As England Fall Short: Road To Rio Heroes Cycle 6,000 Miles

16 June 2014

ASF Nighttime 6000 Mile 24 Hours Challenge

On the same day that England began their World Cup campaign over in Brazil, charity fundraiser Keith Harbottle led a team of twenty volunteers raising money in support of the Alan Shearer Foundation.

Under his fundraising banner of Action4Smiles, the 20 strong squad of Northumbria police officers and support staff were attempting to pedal the 6,000 mile distance from Newcastle to Rio in only 24 hours, on static bikes at the MetroCentre, Gateshead.

At 1pm on Saturday the epic challenge began, with BBC Look North’s Jeff Brown kindly doing the honours as he set the cyclists off with a hearty blow of his vuvuzela, a throwback to the last World Cup in South Africa.

A large crowd of supporters and curious MetroCentre shoppers had gathered, giving the twenty intrepid volunteers the perfect send off.

The hard work began for both the cyclists and the supporting cast of volunteers, which included those with collecting buckets and selling raffle tickets, all proceeds of which would go to help fund the provision of free access to activities for the disabled children and adults who use the Alan Shearer Centre.

The minutes and miles began to tick over and five hours into the challenge, the team had averaged almost 400 miles per hour between them, well ahead of schedule.

As they cycled throughout Saturday night and the early hours of Sunday with a minimum of breaks, the pace understandably suffered.

Personal Trainer (Pit Crew) and volunteer Ben Cook commenting;

“The point where each person starts running out of energy is the real test, then it is a case of mind over matter.”

Teamwork and mutual support helped keep the wheels turning to a backdrop of a deserted MetroCentre and just a few minutes short of 9am on Sunday, the 6,000 mile target was reached.

As the target was achieved Keith Harbottle proudly reflected;

“This was without doubt the most rigorous challenge I have ever taken on. I still can’t believe that I got twenty people who aren’t paid athletes to take part.”

The police service volunteers weren’t finished there though and as the MetroCentre once again opened its door to the public, stunned early morning shoppers watched as the Road To Rio squad kept their tired legs pedalling towards the 1pm Sunday finishing line.

When the 24 hours were up, the Action4Smiles fundraisers had covered 6,808 miles between them and in the process raised thousands of pounds for the Foundation. Each and every one of them had played their part, although it is impossible not to mention that Natalie Robson covered an astonishing 500 miles alone.

The man who had set Keith and his team on their way earlier, Jeff Brown, was full of praise;

“The Alan Shearer Foundation is a great charity and I’m a keen cyclist myself. However, completing 6808 miles in only 24 hours is an unbelievable achievement for the twenty volunteers.

“Full marks to Keith and the Action4Smiles team for their commitment and endurance, I hope they’re not too sore!”

After passing the finishing line, the volunteer cyclists aptly summed up why such a great cause as the Alan Shearer Foundation was worth going the extra mile for.

Steve Carey said:

“My ten year old son actually uses the Alan Shearer Centre, he absolutely loves the ball pool and sensory rooms. It is a nice safe place where he can feel comfortable, something that is essential for a child with his needs.”

While Michael Otterson added;

“I have two kids who haven’t got disabilities, so I really appreciate what I’ve got and wanted to give something back.”

Glen Page’s route into the fundraising team was slightly different:

“I’m a work colleague and friend of Keith’s, after a few drinks he signed me up and the next morning the reality hit home of what I’d agreed to do, but my word is my bond.”

Scott Finlayson had a special mention for the MetroCentre crowd:

“We never thought it would be such a big event, the camaraderie and teamwork has helped to pull us through and the support of the public has been fantastic.”


To read about how the team of 20 intrepid volunteer cyclists prepared for the 6,000 mile 24 hour challenge, read Keith’s blog on the Alan Shearer Foundation website and donate via his BTMyDonatePage