to returning to Stoke Mandeville Stadium soon.”
Karl is now two months away from taking on the Tour de Vale course and hopes to raise as much money for the charity as possible. “I signed up to the 2021 Tour de Vale because I felt I needed the target to keep me going and help me to stay motivated. Over the coming months I will be trying to prepare myself for the distance so I don’t have to push myself too much on the day, and struggle too much up those hills!”
“I am completing this challenge to support and fundraise for WheelPower because they do amazing work in supporting so many individuals in my son’s position by helping them achieve their goals. If me sharing my own story can encourage more people to sign up, get out and enjoy cycling then that’s great. I hope the money I raise makes a big difference and look forward to joining WheelPower and the other riders at Stoke Mandeville Stadium this September for my first ever Tour de Vale.”
Visit www.tourdevale.com (or click on the image above) to find out how you to can sign up for this year's event on Sunday 19 September
Karl will be taking on the 70km route at the 2021 Tour de Vale and would be grateful for any donations towards his online fundraiser in support of the charity:
Find out more about Ataxia by visiting Ataxia UK:
"Ataxia disrupts the communication between the cerebellum and our muscles. It disrupts someone’s ability to control their body, to communicate, and to have agency over their lives. We are Ataxia UK. We disrupt that disruption. We fund medical research into finding a cure for the condition, and until we do, support anyone affected by ataxia."
Find out more about the Aces Wheelchair Basketball team:
Founded in 1984, Aces Wheelchair Basketball Club train and play at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, Birthplace of the Paralympic Movement. The Aces cater for all ages and abilities through specifically tailored club training sessions and games via British Wheelchair Basketball’s Junior League and National League competitions.