A Lincolnshire cyclist will embark on the final leg of an epic fundraiser next week as he marks the end of his 5,600-mile Dambusters Rides 2021 challenge for the RAF Benevolent Fund.
Throughout the year, Mike Ainsworth has tackled a number of mind-boggling endurance rides and regular training rides in tribute to the Dambusters and to honour Britain’s last surviving airman from that raid, Johnny Johnson. Not only has Mike racked up the miles, he has also raised more than £1,000 for the Fund, the RAF’s leading welfare charity.
Mike, who serves at RAF College Cranwell, said: “Throughout my RAF career, I’ve known the RAF Benevolent Fund would be there for me if times got tough. I’ve seen first-hand the incredible support they give not only to serving personnel but also to RAF veterans and their families.
“This cycling challenge has been so much fun and I feel honoured to be able to pay tribute to those who have gone before me in this way. This distance represents 100 miles for each crew member from the eight Lancaster bombers that did not return from the Dambusters raid. I also turned 56 this year, which makes my target especially fitting!
“I am an enthusiastic recreational cyclist and member of the Grantham-based Witham Wheelers Cycling Club; but this challenge has taken my riding to new levels of endurance.”
On Wednesday, also Battle of Britain Day, Mike dons his cycle helmet for the final time in the challenge, cycling 160 miles from Lincoln’s International Bomber Command Centre to the Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park, London. The RAF Benevolent Fund is proud to be the custodian of the Memorial, ensuring the legacy of the 55,573 men it remembers will never be forgotten.
Mike’s first endurance ride took place in May when he cycled the 200 miles from RAF Scampton to Johnny Johnson’s Bristol home on the 78th anniversary of the raid. The last Dambuster, Johnny received a pedal past of 12 cyclists who completed a 19-mile loop, one for each of the crews who took part in the raid, before joining Mike for the ‘pedal past’.
Then in July he completed four consecutive 100-mile rides in Lincolnshire, over four days which culminated in the RAF Benevolent Fund’s Dambusters Ride Sportive where he joined 289 other riders raising funds for the charity. Mike covered a total of 413 miles over the four days, 50 miles further than the Tour de France covered over the same number of days!
The Dambusters raid, otherwise known as Operation Chastise, was a pivotal moment during the Second World War when 19 Lancaster crews targeted three dams in the heart of Germany’s war machine. It was a risky raid, dropping the revolutionary bouncing bomb at low level, and the cost was high. Of 133 crew who took part, 53 were killed in action and three were taken prisoner of war.
The Dambusters Ride will be held on the weekend of 14-15 May in 2022 with a virtual and actual ride. Cyclists can join the Lincolnshire Century or Half Century, setting off from the home of the Dambusters in Woodhall Spa, or complete the distance on a route of their choosing. To sign up visit the Fund’s website. The ride raised more than £175,000 in 2021.
The RAF Benevolent Fund exists to ensure no one who has served their country faces adversity alone. RAF personnel, veterans and their partners can access a range of support including grants to ease financial distress, support with care costs and emotional wellbeing.
To sponsor Mike on his final leg, go to: https://rafbf.enthuse.com/pf/mike-ainsworth
Image shows Mike Ainsworth. Photo: RAF Benevolent Fund