Twenty cyclists, including Olympians Stephan Eberharter and David Kreiner, pedaled their way onto London’s Tower Bridge last Thursday in the last leg of a 1,300km bike ride from Innsbruck to London that has raised £15,634.
As the cyclists rolled past the Olympic rings and into Austria House Tirol, Trinity House – Austria’s base for the London 2012 Olympics – they were greeted by cheering crowds waving Tirolean flags. The Tiroler Schützen (Tirolean Rifle Guards) celebrated the end of the ride with a gunshot salute; a traditional Tirolean band played and on Friday the ride even got a mention in the Olympic opening ceremony.
The eight-day event, which began in Innsbruck at the bridge over the River Inn, crossed Austria, Germany and Belgium before arriving by ferry at Ramsgate for the last 120km leg to London. Along the route the Tirol Cycle Team was joined by cycling legends, including Rudi Altig in Germany and Eddie Merckx in Belgium.
Innsbruck is the only other city to have hosted the Olympic Games three times and earlier this year hosted the Youth Olympics. The team of 20 included Wolfgang Steinmayr (Austrian cycling legend and, at the age of 68, the oldest participant in the team), Marcus Degen (Editor-in-Chief, Pro Cycling Germany) and Hannes Geschwenter representing the Tirol Government.
After en eventful start to the UK stage of the ride – the ferry from Ostend to Ramsgate was temporarily stranded in The Channel - the group rode the 120 km up the A2 (yes, really) and into London in four and a half hours. After entering London through Greenwich, the venue for the Olympic Equestrian events, taking on the rush hour traffic, stopping off at City Hall for a photo shoot and waiting for Tower Bridge’s drawbridge to be raised, the group reached their final destination and were given a celebrity welcome.
Disability Snow Sports UK is a charity that works in the UK and abroad to help anyone with a disability ski or snowboard. David Morris, a consultant paediatrician and keen skier, started the charity in the early 1970s. Morris believed that skiing was hugely beneficial to young people with physical disabilities. He once said, 'Why shouldn’t you have a wheelchair on the top of a mountain?' and this mantra remains at the heart of the charity’s work today.
‘It means so much to the charity to have such strong backing from Tirol and top sport personalities, who have really embraced what we are trying to achieve,’ said Fiona Young, CEO of Disability Snowsport UK. ‘DSUK provide access to snowsports from grassroots right up to the elite and Paralympic team and is superb to gain recognition in what we do.’
The money raised will go towards training more adaptive ski instructors, equipment, increase the number of overseas trips and expand ski schools in indoor snow centres. The Tirol Tourist Board has a website dedicated to advice and information on resorts for travelers with disabilities. Without Barriers only features information that has been quality checked by a panel of mobility-impaired outdoor experts. The site lists suitable accommodation, ski areas, activities including hiking and hand-bike routes in summer or adaptive cross-country ski trails in winter.
Donations to the charity can still be made at www.justgiving.com/tirol2london2012