Written by Helen Hyland, Fundraising Manager, ME Association.
IF ALL GOES TO PLAN…..
….is how Mary Corbett starts all her blogs about her adventures as a Tandem Tart cyclist for M.E.
Last weekend, the plan fell beautifully into place and Mary realised an ambition of a lifetime – to cycle with one of the most famous and respected international road racing cyclists of his generation.
Jens Voigt is a legend in his own lifetime. A former German professional road racer who can claim to wearing the Tour de France yellow jersey twice and winning the Critérium International a record-tying 5 times.
As a rider, he was always hugely popular with cycling fans, both for his aggressive riding style and his affable, forthright and articulate manners in dealing with the public and media.
He was over in UK this weekend to take part in the Shut Up Legs charity ride and kindly promised to partner Mary in what was, for him, a career first, racing tandem.
Before M.E., Mary was a keen, competitive, and committed cyclist. She has since learned to balance her life and accommodate her illness, which means that the 12 hour time trials of old must remain, for now, a distant memory. … (but that doesn’t stop her dreaming!).
Living with M.E. was one thing, but abandoning cycling was out of the question. She missed it all too much. So a year and a bit ago, she came up with the notion of the Tandem Tart, encouraging friends from the cycling world to join her in races by tandem. Cycling together and helping take the strain, so to speak.
Most of Mary’s partners have been male, since the majority of tandems sourced have not been suitable for two ladies. But thanks to the recent and most generous donation of ‘Tabitha Tart Tandem’ (by friends Clive Peskett and Jacky Prosser), Mary is hoping to extend her ‘tarting’ to female crew too in the future. But they’ll have to wait their turn as Mary presently has a list of over 30 cyclists seeking to join her over the next year or so.
Mary’s stories about her adventures and escapades typically mention a wide array of donkeys, ponies and cows that populate (and regularly try to block!) the quieter roads of the New Forest, but she vividly brings the rides alive by describing perhaps a blanket of heather, fields of lavender, rolling landscapes and stunning views across to the Isle of Wight, the salty smell of the sea, the sound of buzzards overhead.
Each one ends with a wonderful sense of achievement – that she’s not only able to conquer these rides, but also raise vital funds for medical research into this cruel illness too.
“Small steps, small goals and never give up hope…”
Jens Voigt was partner 28. The race itself appears to have gone smoothly. Not a fast race, partly because of the road conditions, and partly because tandem riding is not something that Mr Voigt is expert at. Thankfully they only met one pony and that was safely circumnavigated.
Mary clearly cherished every moment of this race, and the cheers that they received all along their route are something that I think she will remember for the rest of her life. Apparently as they reached the peak of the final hill, he asked if the end was near.
Although Mary replied: “Nearly”, she admits that in the back of her mind, she wanted to tell him that the finish was another 100 miles away. She wanted to kidnap this special man and make him ride with her forever!
The ME Association would like to thank everyone who is supporting Mary in her tandem tart challenge. This weekend was actually a double celebration as, thanks to her generous friends and supporters, and in particular the former West London Cycling Association, Mary is now over half way towards her target of £12,000 fundraising for research into M.E. Thanks to, to Mary for being such an amazing cycling ambassador for M.E.
I’ll leave the final words to Mary:
“If I could turn the clock back four years and have good health again I would do so in an instant. But good and positive things have resulted from something bad and I have my friends and many other people to thank for that.“
“If you enjoyed sharing my wonderful day please consider adding a pound or two to my justgiving page. All donations will go to the ME Association's Ramsay Research Fund and will be used for research purposes only.“
“I am living with M.E., please help us find a cure. Thank you.”
You can also follow Mary's challenge and view her wonderful pictures over on her Facebook page.