Liz Slade was so looking forward to taking part in this year’s FORCE Nello cycle ride that even a dislocated collar bone couldn’t stop her.
The legal secretary from Seaton was all set for her first Nello 100 when initially Coronavirus and then a painful accident scuppered her plans.
But she was so determined to make her Nello debut in 2020 that she completed the 25-mile Furloughed Flyer specially introduced this year – on a turbo trainer and wearing a sling.
Liz was on a training ride with husband Jeremy in April when she hit a pothole going downhill at 20 miles per hour.
She flew over the handlebars, landed heavily and suffered a serious dislocation of her clavicle that required surgery to insert a special screw that pins the bone into place.
“I almost overtook my husband as I flew through the air and split my cycle helmet in half when I landed on the tarmac,” she recalls.
In any normal year, Liz’s Nello dreams would have been over but this year is anything but normal.
FORCE has had to go virtual with its biggest single annual fundraiser – mass participation events are a victim of COVID-19 lockdown guidelines.
Cyclists taking part in the 2020 challenge are riding independently over the traditional 100 and 55-mile distances or the specially designed Furloughed Flyer.
When Liz heard that FORCE was encouraging supporters to take part in any way they could, even on an exercise bike, she was in!
“I like to have a goal and it gave me something to aim for,” she said. “I was absolutely determined the injury wasn’t going to stop me.”
She used the training app Zwift, an online cycling programme that enables users to ride in a virtual world, for extra motivation on her Nello day and smashed the 25-mile distance in 75 minutes.
“It was like being out on the road with other cyclists in a big event. Nothing was going to stop me. It was a personal challenge,” said mum-of-two Liz.
Bitten by the Nello bug, she and Jeremy plan to line up for the Nello 100-mile challenge next year.
He has ridden the full distance event before and is doing the virtual 55-mile for 2020.
Jeremy, a self-employed service delivery manager, “absolutely loved” his first Nello experience and was keen to share the buzz with his wife.
They were particularly looking forward to riding together on her first major long-distance event after Jeremy’s recovery from bowel cancer, a disease that claimed the life of Liz’s beloved grandmother.
He was diagnosed just six weeks after being made redundant. Chemotherapy and five weeks of radiotherapy saw him get the all-clear but the couple won’t forget the kindness shown by FORCE volunteers running the snack bar at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital’s Oncology Centre during their regular visits for treatment.
“They were so lovely and always made us feel welcome whenever we stopped for a cup of tea or coffee and a slice of fruit cake after Jeremy’s treatment. It used to make him sleepy and he needed a lift from something sweet,” said Liz.
She and Jeremy are keen to support NHS and cancer charities and are encouraging others to get on their bikes and sign up for the FORCE Virtual Nello.
“It’s all about you and your ability. If you are pushing yourself to achieve something you didn’t think you could, you are winning,” said Liz.
To sign up for the 2020 Virtual Nello, go to forcecancercharity.co.uk/events-calendar/the-nello/