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How does it feel to complete 1,606 miles for the EIC?

1 June 2021

Everyone at Aico loves a challenge, especially when taking part means fundraising for an important cause!

This week, we have celebrated our colleagues, Neal Hooper, Michael Wright, Lee Duffy and Matthew Small, and our honorary team member, Alan Lewis, of Adrenaline Sporting Events. Our fantastic team has completed the virtual Race Across Europe in support of the Electrical Industries Charity (EIC).

The EIC supports people working within the electrical sector; its mission is to offer practical support to anyone who needs it, including their families. From family problems and financial concerns to mental health and disability – nothing is too big or too small.

Team Aico competed against other organisations from the industry to complete 1,606 miles and reach seven checkpoints across the continent: London, Paris, Zurich, Munich, Prague, Berlin and Amsterdam. Our team were the epitome of competitive spirit, spurring each other on and finishing the race in just three weeks out of the allotted seven.

Contestants of the challenge could cycle, swim, walk and run to clock up the miles. Luckily, Team Aico are a bunch of avid cyclists, so they opted to complete most of the challenge on their bikes – in the gym at lunchtime or through the wet and windy Welsh valleys!

Many of us cannot begin to imagine what it would be like to cycle 1,606 miles – and we want to know more! So, we have spoken to each member of the team about their experiences.

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Lee Duffy is our Operations and Learning and Development Manager – here’s what he had to say about the race.

What was your favourite part of completing the challenge?

Seeing the fundraising grow and our targets get smashed gave me the motivation to get out in all weathers to hit our goal. At times, the weather wasn’t on our side but knowing all our family, friends, and colleagues had taken the time to donate pushed me along.

Did your family and friends get involved to show their support?

Having support from family is vital in completing any challenge. Having a full-time role at Aico and a young family meant they had to support me to find the time to do the mileage needed. Also, the wife allowing me to keep the bike in the house was a massive help, although it’s firmly back in the shed now!!

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Alan Lewis is a local business owner and a very close friend of Aico! With Alan organising regular sporting events and being a keen athlete, he was the perfect addition to the team.

What made you want to get involved and support Aico with the challenge?

Neal kindly invited me to be part of the team, and I didn’t hesitate to put my hand up. It’s been a pleasure to be involved, and I have enjoyed the challenge.

How did completing the challenge make you feel?

It felt great to complete the challenge with the team.

The weather has been awful over the past three weeks, so to get the miles in during tricky conditions has been difficult, but we kept going, and we motivated each other on a daily basis, which certainly helped. We never wanted to let each other down, and we wanted to raise as much as we could along the way.

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Neal Hooper is Managing Director of Aico, a Board Trustee of the EIC and was responsible for getting the team together.

What did the challenge mean to you?

As an EIC board trustee, I see first-hand the wonderful work that is carried out within the industry for those most in need. When the ride became a chore due to all the recent awful weather, it was a big motivation knowing it was for a great cause.

What would your advice be to other companies from the industry who might want to get involved in similar challenges in the future?

There are many pulls on our time and, of course, contributions. The EIC is the only charity just for us and covers every aspect of support. The teamwork was great fun, and it was a source of great pride seeing our progression.

What were the team’s tactics to complete the challenge ahead of time?

We simply committed to work as hard as possible and to get on with it. My teammates are four cracking guys, and I did not want to let them down when you could see what they were up to virtually every day.

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Michael Wright is our Product Development Manager and loves to cycle, making the Race Across Europe the perfect challenge!

Can you tell us about a cycle route you completed during the challenge?

We’re very lucky to live in a brilliant area for cycling, being just on the border with Wales and having great scenery right on our doorstep. One ride completed during the challenge went out over the Welsh border to Glyn Ceiriog, then a steep climb with sections of 20% gradient up out of the valley to a viewpoint overlooking Llangollen. A descent past Chirk Castle and ride back to Oswestry completed the route. Around 3,000 feet of climbing in total packed into 30 miles with some brilliant scenery – one to do again.

How often did you go out on your bike and how did this fit in with your work schedule?

I aimed to fit in three or four rides in the week, early morning before work or in the evening, with a longer ride at the weekend. As part of this, I would bike to work on one of the days to save using the car while increasing the mileage. When the weather was typically British (i.e. pouring rain!), I would ride on Zwift, which allows you to ride virtually around locations, such as Paris and Innsbruck, with other riders all across the world. Seeing the rides that Neal, Lee, Alan and Matt were doing was great motivation to keep the miles ticking over!

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Lastly, we speak with Matthew Small, our Commercial and Finance Director, and fifth and final team member.

Why did you put yourself forward for the challenge?

This was another great opportunity to support The Electrical Industries Charity in raising much-needed funds to support the fantastic work they do for our industry. The EIC has been very innovative with this virtual challenge by utilising Strava to keep track of our progress across Europe, updating our supporters (and the competition) and providing us with some additional motivation along the way.

What was the highest number of miles you completed in one go? And where did you cycle to achieve this?

Only 17 miles for me … unfortunately, I have been carrying a knee injury for the duration of the challenge, so I planned to go little and often while building my strength back up. Some of my teammates have been up there in the 50s, so hats off to them.

We are so fortunate here in Shropshire to be surrounded by beautiful countryside. One day I could be on the flat Shropshire plains and another up in the Welsh hills.

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We’re incredibly proud of Team Aico for completing this challenge! Our colleagues and friends have shown their support by donating to this wonderful cause. In total the team has raised over £10,000, which will be used by the EIC to support our sector. We will definitely be taking part in the next EIC Challenge!