It all started back in February when our MD, Philip White, went for a post-meeting dinner with George Czasznicki, CFO at enterprise software firm Infor. Syscap and Infor have been partners for over ten years, both directly and through channel partners and subsidiaries.
“Fancy a trip to Paris?” George asked, to which Phil, sipping his second glass of wine, immediately replied, “Of course.” An outing to the French capital sounded ideal, Phil thought – a chance to relax, sample some fine Parisian cuisine and do a spot of sightseeing.
“Oh, by the way,” George added, “we’re cycling.”
Inspired by the 2014 Invictus Games, the team at Infor decided to host their very own charity event to raise money for Help for Heroes; a non-profit organisation that supports the UK’s wounded war veterans. Cycle Infor Heroes will see 30 amateur cyclists from the UK and beyond embark on a gruelling 230-mile ride, setting off from London’s Horse Guards Parade on the 17th of September and finishing three days later at Paris’ iconic Eiffel Tower, where they will be treated to a well-deserved feast at a classic French bistro.
Never one to shy away from a challenge, Phil – an inexperienced cyclist, in his own words – invested in some essential Lycra and treated himself to a shiny new Bianchi bike. “I also bought myself some cleats to look the part,” Phil says, “But, as I was approaching the traffic lights on my very first road outing, I realised I had no idea how to remove my foot from the pedal. Slowly, and in front of a long line of cars, I started to fall onto the pavement. You could say that was a defining moment for me!”
After his cycling mishap, Phil realised it was time to start taking training seriously. He visited Cadence Performance in Crystal Palace, where the team assessed him and created a tailored training plan. “I’ve been adhering to the plan religiously since day one. I even trained during my holiday in Spain, riding 600k across 9 days!”
Ride25, the cycling event company helping Infor organise the ride, told Phil that the 30 riders taking part in the event will naturally split into three groups: those who can, those who think they can, and those who can’t. “At best, I want to be at the back of ‘those who can’ and worst, at the front of ‘those who think they can’.”
Help for Heroes was set up back in 2007 after husband and wife Bryn and Emma Parry visited injured servicemen and servicewomen in Birmingham’s Selly Oak Hospital. The very first event the couple hosted to raise money was a bike ride – “So, you see,” Phil says, “cycling is at the core of this charity.”
Emma has spoken openly about how donations to Help for Heroes have dropped by a staggering 40% in the past five years. Phil comments: “It may be due to charity fatigue or because war simply isn’t front-of-mind for people anymore. But, it’s important to realise that supporting war veterans is just as critical now as it ever has been. The trauma people suffer is long term and many find themselves needing life-long rehabilitation. Watching the Invictus Games, we hear many humbling stories of soldiers who have recovered well from their experiences – but that’s only a small percentage. There are many others who are still struggling, not just with their injuries but with things like relationships and reintegration within society.”
Phil has managed to raise almost £7,000 through his JustGiving page, which is over double his initial target of £3,000. “I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity and support of my friends, family and colleagues. My aim is to hit £7,500 before the big day.”
Phil tells us he’s eager to get going. “It’s something I’ve trained very hard for in order to raise as much money as possible for an unforgettable cause. It’s been physically and mentally challenging, and I’ve had to make a few sacrifices. I must admit, when my alarm rings at 5am and it’s cold and wet outside, on a few occasions I’ve been tempted to hit the snooze button. But then I think of the brave people who have served our country – what they have been through and what they sacrificed. They didn’t hit the snooze button. They didn’t give up.”
With just under a week to go, Phil’s putting in the final preparations and has invested in some chamois cream for the ride. “Let’s put it like this: when I reach the French bistro, I plan to be celebrating equally as hard as I’ve trained!”