Fundraising firemen cycle up more than £30,000 for charity

TWO firefighters from Royton are celebrating after helping to raise more than £30,000 for charities by completing an incredible charity ride from Gibraltar Street in Oldham to Gibraltar.

Mark Canning and Phil Courtnell (Watch Manager) took on the 1,600-mile challenge with Oldham colleagues Chris Dean, Colin Davies, Tony Cuchera, Ian Hall, Chris Hanson, Julian Hodges, and Greg Punchon, as well as four support riders and four in a support vehicle.

The mammoth ride took the ‘Blazing Saddles’ team through England, France and Spain to reach the Rock of Gibraltar in just 15 days.

It challenge was named ‘The 100 Year Ride’ in honour of the close of the Great War and also to note the 100th anniversary of The Fire Brigades Union.

Averaging 115 miles a day, the team tested themselves to the limit, climbing a heart-stopping total of 100,000 feet, crossing the Pyrenees and riding through scorching hinterlands to cross the Sierra Nevada in 45 degrees.

The team paused to pay their respects in Le Havre to members of the ‘Oldham Pals’ movement who lay there.

As they reached their final destination, they were escorted over the border by Gibraltarian Police Outriders, Fire Service and local cyclists.

Airport Fire Service pumps lined up along the runway to pay homage as they rode past to finish in the shadow of the Rock, in Grand Casemates Square.

The Governor of Gibraltar, Lieutenant General Edward Grant Martin Davis, said it was “an extraordinary and fantastic achievement” as he waited with the riders’ families and friends.

The team’s final job was to lay a wreath on the grave of two young Oldham soldiers who are buried in Gibraltar, a very moving moment in the exhausted final hours of their arrival.

They also presented their plaque and a Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service flag which now has pride of place in the local fire station.

Ahead of their ride, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth sent her good wishes to the team, noting she was very pleased to learn of their homage at Le Havre.

Messages of support came in from all over including from Paul Scholes, Matt le Tissier, Connor McIntyre (Corrie’s Pat Phelan), Tony Audenshaw (Emmerdale’s Bob Hope), Darren Gough, Lee Westwood and the son of Oldham, Clint Boon.

Self-funded and riding for The Fire Fighters Charity, MIND, Cyclists Fighting Cancer and SANDS the money they have raised will help make a huge difference.

This was the fourth cycling challenge the Blazing Saddles have undertaken since 2014 when the cyclists visited 41 fire stations and cycled 176 miles in a single day.

If you want to take a look at just how tough every day was, head to Twitter @The100YearRide.
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