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A blazing success

A cycle ride might sound like a typical way to raise money for charity, but for one group of firefighters and friends that was simply not enough.

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Julian Hodges of SBSUK was one of 13 cyclists who were pushed to the limit by the ‘Blazing Saddles’ ride

The annual ‘Blazing Saddles’ cycle this year challenged its participants to ride almost 1,700 miles from Oldham to the Rock of Gibraltar over 15 days in July.

A staggering £32,000 was raised by the team of 13, adding to the £60,000 total raised from previous years. Averaging 115 miles a day and climbing a massive 100,000 feet in the height of summer, the challenge was no easy feat for those involved.

Julian Hodges, project manager at Sharp Business Systems UK, who produce computer screens for the sign and printing industries, was one of the cyclists participating in this gruelling ride, which aimed to raise money for Cyclists Fighting Cancer, the Fire Fighter Charity, mental health organisation Mind, and the neonatal charity Sands. Sharp acquired printing outfit Midshire last year.

He comments: “The whole thing was hard, but the biggest trial for me was getting across the Sierra Nevada in Spain. We clocked the heat at over 42 degrees one day, it was like a desert, I think a couple of the guys were on the verge of collapsing!”

The route began at Oldham in Greater Manchester then on to Portsmouth, through the French countryside, over the Pyrenees, across the hinterlands of Spain, finally arriving in Gibraltar where the group were greeted by the governor and fire service.

Averaging 115 miles a day and climbing a massive 100,000 feet in the height of summer, the challenge was no easy feat for those involved

Hodges adds: “For me, getting up and through the Pyrenees was amazing, with 16 mile climbs it felt like I was part of the Tour de France! The route had some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. There were stunning sunflower fields in France, central Spain was like the wild west, and the Pyrenees was full of breath-taking rocky gorges, a true once in a lifetime trip.”

This year’s challenge was especially named ‘the 100 Year Ride’, marking the end of WW1 and 100 years of the Fire Brigades Union. Members of the group commemorated the occasion and made stops at the graves of those from the ‘Oldham Pals’ Battalion, who now rest in the port town of La Havre in France.

Sarah Coates, HR manager at Sharp UK says: “At Sharp we have always been advocates of initiatives like this that support local and national communities. I’m so proud of Julian for really embracing that ethos and putting his all into this cycle. He’s raised a phenomenal amount of money for charity and should be delighted with his performance!”

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