July 21 - A 20-strong Tirol cycle team have begun their charity ride from Innsbruck to London to raise money for Disability Snowsport UK (DSUK) with Heather Mills, the former wife of Sir Paul McCartney who hopes represent Britain at the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympics, in attendance for the start of the ride.
Mills (pictured above), who lost part of a leg in a motorcycle accident in 1993, is part of the British Disabled Ski Team and the 43-year-old former model joined the cyclists for the first part of their journey as they set off from the Bergisel Stadium in Innsbruck.
The marathon ride will enjoy symbolic significance as Innsbruck became the first city to host the Winter Olympics three times, with the inaugural Youth Olympics in January this year following the senior Games in the city in 1964 and 1976, while London will become the first location to host the Summer Olympics on three occasions having previously staged it in 1908 and 1948.
Having set off from the Bergisel Stadium, which hosted the Innsbruck 2012 Opening Ceremony, the riders will continue on for seven days before finally arriving at the iconic Tower Bridge in London in seven days on July 26, the day before the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony.
It will feature eight stages through Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium before the cyclists take a ferry to Ramsgate in England in order to continue their ride to Tower Bridge.
The final 90-mile United Kingdom leg from the Kent resort to Tower Bridge will take place on July 26 and the team will be joined by sport personalities including BBC Ski Sunday presenter Graham Bell, former British ski hero Konrad Bartelski and cycling enthusiasts from the Ski Club of Great Britain, holiday operator Crystal Ski and Snow Magazine.
Tower Bridge was selected as the most suitable finish line due to its close proximity to Trinity House, which will become the Austria House Tirol during the Olympics and the official home of the Austrian Olympic Committee.
The arrival of the Tirol cycle team in London will also coincide with the official opening of Austria House Tirol.
"We wanted to connect with the true spirit of the Olympics and assisting a British charity seemed a positive way for the Tirol to show our support," said the Tirol Tourist Board chief executive Josef Margreiter, who initiated the charity cycle challenge.
"Disability Snowsport UK (DSUK) is a fantastic cause and we truly believe in their vision that snowsports should be accessible to all, regardless of any disability."
Margreiter is one of those involved in the ride along with former Austrian ski racing stars and Olympic champions Stephan Eberharter, from Salt Lake City 2002, and Leonhard Stock, from Lake Placid 1980, 68-year-old Austrian cycling legend Wolfgang Steinmayr, Pro Cycling Germany editor-in-chief Marcus Degen and Tirol Government Minister Hannes Geschwenter.
Donations for the ride can be made by clicking here.
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June 2012: Tirol pedal-pushers saddle up to cycle from Innsbruck to London for Disability Snowsport UK