Paralysed Former Jockey takes on Mammoth Cycling Challenge

By Nick Seddon

A paralysed former jockey  is taking on a mammoth cycling challenge in aid of two charities that helped in his rehabilitation.

Jacob Pritchard Webb was enjoying a highly-promising riding career in France before a fall at Auteuil in June 2020 left him with life-changing injuries. However, it has not stopped him from living life to the full and he is undertaking a three-day 140 mile hand bike ride, which begins on Thursday 7th July.

The 25-year-old will be riding between two Jockey Club racecourses – the home of Jump racing, Cheltenham, and Flat racing ‘Headquarters’, Newmarket – in the hope of raising £25,000 each for the Injured Jockeys Fund and the Matt Hampson Foundation, two charities which have supported him since the accident.

TRAINING

As part of his training for the event, Pritchard Webb was joined on a cycle around the Cotswolds on Sunday afternoon by Harry Potter star James Phelps, who played Fred Weasley in the movie franchise.

Phelps explained that he met Pritchard Webb through the Matt Hampson Foundation and he was more than happy to offer his assistance.

He explained: “Like all good things, it came about over a beer! We met each other at Mike Tindall’s golf day earlier in the year and we got speaking about Jacob’s challenge. I’m a big cyclist myself and it sounded a lot of fun.

“Originally I was hoping to do all three days but I’m working in the States now. I was still keen to get out with him though and that’s what we did on Sunday.

“We found somewhere roughly near where he’d be starting from in the Cotswolds and did about 20 miles. It was a bit more uphill than I was expecting at times, but Jacob was incredible. Literally every cyclist that went past – and there were quite a few of them – almost all tipped their hat to him and said fair play as it was rough going up those hills on a hand-bike! It just shows how inspirational he is.”

When asked about Jacob’s challenge, which will culminate on Darley July Cup Day at Newmarket on Saturday 9th July, Phelps added: “I think he’s an absolute lunatic personally! It would be a challenge for an able-bodied person on a normal bike, so to do it on a hand-bike is even more impressive.

“When we were riding yesterday he was kind of having to remind himself that it’s not a time trial and it’s all about getting it done, but his physique seems to have changed since I first spoke to him a couple of months ago so I think he’ll be fine.

“I asked him yesterday how long it had been since his accident and he said it had only been two years. To be doing this now in a relatively short space of time is incredible and I’m gutted I can’t be there.”

STAR LINE-UP

Pritchard Webb will be joined by a host of star names from the racing world on his charity bike ride, including 20-time champion Jump jockey Sir AP McCoy, and he revealed that Sunday’s ride was his final piece of work before undertaking his challenge.

He said: “AP McCoy is doing the first day, which is brilliant. He’s been a good friend ever since I returned from France. He came to see me of his own accord and had a chat with me and we’ve been friends since. I’ve spent lots of time with him and he’s been very good and supportive of everything and he said he’d do this for me too.

“He’s doing the first day along with Luke Harvey, which is fantastic. I have a lot to thank Luke for because he helped me get the job at Sky Sports and it’s great he can join me on the cycle as well.

“We’ll also have Hugh Nugent on the first day, who’s an avid cyclist and a good friend of mine. We never rode together but we used to work near each other, so we’ve had many a session at the pub together! I’ve asked Tabitha Worsley as well off the back of her cycling challenge for Lorna Brooke last year, so we’ve a great team for the first day!

“Nicky Henderson’s assistant Charlie Morlock is doing all three days with me, which is fantastic and Sean Boyce is going to meet us on the second day and do that with me. Last but not least, Rosie Margarson is going to meet us and do the final day – which will be cycling home for her!”

EXCITED AND NERVOUS

Reviewing his training session with James Phelps, Pritchard said: “It was tough! One hill was the full elevation, so it just went on for what felt like forever, but it was good practice.

“My brain tells me that I’m not allowed to stop and I need to finish as quickly as possible and I think I just need to get out of that mind-set. The whole challenge is to complete it and it’s not about the time, so I’m learning to pace myself.

“It was great to have James along on Sunday and it’s a shame that he can’t join us for the full event. He’d have found it a doddle as he’s an absolute beast – as I found out yesterday! He wanted to still be involved and we found this date in the diary that worked for both of us to go out on the bikes together. James chose the route and off we went.

“I’m both excited and nervous for Thursday now. I’m looking forward to the rest I’ll get now in the next couple of days and I’ll be taking on lots of carbs.”

Pritchard Webb is well on course to raise a substantial amount of money for charity through his challenge and while he recognises that not everybody is able to donate money at the moment, he would love anybody who is keen to join the ride to dust off their bikes and get in touch.

He said: “Anyone can join us if they want to, it’s an open invite. Sean Boyce (a presenter on Sky Racing) is joining us on the second day and it’s the more the merrier. If you’d like to join in, feel free to drop me a tweet and I’ll let you know the route and you can meet us there.”

INSPIRING OTHERS

Pritchard Webb recently marked two years since his accident and believes the milestone is a fitting opportunity to inspire others who suffer serious spinal injuries.

He continued: “It’s kind of bizarre how quickly it’s gone. It feels like it was a lot longer ago that it happened. I suppose I’ve kept myself so busy that it’s just flown by. I didn’t expect to be doing something like this so soon after the accident, but I think it’s quite a good advert really for people who have spinal cord injuries.

“It’s great to be able to show that it’s not the end of the world and life can be good, because I can tell you now that when you’re sat in hospital you think these things. Money aside, I hope it just raises awareness for the charities and also inspires people.”

One of the two charities that Pritchard Webb is supporting is the Injured Jockeys Fund (IJF), of which Sir AP McCoy is the President.

McCoy said: “I wouldn’t like to be doing what Jacob’s doing! I’m not really into biking if I’m being perfectly honest, but I did a 100-mile cycle two or three weeks ago and I haven’t looked at the bike since I did that!

“What I did notice during the cycle was how tough it is for the lads on the hand-cycles. You see signs that say ’70 miles to go’ and you feel tired and then watching those guys do that makes you think, ‘I have little to complain about’. It’s phenomenal and it’s all I kept thinking about and Jacob’s challenge.

“He is an inspiration. He’s a young, good looking lad who had his whole life in front of him before suffering those life-changing injuries but his attitude to it has just been fantastic. I really admire him and he has a great outlook on life because it can’t be easy. We all have down days but in the grand scheme of things, we don’t.

“The IJF costs a lot of money to run each year and is purely run by donations, so all the support we can get is really appreciated.

“Both charities are really important and it’s important we get behind them, but I know times are tough for a lot of people at the moment. If you can’t support us financially, I ask you to come out and join us for a little bit. I promise you it will do anyone who comes and cycles as much good for them as it will to Jacob.”

To sponsor Jacob, please go tohttps://www.sponsorme.co.uk/jacobwebb/the-cross-countys-cycle-challenge.aspx

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