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Cyclothon UK, the 12 hour team endurance cycling race at Brands Hatch attracted a record number of competitors as the event took place on 11th September 2014. 350 cyclists took up the challenge, raising money for their respective charities or testing their stamina and endurance in the sportif classification.

The event also challenges former rugby internationals to test their fitness against rival nations for the coveted Home Nations Challenge Trophy. This year Team Dragons claimed the title for the second year running. With the added engine power of former Welsh full back Rhys Williams, Team Dragons captain Alix Popham lead his squad of Barry Davies, Scott Morgan, Lloyd Burns and Peter Rogers to victory.

Even a youthful Team Bulldogs consisting of Mike Tindall, Lee Mears, Shaun Perry and Catherine Spencer couldn’t out-speed the Dragons and sadly Team Jocks found themselves in third place this year.

Whatever the result, all competitors agree that it’s the team spirit, comradery and the stirring up of old competitive emotions that encourage them to re-unite at events like this. Former England and British & Irish Lions hooker Lee Mears, who retired from professional rugby in 2012, said “most rugby players spend much of their twenties with a constant flow of travel buddies, room-mates, training partners and coaches who become your friends and support network. When you retire from the game, it’s sometimes hard to replace this closeness and you can’t help but miss it. Events like this give you a chance to get together again with boys who’ve all gone through the same; the competitive nature never goes away and those feelings of fight and attack come right back again. It’s fantastic to get the chance to join together as a team again, even if we did lose the Cup to the Welsh.”

Team Dragons winning captain Alix Popham said “It has been another fantastic day out and we’re so happy to retain Cyclothon UK’s Home Nations Challenge Trophy. Team Bulldogs lead by Roger Uttley put up a heroic battle this year with the likes of Mike Tindall, Shaun Perry and Catherine Spencer in their ranks but I’m proud that Team Dragons managed to hold them at bay for yet another year.  We can’t wait to be back next year to defend our title once again and who knows, it could be a lucky omen for the Welsh team at the Rugby World Cup.”

Mike Tindall, competing for the first time on Team Bulldogs said “I’ve had a great day; the course is a lot hillier than I thought it would be which keeps things interesting especially with the King of the Hill competition. It’s not been easy as I’m out of my comfort zone in terms of I don’t get out on my bike often, so my legs are a little bit sore. It’s been great to catch up with some of the boys again and also to meet and chat with so many people especially the charity teams here today. Unfortunately we only just lost to the Welshies but c’est la vie, there’s always next year”

So far, Cyclothon UK has helped raise over £200,000 for various causes. Several amazing charities were supported at this year’s event; Abigail’s Footsteps, J9 Foundation, Newborns Vietnam, Nordoff Robbins, Matt Hampson Foundation and the RFU Injured Players Foundation. So far, these teams raised over £40,000 on the day with more donations coming in. Ian Jenkins from the RFU Injured Players Foundation said “The IPF, England Rugby’s official charity, is really proud to have taken part in this great event for the fourth year in succession. It keeps on growing and those hills seem to somehow keep on getting bigger. We’re now looking forward to further expanding our involvement in 2015 and can’t wait to be back for such a well organised and fun day.”

All of the riders competed hard and had a lot of fun but there has to be a winner! Members of the overall 12 hour team winner, Rose Bikes, won Schwalbe and Scimitar products and tickets for an Autumn Rugby International at Twickenham. Other prizes and goody bags were kindly donated by Elemis. Dairy Crest also kept riders energized with a free flowing supply of their range of tasty FRijj milkshakes.

Riders at the event enjoyed a hearty breakfast, lunch, all day snacks and buffet dinner, as well as complimentary massage from Norwich City College Extreme Sports Therapy Unit and mechanical support from Gary’s Bikes from Bristol throughout the day.

Next year’s event at Brands Hatch is scheduled for Thursday 10th September, just one week ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015. The event will mark its 5th successive year with an even bigger turn out of rugby riders and competitive teams and will be a ‘not to miss’ sportif for any lover of cycling and rugby. Registration opens on October 1st 2014 and early bird pricing runs through until November 30th 2014. To book your team place, email VU Limited on sales@vultd.co.uk or call 0871 871 5300.