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Men of Harlech Challenge 2019

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Many of you will have seen the North Wales town of Harlech in the news recently after one of its streets has newly been named as the steepest in the world. Breaking previous records held by a town in New Zealand, Harlech has managed to put Wales in the Guinness World Book of Records!

However, Harlech is a hot topic at New Directions Education right now for a very different reason. National Director – Howard Burge – has just taken part in the Men of Harlech challenge bike ride for the fourth consecutive year. The challenge is an annual event that ND Education is proud to be a part of, helping to raise vital funds for the Cardiff City FC Community Foundation charity. 2019 marks the charity’s 10th anniversary and coincides with New Directions Education’s 25th anniversary too, making it an extra special year to be involved in this challenge.

Howard Burge taking part in the Men of Harlech challenge 2019
Howard Burge, Men of Harlech 2019

What is the Men of Harlech challenge?

The Men of Harlech challenge is a bike ride from Porthmadog in North Wales to Cardiff City Stadium in South Wales. The route is broken down into three legs, completed across three days. It includes an impressive 13,056 ft of climbing and covers a distance of 215 miles through the stunning Welsh countryside.

The challenge raises money for the Cardiff City FC Community Foundation, to help underprivileged children and young people by improving literacy skills and giving children with disabilities the opportunity to take part in sport. At ND Education, this aligns closely with our core values and our commitment to giving back to our local communities. Therefore, the Men of Harlech bike ride has become an annual tradition and personal challenge for Howard, who commented:

“Cardiff City FC Foundation has been changing lives for 10 years. In that time, the charity has invested more than 10 million pounds into sport and education programmes. The charity prioritises children, offering a range of programmes that inspire education, improve health and well-being and help young people fulfil their full potential. I have personally witnessed many innovative projects that are carried out by many of the Cardiff City FC Foundation staff, delivering fun, educational sessions to improve both numeracy and literacy skills.”

Day 1 – Porthmadog to Aberystwyth

Men of Harlech riders 2019
The 2019 Men of Harlech riders at Harlech Castle

The challenge started in the bustling town of Porthmadog, with 18 riders eager to get on the road for a full day of cycling after a hearty breakfast. It was an early start and a tough day in the saddle, with the first stop being at the beautiful World Heritage Site of Harlech Castle overlooking the craggy North Wales coast. This was the perfect spot for a team photo before the group powered through to their next break around lunchtime in Aberdyfi.

Their final day-one destination was the coastal town of Aberystwyth in Ceredigion, famous for its Victorian seafront promenade and pier. Upon arrival, the team were treated to a well-earned BBQ after cycling an impressive 85 miles and conquering 5985 ft of ascent. This was the toughest day of cycling for the team of riders, who faced yet another two days of cycling.

Men of Harlech day 1 highlights
Watch the day-1 highlights

Day 2 – Aberystwyth to Cross Hands

Day two got off to a fantastic start thanks to the help and support pupils at Ysgol Gyfun Gymunedol Penweddig, who put the Men of Harlech riders through their paces with an energetic early-morning warm-up session.

The next leg of the journey was shorter than day one, but with some challenging climbs as the group made their way to Lampeter and then onto Cross Hands where they rested for the night. Covering a distance of 65 miles and climbing another 4856 ft, the riders spent day two cycling along rural roads through the heart of the Welsh countryside, surrounded by luscious valleys and forests.

Men of Harlech day 2 highlights
Watch the day-2 highlights

Day 3 – Cross Hands to Cardiff City Stadium

The final day of the challenge took the riders from Cross Hands to Cardiff City Stadium – their final destination – covering 65 miles and another 2215 ft of ascent. This was the easiest day of the challenge and with less climbing than the previous two days, which was much appreciated by the riders with saddle sore!

Following the National Cycle Route 4 from Gowerton to Port Talbot, the cyclists stopped at lunchtime to re-fuel while overlooking Aberavon beach, before travelling through the pretty market town of Cowbridge where they picked up a coffee to give them a final boost to the finish line.

The Men of Harlech 2019 challenge came to an end around 5pm when the riders reached Cardiff City Stadium. They were greeted by a welcoming committee of family and friends, celebrating their return and successful completion of the challenge.

Men of Harlech day 3 highlights
Watch the day-3 highlights

Congratulations Men of Harlech 2019

The whole team of 18 riders successfully crossed the finish line at Cardiff City Stadium on day three, drawing the 2019 Men of Harlech challenge to a close for another year. Raising a substantial sum of money for the worthy Cardiff City FC Community Foundation, the challenge saw some highs (stunning scenery, teamwork and camaraderie) and lows (saddle sore, two punctures and some questionable tan lines), making it a memorable experience for all involved. Congratulations to Howard and the other riders for completing the challenge and helping to make a real difference to the lives of children and young people in the community!