An injured military veteran from South Tyneside is gearing up to tackle a gruelling six-day cycle ride across South Africa.
Stuart Redmond, from Hebburn, was medically discharged from the army after being blinded in his right eye by a workshop accident.
Along with three other veterans and a team from one of military charity Help for Heroes biggest supporters, PWS – a Newton Aycliffe-based distributor of kitchen components – Stuart will cycle a 320-mile route across the Western Cape, that incorporates 22,000ft of punishing climbs. They will set off from Fanschhoek on April 25 and arrive in Knysna on April 30.
Stuart is now training hard for the venture, which aims to raise of £250,000.
This will be donated to Phoenix House – Help for Heroes’ recovery centre in Catterick – which supports Stuart and hundreds more wounded, injured and sick servicemen, women, veterans and their families.
The 36-year-old said: “The route includes different types of climbs to those I train on in the North East.
“Here they tend to be steep but short, over there they continue going upwards for a long way so they will be interesting – I can’t wait.
“Cycling is my saviour, my passion, and to be given the opportunity to cycle in South Africa is a dream come true and one for which I am incredibly grateful.”
The ride, known as Blood, Sweat and Gears, not only represents a significant physical challenge to the participants (including those riding recumbent bikes due to their injuries) but, importantly, provides the veterans with a focus – something that Stuart very much appreciates.
After 13 years serving with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, during which he served in Kosovo, Iraq and Kuwait, he struggled to come to terms with the end of the career.
The turning point was in 2014 when Stuart first signed up for a Pathfinder course – a three-stage programme to help veterans realise their career goals.
Cycling played a major role in his recovery as he’d get up at 5am for a bike ride before the course started, and then go out cycling again in the evening.
He has since joined South Shields Velo Cycle Club, where he not only joins fellow members on long-distance rides but, with his engineering background, is always on hand to do roadside repairs.
To sponsor Stuart, visit www.justgiving.com/BloodSweatandGears2016.