GrapeRiding for Ella and CanTeen

18:51, Apr 01 2014

This weekend 2500 cyclists will descend on Marlborough for the 10th annual Forrest GrapeRide, but for two riders there will be more at stake than simply riding the course in a good time.

Christchurch man Russell Sewell will be riding the two-lap Magnum route to raise money for a work colleague's 11-year-old daughter who lost her leg to cancer.

Tackling the Mammoth 10-lap course will be veteran ultra-distance cycling legend Colin Anderson from Palmerston North, who will be raising money for CanTeen New Zealand.

While Colin, 66, is no newcomer to long stints on a bicycle, the 202km route will be the longest of Russell's life.

He originally took up the sport to get fit after moving to New Zealand from England but grew to love it.

He has done the GrapeRide in the past, having ridden the 101km route a couple times and the 42km route last year.


On Saturday he will set off on the double lap race for Gabriella "Ella" Benn, 11, who had a leg amputated below the knee because of cancer.

"She is a very promising athlete and has been selected for Canterbury in cross country. We are trying to raise the money [$40,000] for a running blade," Russell says.

He nurses at Christchurch Hospital with Ella's mother.

"She [Ella] has been through a really tough time and has just started 18 weeks of chemo. People at work have been giving their time and doing things to raise money for her so I decided I would do something too."

He had planned to do the full course this year but has had to put in some extra training to prepare for the long double route.

He is feeling good though, having started his training before Christmas and done some long stints on the bike such as riding from Christchurch to Hanmer Springs.

"I have to say a big thanks to Optimal Performance who have been helping me with the physio-cycling coaching set-up and lots of free leg massages during my training, as well The Store at Tai Tapu who have given me biker bars nutrition," Russell says.

An entirely different challenge lies ahead for Colin, who along with 15 other hardy cyclists will have to endure two nights and more than two full days in the saddle.

Preparation is 90 per cent of the battle he says, with one of the biggest parts of the challenge being the cold nights.

"It can get especially cold on the road near Linkwater.

"But it is a glorious ride and extremely well organised, and the course is very manageable," Colin says.

Supporting CanTeen is something he has done in the past and as a cancer survivor himself is a strong advocate for the cause.

He is also no stranger to long-distance riding, having celebrated his 66th birthday by doing 66 laps around Lake Taupo.

When it comes to the reason for doing such massive rides it's simply about the challenge.

"I normally do these things solo but my son will be coming from Christchurch to support me around the course, which will be great."


Russell is fundraising through .

Colin is fundraising through

The Marlborough Express