British-Ukrainian trio take on the South Downs with a charity cycling challenge

Just two weeks after arriving in West Sussex from Odesa, Ukraine, 21-year-old Iryna has decided to take part in a charity mountain biking event with her UK sponsor, Mike James, 60, and fellow refugee, Valeria, 21. The trio will be cycling 30km and raising money for Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice at Hit the Downs MTB on Sunday 16 July.

Mike from Henfield had already signed up for the event before Iryna arrived in the UK, but when she saw his e-bike and asked him about his cycling hobby, it wasn’t long before she decided to join him for the challenge.

Explaining why he decided to take part in Hit the Downs MTB, Mike said: “I’m an avid cyclist but I’ve never taken part in an event like this. After recovering from a heart attack a few years ago, I took up cycling and it really saved me – both physically and mentally. I saw The Muddy Cyclist talking about Hit the Downs on his YouTube channel last summer and it inspired me to sign up this year. I’m looking forward to doing something I enjoy while raising money to help others.”

Mike’s desire to help others is also what inspired him to volunteer to be part of the Ukraine sponsorship scheme.

“Like all of us, I’ve been following the news and seeing the events unfolding in Ukraine, and desperately wanted to do something to help. When the opportunity arose to provide accommodation for a Ukrainian refugee, I was more than happy to. Iryna hasn’t done much cycling before and we’re still trying to source decent bikes for her and Valeria, but they’re really keen to be part of it. I’d say we’re fairly unusual – a British-Ukrainian team taking on the South Downs!”

Mike’s employer EMCOR Group (UK) plc have kindly offered to sponsor Mike £500 and the trio are hoping to double this with other donations to raise £1,000 for Chestnut Tree House.

“I know how important the hospice is to the local children and families they support, and how much they rely on donations and fundraising,” said Mike. “Having been affected by loss in the past, I know how much it can impact your life. If I can raise some money to help Chestnut Tree House continue their vital work, I’ll feel like I’ve helped someone on their journey.” 

Mike, Iryna and Valeria have signed up to cycle 30km at Hit the Downs MTB, but there are two other routes available – 60km and 80km.

Registration costs from £35 per person (minimum age 10 years, riders aged 10-17 must be accompanied by an adult), with a minimum sponsorship of £50.

Support Mike, Iryna and Valeria

To support the team and keep up to date with their challenge, visit their JustGiving page.

Go to Just Giving