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Highto expecting a tough test on the Ride to Wembley

If the UK Red Ride to Wembley was a race – which it most certainly isn’t! – then Paul Highton would be odds-on favourite to wear the proverbial yellow jersey for much of the 320-mile route south from Leeds.

Having ridden almost 3,000 miles from London to Rio de Janeiro a year ago to raise funds for Rugby League Cares, the former Salford and Wales back rower has form ahead of next week’s epic cycling challenge.

‘Highto’ is one of 15 riders who will set off from Headingley Stadium on Monday bound for the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final via five days of forest trails, riverside paths and bridleways and is looking forward to getting back in the saddle.

“I can’t wait!” said Highto. “Cycling to Rio was one of the best experiences of my life and though the ride to Wembley is shorter, it’s going to be a fantastic five days.

“We may not have to cross the Pyrenees to reach our destination but this ride isn’t about mountain ranges or distance, it’s about overcoming the challenge of negotiating a testing off-road route.

“I’m expecting it to be tough: the bike is heavier for a start; I’m a year older and the nettles and brambles along the way are really going to hurt!”

Since completing the Ride to Rio, Highto has made an important contribution to the men’s health and wellbeing project, Offload which is being run by RL Cares in conjunction with the club foundations at Salford Red Devils, Widnes Vikings and Warrington Wolves.

By delivering sessions in the 12-week ‘fixture’ programme, Highto has seen at first hand the way in which RL Cares is harnessing the power of sport to make a positive difference to the lives of Rugby League supporters.

“Some of the impact Offload has made to the people involved has been nothing short of amazing,” he said.

“No-one was quite sure at the start whether men would buy into it but it’s been a transformational experience for a lot of people.

“The bonds that have been forged between the participants are really uplifting to witness.  At Warrington, one member of the team said he was worried how he’d fill the void in his life after his 12 fixtures were up and they’ve all agreed to carry on meeting to support each other.

“It’s made a profound difference to the lives of a lot of men who previously felt they had no-where else to turn.”

Whilst Highto has thousands of bike miles in his legs, many of the other riders on the UK Red Ride to Rio, including Rugby AM presenter Alex Simmons and Chris Rostron, the Head of RL Cares, are cycling novices. So, what advice would the man who pedalled between two Olympic Stadiums on two continents have for his fellow riders next week?

“Firstly, I’d say that nothing is going to be as tough as that first day when you don’t know what to expect and how your body is going to react to spending eight hours and more in the saddle,” he said. “That feeling is like nothing else.

“Secondly, it’s important to keep your head up and take in what’s around you: how many people get to experience the beautiful countryside we have in the UK at such close quarters for five days? Soak it up!

“Finally, make sure you have a laugh: yes, there will be dark moments, and days when it feels tough, but the sun always comes out again and riding as a team is a real breeze, especially when you know you’re doing it for such a worthy cause.”

Paul Highton is cycling from Leeds to Wembley Stadium for Rugby League Cares, leaving Headingley Stadium at 8.00am on Monday August 21 and arriving at the Wembley Legends statue on the eve of the 2017 Challenge Cup final, Friday August 25. To sponsor Paul, please visit his Just Giving page: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Paul-Highton

 

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