The Team

 DONATESuzanne Anderson, Julie Balen, Anna Battersby, Terry Bishop, Peter Dukes, Musa Fatty, Owen Fenton, David Jeffries, Peter Noble, Lamin Sanneh, Nana Tawiah, Gabriella Watson.

Kirsty Le Doare, Annette Erhart, Margaret Pinder, Loredana Tawiah, Mamina Bojang, Muna Affara, Pete, Beate Kampmann.

Suzanne Anderson has had a love/hate relationship with bicycles ever since she graduated from her tricycle to a two-wheeler at the age of four. She loves the independence, ease of transport and the opportunity to cycle through beautiful countryside that the bicycle affords.  However, she hates all the gear, arriving to work with flattened hair and, most importantly, the pain of riding on a ‘proper’ saddle.
After years of watching her partner Terry accumulate biking paraphernalia and disappear on ‘sportives’ in Europe she has decided to join him on a cycling challenge in Italy next year — the Nove Colli. Suzanne is now totally geared up with a road bike, spd pedals, bib shorts and even a cadence monitor on her GPS cycling computer! Sand to Sea is part of the preparation for this but, as Head of the Clinical Services Department at the MRC Gambia Unit, it's primarily an opportunity to raise awareness of the plight of the many children living with cardiac disease in The Gambia. ‘Seeing young children at our clinic whose lives are destroyed because they are unable to run, play football or even walk to school is heartbreaking. Something needs to be done to improve their lives and the future of the many other children who will be born with heart problems and to prevent the devastating consequences of rheumatic heart disease.’

Julie Balen is a researcher and lecturer based in the UK who collaborates with the MRC Gambia on health policy and systems research. She has spent several months each year in The Gambia since 2012, leading and implementing various research projects.
Julie used to bike only for short commutes to and from work until March 2011, when she bought a bike from a friend and set herself a challenge to ride solo down the coast of Thailand (from Bangkok to Krabi) where she was living at the time. Numerous cycling friends generously shared lessons and tips; Julie learnt how to fix a flat tyre, how to distinguish the brake cable from the gear cable, correct riding posture to avoid strain, and lots more. The ride was a mega success — not a single flat tyre (or any other problem) in over 650 km of road and off-road riding.
Since then, she has been itching to do a similar adventure, and Sand to Sea for Chain of Hope provides the ideal opportunity.
Julie thinks Chain of Hope is a fantastic charity and one that she is delighted to support through this challenge and others in the future.

Anna Battersby is a clinical research paediatrician from Imperial College London spending 18 months working at MRC The Gambia. I am undertaking a research project within the infant immunology group and I also contribute to the MRC clinical services.
I arrived in The Gambia 2 months ago and joined the MRC running club for something to do with my new free time. Nana mentioned to me that they were planning a cycle ride to Basse in the new year. I said I didn’t have a bike, but if I could get one I thought that it sounded like a nice idea. I only recently located Basse on a map… it’s quite a long way… but Nana found me a bike (with thanks to David!) so here I am…
I have now come to terms with the idea of cycling 370km over 2 days! And I think not only is it a great way to keep fit & to see the country, it is also a great way to raise money for a great cause.
I am really excited to be raising money for the Chain of Hope charity.  I have worked at both ends of the 'chain', having been a junior doctor at The Royal Brompton Hospital in London which treats Chain of Hope patients, and now working in The MRC clinic here in The Gambia. In my short time here, I have witnessed the great need there is for the services that Chain of Hope provides. It really is a very sad and sobering experience to see young children and babies suffering from conditions that are routinely treated in the UK. The money raised from this ride will truly help The Chain of Hope charity continue to make a real difference.

Terry Bishop has been riding bikes for well over half a century, ever since his Dad pushed him off down the hill outside their house in East Grinstead without telling him how to stop or get off.
In that time he's ridden in the UK, Europe, South Africa, Malawi and now The Gambia, most recently as the oldest participant in the 13th annual Fireflies Tour through the Alps in aid of a UK leukaemia charity.
He'll be riding his beloved 'Africa bike' — an early '90s steel Greg Lemond frame built by Billato in Italy in Tour de France leader yellow.

Peter Dukes Tootling on my hybrid to Hertford North station on a commuter morning and Boris biking to the London offices of the Medical Research Council. That’s my relationship with the bicycle. A beast of burden only slightly more reliable and sweet-tempered than the average donkey. Why am I doing this ride? In truth, because I don’t like being left out of things. Even horrible things, like riding nose to sweaty tail along a hot, straight, dusty 400 km highway.  I expect to ache everywhere. To fall off the wretched newly-bought-in-the-market bike at the end of the first night, stiff as a coffin floor.  To be winched back on next morning with every part of my body screaming.  Such is the price for the desperate outsider of being included! I am not in truth committed. I want to be encouraged! Cajoled! And grossly flattered! And a promise that I shall finish as a yellow-jerseyed hero, flushed with winner’s champagne and mobbed by adoring women. If I keep that vision of fame in my eye, I might just blind myself to the likely reality – and ride. But not without a lot more attention, please!

Musa Fatty has been cycling since he was eight and has represented The Gambia in Senegal and in a race across Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Ghana. As a long-time cyclist, he has ridden across both north and south bank for the length of the country. Sand to Sea will be an encore for him.
Musa also runs his own cycle tour company — West Africa Cycling Tours — so there will be no excuse for anybody to get lost.
Owen Fenton is a weathered cyclist, having cycled from London to Paris in a day, and conquered the pilgrims route to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. He is always looking for the next big challenge (and for any reason to come out to The Gambia to see his other half). His training so far has been in the not-so-warm climes of South London, so hopefully the transition to the West African heat will not be too painful. He is very pleased to be supporting the Chain of Hope charity, which does fantastic work.
David Jeffries As an ex rugby prop forward, endurance sports (and the people who curiously seem to enjoy them) are a mystery. I’m still awaiting an epiphany. Post rugby, endurance has largely taken place on the golf course, which for me does involve extreme lateral walking and on bad days even backwards.
Clearly I don’t have any best endurance moments, just a worst. I was running early morning on a bush path in Zimbabwe. Overnight a famer had erected a barbed wire fence across the path, which I ploughed straight into. Very soon I was surrounded by a pack of wild dogs and I had the longest and fastest 5 km run as they chased me home, with constant adjustments for minimising blood flow and maximising speed. What I’ve learnt – bikes hurt and I now know why you only ever see rugby players on static bikes.

Beate Kampmann is a paediatrician and the Head of Vaccinology research at the MRC Unit, The Gambia, but she knows that she will not be leading this pack of determined and excellent riders, as she simply isn't fit enough.
However, having decided that smaller parts can also add value to the mission, she is committed to ride at least a share. Currently confined to a Boris Bike in London (which she will not use for Sand to Sea!), she has always enjoyed cycling, primarily to get from A to B as a medical student in Germany – where there are cycle roads – and with family and friends. She enjoys feeling the weather and the wind and the smell of Hyde Park when cycling to work in London, and a quick ride to the traffic lights to buy fruit when in The Gambia.
But much more important is the mission to ride for children with devastating heart conditions, who hardly have a chance of survival in Africa but would receive state-of-the-art treatment for the same condition in a hospital in London. She strongly believes that leading a healthy life should never depend on the accident of where you were born.

Peter Noble The last time I ventured on a serious bike ride was exactly 40 years ago, riding 800 miles over 10 days staying at youth hostels. After spending three delightful years in The Gambia, it will be special to return, to meet friends and bring back those amazing days of cycling through the villages. The UK weather has behaved itself in recent weeks, which has enabled some exercise, but the cold, rain, hills and busy roads seem somewhat distant from the heat, dry climate, flat plains and tranquillity of the Gambian villages.
You will be called to charities every day of your life; at least we can say with this one it will make a life-changing impact. So don’t think about it, decide in 20 seconds what you would like to give and do it! If everyone gave £1.00 it would make a massive difference. Having been stranded on the River Gambia river for three days last Easter, I can also confidently say that this adventure is one that I will not be doing again!

Lamin Sanneh is the best-known long distance runner in the Gambia. He has won the last two editions of the local Brufut marathon. Earlier this year he came fourth in the Sheffield half marathon and managed to set a new national record as well. When he's not running he uses a bike to get around. Sand to Sea is a fun opportunity for cross training using cycling. Lamin has run in a charity race before and is excited to participate in this worthy cause.

Nana Tawiah is the Quality Manager at the MRC Unit, The Gambia. He moved to The Gambia with my family in November 2011.
I simply love sports, and I have always been involved in team sports and individual events. I started cycling in my late teens, as part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. For the gold award expedition we visited all the major lakes in the lake district on our bikes. Whist living in Italy I got to appreciate road riding and took opportunities to ride up the mountain range of Campo dei Fiori, near our house, and the Dolomites whilst on vacations. On returning to The UK I joined a very good friend of mine and his brother-in-law to cycle along the Pennine cycleway (Sustrans Route #68) which runs up the spine of England and through three National Parks from Derby to Berwick–upon-Tweed. We did that in four days. That experience got me hooked on long distance bike rides! Since then I have made it a habit to go out on my bike any time I get the opportunity. Riding through the 'garden of England' (Kent) and taking the ferry to France for day ride near Calais. It was therefore delight to learn that a couple of my new MRC colleagues were riders. I brought my mountain bike as well as road bike with me and have been riding on the streets and along the beaches of The Gambia since my arrival here.
Testing myself and having a goal to work towards. I have run a marathon and numerous 10km and half marathons to raise money for charities. Having been driven from Fajara to Basse (two of the MRC sites) and back a few times for work, it did not take long for me to think about covering that distance by bike. I put out a call to my colleagues and they responded. FANTASTIC!!!
Supporting Chain of Hope just makes sense to me. I have heard so much about the good work that this charity does from Suzanne, our head of Clinical Services here in Fajara and from my own daughter who used to volunteer organising patients' paper work to facilitate the process that led them to be eligible for surgery abroad. It will be nice to see these kids growing up to be healthy responsible adults after they have had the surgery from Chain of Hope.

Gabriella Watson writes: My wild pursuits usually involve mountains and snow, but when I heard about Sand to Sea I felt I had to get involved. I arrive in The Gambia the week before the ride and, somewhat foolishly, felt it would be a great way to get to see the country and introduce myself to the team at the MRC, and of course raise money for such a fabulous charity.
I'm a Junior Doctor from London working at the MRC Gambia Unit for six months as a volunteer, part of my research project will focus on Rheumatic Heart Disease, which is why I am thrilled to be able to support Chain of Hope.
I'm no stranger to endurance-based outdoor pursuits, but as a mountaineer and ex international lacrosse player I'm used to training on two legs, not two wheels, and fear my cycle training around rainy Richmond Park may be a little different from the heat of West Africa....