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Paralympic Gold Medallist Naomi Riches Amongst those to Enjoy Marlow Red Kite Ride 2014

by Nick Gregory

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Paralympic gold medallist Naomi Riches didn't quite know what to expect when she entered her first sportive at the weekend. "It was quite a journey, got through two pilots but only managed 80 miles. Next year I'll manage the 100," she later wrote on Twitter. 

The London Paralympic Rowing gold medallist was this time last year winning her sixth world championships in nine years. The 31 year-old from Marlow subsequently hung up her blades and has hardly trained since, but this summer decided to take part in a cycling challenge. 

So it was that she was invited to enter her local club's annual event, the Marlow Red Kite ride which attracted a sold out entry of 600 riders on August 31st

"We were very excited to meet Naomi and learn of her interest in Cycling and have tried to encourage her but the problem was trying to find a bike for her," said Red Kite Ride spokesman Jamie Baker. The partially sighted Paralympian had been searching for a tandem for a while after her agent, former British athlete Eric Shirley offered to ride with her. 

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"I got a call only on Wednesday to say that a tandem had been found so there wasn't much time to think about it," said Riches. Cyclists Fighting Cancer, who the organisers this year chose as their charity for the event, came up with the solution after a chat with bike manufacturer Dawes. 

Speaking about her interest in cycling, Riches said: "I wanted to get fit again and bumped into Steve Tolmie (Event Director of the Red Kite Ride). We had a ride together to Benson from Marlow at Easter and I really enjoyed it, " she added. 

"I've enjoyed my retirement from Rowing but I need to feel happy again in my own skin.  And the great thing is I'm doing it because I'm enjoying it and not because I'm being told I have to do it! I really think the tandem suits me anyway because I'm a team player, and as a team player you have to have a rapport with your partner or partners." 

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Organisers, Marlow Riders, rescued Naomi's day by finding a substitute pilot for the tandem in experienced cyclist Sue Barretto, who thought that she'd turned up to volunteer for the day. Little did she know that she'd be piloting a tandem for the remaining 50 miles of the 80 mile circuit after original pilot, Eric Shirley suffered severe cramp. 

Riches added: "It's run so well. So well organised. Everyone's looking out for one another. All the cyclists had their goals. And I'm just pleased to have achieved my ride. I'm probably fitter than I thought!" 

The Marlow Red Kite Ride offered participants a choice of three routes - 100 mile, 80 mile and 50 miles. Only nine riders failed to finish and all finishers were handed a medal and a branded Red Kite Ride water bottle at the end of their ride. 

Event Director, Tolmie said: "It was another brilliant day and we've had great feedback. The riders have enjoyed great scenery on some of the best roads in the Chilterns." 

In addition to that the organisers announced that they have raised in excess of £5,000 for Cyclists fighting Cancer, who give bikes, adapted tricycles and equipment to children and young people across the UK whose lives have been affected by cancer. 

The event was again supported by British Cycling. For more details: http://marlowredkiteride.co.uk.





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