Two military veterans who have overcome life-changing injuries on the frontline are gearing up for an epic challenge in support of a Coventry and Warwickshire company’s fundraising for soldiers in need.
Jaco van Gass and Stuart Croxford are aiming to become the first team of riders with a disability to complete one of the world’s toughest mountain bike stage races.
Cape Epic, which takes place in South Africa, has been described as the ‘Tour de France of mountain biking’ and this year’s route is a gruelling 624km over eight days, which gets underway on March 17.
The Wigley Group, whose ambassador is Jaco, is sponsoring the duo who will be raising money for the Wigley Support Fund, its initiative with Support Our Paras to help soldiers in need make the transition from military to civilian life.
Jaco and Stuart both suffered severe injuries whilst serving in Afghanistan and their Cape Epic team name of KT18, the postcode for Headley Court, is an acknowledgement of the help they received from the military rehabilitation centre in rebuilding their lives.
Jaco was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in 2009 which resulted in the loss of his left arm at the elbow, and Stuart suffered severe injuries to his feet when his vehicle hit a mine in 2012. His right leg was amputated below the knee two years later.
Both turned to sport as part of their recovery. Jaco became a champion para-cyclist and adventurer, and Stuart has taken on endurance events such as Ironman but neither are experienced mountain bikers.
Jaco said: “Cape Epic represents one of the biggest challenges we have ever faced. We both have the strength and endurance but it is the skill and terrain where we will be really tested, and being pushed physically and mentally to limits we have not experienced before.
“Being able to help others by raising money for the Wigley Support Fund through this challenge, and hopefully inspiring them with what they want to achieve, is hugely rewarding for both of us.”
Stuart said: “Training is going well. There’s a mixture of excitement and nerves but with what we have both gone through, we understand and know each other and will encourage and drag each other through the hard times.”
An online fundraising page has now been launched for supporters to make donations to Team KT18, which will add to the £100,000 raised by The Wigley Group for Support Our Paras over the last six years.
Robert Wigley, chairman of The Wigley Group, said: “We are proud to be supporting Jaco and Stuart in this truly epic challenge. They are an inspiration to us all and particularly to those service personnel who need help for whatever reason in rebuilding their lives.
“The Wigley Support Fund is focused on helping injured, serving and veteran soldiers make what can be a very difficult transition to civilian life by equipping them with the skills they need to make a new start.”
Donations to Team KT18 for the Wigley Support Fund can be made at: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/wsfepic