Army vet joins cycle challenge in Spain

By Kate Cotton   |   Dartmouth Reporter   |
Friday 20th May 2022 11:00 am
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Dartmouth army vet Barry Azzopardi is cycling 478km across Spain’s Andalusian mountain range to help homeless and disadvantaged British forces veterans.

Twelve cyclists started the five-day Race to the Sun challenge on Monday, ready to cover ascents totalling 8,600 metres. The group plan to cycle back into Gibraltar on Saturday, May 21. The cyclists held a silent toast before the race to the victims of the Battle of Albuera before setting off from Gibraltar to Ronda then into the mountains.

At the end of the first day’s cycling Barry said at their “first brew stop” the weather was “scorchio 28 degrees for 1200 metres of ascents”.

The Race to the Sun event has been organised by former SAS veteran Ken Hames, who wrote the book Fallen Angel about his service. All funds from the race are going to Alabaré’s Homes for Veterans, which provides supported accommodation to British Armed Forces Veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Barry has so far raised more than £7,000 for the charity.

Barry was originally the support vehicle driver but then decided to race himself.

He said: “I’m not a cyclist, not at all! At first they needed someone to drive the support vehicle, which I volunteered to do, and then I decided to cycle too and raise some money. With the pandemic postponing the race I’ve had a good two-and-a-half years to train so hopefully I’ll be able to cope with the uphill sections okay. I’ve been training up the hill of College Way!”

Barry served in the First Battalion Queen’s Regiment and Royal Gibraltar Regiment. He moved to Dartmouth in 2003 to become sergeant at Britannia Royal Naval College, where he ran the arms security for 14 years. He now runs a landscape gardening business in the town with his son Nicholas.

Among the other cyclists are two of Barry’s sons - James, who grew up in Dartmouth, now lives in Spain and also served in Royal Gibraltar Regiment; Ashley, who lives in the UK; alongside Steve Gaskill, from Newton Abbot. Most of the group are forces veterans.

Barry added: “I’ve got strong ties with Spain and Gibraltar – with James living there and I worked on the border gate at Gib in the 1980’s. I also spent winter 2019 in Mojacar with my wife Dawn.

“I’m looking forward to going back to the sun. It’s my first time out of the country since before the pandemic – and pretty much my first time out of Dartmouth too as I work seven days a week running my business!”

Alabaré’s Homes for Veterans works across England and Wales, specifically in Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, as well as North and South Wales.

They said: “On any given night our homes for veterans are able to keep over 100 Veterans off the streets. We believe no veteran should be forced to sleep on the streets.”

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