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637 Days To Go is my blog, which was originally started with exactly 637 days until the start of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. And now it's been re-started with 637 days until the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.



Thursday, 27 June 2013

Riding up mountains to Challenge Prejudice and Reduce Hatred.

At the end of last year I received a message on Twitter wishing me a happy birthday from the folks at Cosaveli with a request to get in touch to discuss a project. Always keen to explore new avenues, I gave them a call to see what was up. and my next big adventure began...

Cosaveli (www.cosaveli.com) are an Events company dedicated to creating extraordinary cycling experiences and raising massive amounts of money for charity. As a keen cyclist (obviously), the chance to participate in one of their events was a no-brainer, especially as their philosophy fit in perfectly with one of my stated aims for 2013: to help out with some charitable endeavours. I may come to regret the choice of event... but I suspect it will be a life-changing experience that I will remember for many years to come.

In July of this year I will be participating in the Trois √Čtapes (http://www.troisetapes.org). The Trois Etapes is the ultimate competitive Pro-Am cycling experience. The event is designed to give riders the chance to experience team cycling under race conditions, with the full support that a pro would have in a Grand Tour. The event is designed to incentivise tactical team riding. Each team of 8 riders (7 amateurs and 1 pro) has its own team car and Directeur Sportif. Every rider has a radio link with their team car and the Race Director.

The 2013 edition of the Trois Etapes will see 15 teams compete over four days (26-29 July) over a flat Prologue and three mountain stages whilst raising crucial funds for charities worldwide. And I... am the 'Pro' rider that is leading the team for The Anne Frank Trust (more to come on them shortly).

On the surface, it would seem like a poor choice of event for me. I mean... I can't climb, so why try and lead a team up riders up the Alps? Well, because I want to prove that I CAN climb. And that a guy with one leg is just as capable as riding as anyone else! The fact that the first day features a Prologue time trial in no way influenced my decision to come and show off my skills. (OK, it did. A lot actually!).

The event takes place about a month before my World Championships (coincidentally on an extremely hilly course in Canada) so I'll be using this event to try and hone my climbing skills. But it will be an honour and a privilege to help my team of riders up the climbs. Many of them are novice cyclists who will genuinely benefit from my experience and encouragement. (I'm hoping that there will be at least a few really good riders also that can head up the road to set a good time for our team!). The event is being film for Eurosport and Channel 4 also, so a great opportunity to get a little TV time.

So, that's the background on the event... but how about the more important aspect: the charity I'm riding for! When they asked me to lead the team for the Anne Frank Trust and I found out about their values, I knew it was a perfect fit. So who are the Anne Frank Trust?

The Anne Frank Trust (http://www.annefrank.org.uk) is named after Anne Frank, made famous by her diary, detailing her life during the time she hid from the Nazis in hidden rooms in her house in Amsterdam during the German occupation of the Netherlands. The stated aims of the Trust are "To challenge prejudice and reduce hatred by drawing on the power of Anne Frank's life and diary. To use that power to encourage people to embrace positive attitudes, personal responsibility, and respect for others."

After Anne's death in 1945, her father found and published her diary in order to help challenge the hatred that had killed his daughters.  With Anne's life and inspirational message as their anchor, the Anne Frank Trust works in schools, prisons and communities, educating people about the damage caused by all forms of prejudice and discrimination, and empowering each individual to take a stand against it.

Just a few hard facts I'd like to share...

HATE CRIME
A hate crime is an offence motivated by hostility based on disability, race, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation.
• 11 out of every 1,000 crimes is a hate crime (Home Office 2012)
• 43,748 hate crimes were recorded in 2011-12 (Home Office 2012) 


PREJUDICE
• 64% of Britons feel less positive towards at least one minority group (Stonewall 2012) 
• 90% of teachers say their pupils have experienced homophobic bullying (Stonewall 2012) 
• 47% of Britons see Muslims as a threat (ESRC/ISER) 
• 8% increase in race crime in Scotland reported in 2011-12 (BBC News 2012)
• 29% rise in religiously motivated crime in Scotland reported in 2011-12 (BBC News 2012)
• 586 anti-Semitic incidents were logged by the Community Security Trust in 2011(Brin 2012)


As an athlete and person living with a disability, I'm no stranger to mild forms of prejudice. There are people out there that look down on me and my accomplishments and treat the Paralympic movement as some sort of pity exercise. I often find myself striving to try and change perceptions and overcome people's ideas of what is possible for people who are less-abled. My problems are minor in comparison to the hate and discrimination that many others face though. If my riding up giant mountains in France can somehow help lesson the burden that these people face, then it is my privilege to help out.

The event itself will no doubt push me to my limits. I'll be going up against other current and former Pro riders such as Tour winner Carlos Sastre, Songezo Jim, Evie Stevens, Jason White, Thorsten Wilheims, Craig Lewis, Adreas Klier, Daniel Lloyd, Mark Beaumont and Annie Simpson. Some teams and riders will be looking to win whilst others just to finish. After seeing some of the course profiles... I might just be happy to finish!