A VETERAN is saddling up for a cycling challenge to give homeless ex-military "hope" and the support they need by raising funds for a Salisbury-based charity.

Lee Bradley, who lives in Rockbourne near Fordingbridge, is part of a group of 12 amateur cyclists taking part in Alabaré's Race to the Sun event.

The sponsored challenge is to raise funds to help veterans who have struggled and faced being homeless since leaving the armed forces.

The 59-year-old, who served in the 1st Battalion The Queens Regiment and left the army after 13 years as a platoon sergeant, said: "For me this is a fantastic cause because it will give them hope and the chance to live in some accommodation, a flat or whatever it may be, and have the love and support around them.

"I didn't even have to think twice because it was something that is close to my heart."

The five-day challenge starts on Monday, May 16, and will see participants complete a 487 kilometre circular ride across Gibraltar and Andalucia, in Southern Spain.

The riders will have to face ascents totalling 8,600m which is just less than summiting Everest at 8848m in temperatures of more than 30 degrees.

Lee, who now works for an IT company, says he decided to take on the challenge during lockdown, which gave him "something to focus on and look forward to" and he has been busy getting mentally and physically active in preparation for the challenge with lots of runs and cycling.

"I've always been fit but it is just getting that extra bit of fitness," he added.

Lee says what he is looking forward to most about the challenge is riding with his "comrades, colleagues and brothers in arms".

He is also looking forward to getting across the finish line  as a team and "raising as much as we can and seeing the rewards of somebody get a roof above their head and make their day".

He added: "I'm just raring to go now. I believe my fitness is there. I'm just looking forward to seeing all the guys. I'm looking forward to the challenge and getting it done."

The challenge is being led by army veteran Major Ken Hames MBE, who spent time in Gibraltar during his military career. He said: “Raising money for our homeless veterans, our veteran cyclists face a stiff test of stamina and endurance over mountains of Andalucía.

"This act of courage and care personifies our values in Alabaré bringing together a determined team who understand well our reasons for doing it. The challenge is about teamwork and encouragement tackling Category 1 Tour de France type ascents and descents - this is a lot by anybody’s standards, and we salute and wish the team every success with a comfortable saddle.”

Alabaré’s Homes for Veterans provides accommodation and support for veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless across the South and South West of England and across Wales. Alabaré also offers a programme of outdoor activities for veterans to improve and manage their mental wellbeing.

To sponsor Lee visit justgiving.com/fundraising/BrilliantBradders

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