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Welsh hockey stars aim to cycle 400 miles for Welsh charity!

A group of 4 current and ex-Welsh hockey players that have an impressive 250 combined international caps, are cycling from Sport Wales National Centre all the way to Antwerp, Belgium, where Wales men will be participating in the Belfirus EuroHockey Championship.

Natasha Marke-Jones has recently finished competing in the EuroHockey Championship II in Scotland. Just a week later, she is joining fellow commonwealth games athletes Carys Tucker, Sophie Clayton and Lisa Daley on the endeavour to Antwerp.

Fondly known as ‘The Welsh Wolfpack’, the team of 4 will be departing from Sport Wales at 9am on Saturday 17th August where they will embark on their 400+ mile trip overseas, averaging between 70-80 miles (110-130km) per day for 6 days to arrive on Thursday 22nd August in Antwerp.

They will be raising money for Ty Hafan, a Welsh charity that provides care for children with life-limiting conditions and support for their families. The groups former strength & conditioning coach, Dan, has a 7 year old son called Felix, who has a rare brain disorder called Lissencephaly and Miller-Dieker Syndrome. The group discovered the hospice costs £12,000 per day to run, and that is when The Welsh Wolfpack was formed.

Having not had a cycling career in the past, the girls have taken to the hills of South Wales to prepare for their immense journey ahead.

We caught up with the team to hear the ins and outs of their challenge;

How did the idea even come to mind? “The idea came about last summer on a casual bike ride when we were just fair-weather cyclists” says Lisa. Tash continued, “we wanted to take on a new challenge that would bring us together again, and already being on bikes, it just clicked!”.

“We’ve been doing everything we can to organise the charity ride for this amazing cause, but we knew it was serious when we started investing in new bikes and equipment” – Carys

Are you excited for the challenge ahead? Whilst two of them emit only excitement for the adventure, Tash admits her nerves for the challenge, admitting “it’s a brand new sport for me, completely out of our comfort zones and there’s elements of danger. I hope everyone can see how tough it is and what Ty Hafren means to us”. Lisa also admits the week has been mixed emotions of nerves and panic, but is also excited to get on the road with her best friends.

How long have you been training for? “Since last July we’ve tried getting out on the bike together as much as we could. We spent quite a bit of time training on old bikes which were mega heavy so now we have our new ones it makes it a hell of a lot easier” says Carys. Silver linings, I guess?

With the team needing to cycle 110-130KM a day for 6 days, we asked the Wolfpack what was the furthest distance they’d gone so far. This doesn’t phase one of the members as they took part in the Dragon Ride earlier in the year, completing 220KM in one day. Meanwhile, current player Tash says “wish me luck! as she has had to balance International hockey and the cycling training, her furthest distance so far was 80KM. Lisa takes a deep breathe as she says “100km is the furthest I have cycled in one day…. but we will need to average 110130KM a day, for six days!!“.

What do you anticipate being the biggest challenge of your journey? It’s “The climbs, the long days and.. the under carriage!!” apparently.
Lisa says it’s more a mental challenge they face, “surviving each day physically and mentally will be hard, but we’re a resilient group of girls so we should pull through!”. Tash on the other hand thinks they’ll get lost and has put her faith in Sophie to lead the way, meanwhile, light-hearted Carys says “keeping Paul, aka DRIVE, aka Sophie’s Dad & our support driver, entertained along the way” will be the biggest challenge.

Finally, what will keep you motivated during the more difficult parts? It’s evident that their bond as friends will be the biggest tool for them all. Carys says “we’ll stick together, encourage each other through the good, the bad and the ugly” and Lisa says they’ll get through it with giggles and “the reminder of who we are doing this for & the impact our raised funds will make to the Ty Hafan family!”. Also, whilst Tash offers the motto of “the strength of the pack is the wolf and the strength of the wolf if our pack”.

It’s great that we still spend so much time together outside of hockey and we will 100% continue to take on other challenges in the future to raise even more money for charity.

In a brilliant collaboration of events, the team are cycling to the very location Wales Men are competing in the Belfius EHC. You can read about the men’s journey here!

Hockey Wales wishes The Welsh Wolfpack the best of luck on their journey to Antwerp!

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