Ex-national player forms team to cycle America in youngster’s memory

from left, James Fuller, Dave Shephard, Jeffrey Thomas, Martyn Grant and John Hall

Antonia Thomas

First published in News

Former England and Bath rugby star John Hall is hoping his competitive spirit serves him well this summer when he leads a team of Corsham cyclists on a gruelling race across America.

Along with fellow Corsham residents Martyn Grant, Dave Shephard and Neston Park proprietor Sir James Fuller, he will attempt the non-stop 3,000-mile race to raise money for Asthma UK, in memory of schoolgirl Antonia Thomas.

The 10-year-old died in 2009 after an asthma attack, which inspired 29 local cyclists to raise £50,000 with a 174-mile trek to Crickhowell in Wales and back.

Mr Hall said: “There is a huge amount of support in the town.

“It rocked the community when Antonia died, but we want to keep it going and see if we can do something to raise more money.

“We have been doing an enormous amount of training, about 15 hours on the bike a week and two or three hours in the gym, but we are getting pretty fit and I have lost lots of weight.

“I am a bit of a competitive beast and I wanted to do something that not just meant me going out on my bike, so we put a whole team together.”

The team, the London Pride Spinhalers, will complete the race as a relay, cycling day and night through inhospitable terrain and over 170,000 feet of vertical climbing.

There will be a 13-strong support crew following the team from Oceanside in California to the east coast seven days later, including Antonia’s father Jeff Thomas.

He said: “It’s hard enough just driving across America – what these guys are doing is inspiring and will help asthma sufferers nationwide.”

A fundraising gala to support the race will take place at Hartham Park on May 22, with a champagne reception and a prize auction. Guests will include former England rugby winger David Trick, former England second row turned Crimewatch presenter Martin Bayfield and auctioneer Jonny Gould.

To offer an auction prize or for tickets, email dbetteridge@harthampark.com For more on the team see http://spinhalers.co.uk/the-team

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