Chris Johnson climbing up a 25 percent gradient hill at the end of a 103-mile training ride from Brockwood, Surrey to Studland, Dorset. Photo by Dan Monaghan Chris Johnson climbing up a 25 percent gradient hill at the end of a 103-mile training ride from Brockwood, Surrey to Studland, Dorset.
Photo by Dan Monaghan

On Oct. 14, 2012, Linklaters associate Daniel Bagshaw collapsed just yards from the finish line of an Olympic distance triathlon in Hong Kong. A fit and healthy 27-year-old, with no history of heart or other medical issues, Bagshaw suffered a sudden and fatal cardiac arrest. He died at the scene.

A post mortem revealed that Bagshaw, a sports nut who had run marathons, climbed to the Everest base camp and cycled gruelling mountain stages of the Tour de France, had a perfectly structurally sound heart. The cause of death was attributed to sudden arrhythmic death syndrome—a genetic heart disease that affects nearly one in 2,000 people and can cause death in young, apparently healthy people. Each week, 12 people in the U.K. die suddenly of inherited cardiac conditions.

The tragic event led Bagshaw’s elder brother, Ian Bagshaw, global co-head of private equity at White & Case, to launch a charity aimed at helping others avoid the same fate. Dan’s Trust provides funding to support the early diagnosis and treatment of cardiac risk in the young—mainly through medical research. In 2014, the charity contributed 50,000 pounds ($66,000) to help launch a research project at Imperial College, London, which recently won two prizes from the European Cardiac Arrhythmia Society. It also provides defibrillators for schools and local communities in Lancashire, where the Bagshaws are from, and is currently in discussions with the U.K. charity Cardiac Risk in the Young to fund a cardiac screening day at the Manchester Velodrome for 100 elite cyclists on behalf of the Great Britain Olympic cycling team.

At around the same time, one of Bagshaw’s close friends, Mark Dickinson, managing director at private equity firm Blue Water Energy, set up his own charity following the death of Danny Fullbrook, the chief soccer writer at the UK daily tabloid newspaper The Daily Star, who went to college with the pair and had lost an 18-month battle with cancer at age 40. The Danny Fullbrook Fearless Foundation provides young people with a range of career opportunities, including training to become primary school sports coaches; apprenticeships in finance, engineering and media; and training as mentors on community programs. The charity also sponsors a small number of young people to study at the University of Hull, where Fullbrook, Bagshaw and Dickinson studied.

Both keen cyclists, Bagshaw and Dickinson decided in 2014 to join forces and create an annual cycling fundraiser.

“We realized the best way to raise funds was to get people to do a cycling challenge that was sufficiently painful for the participants to feel good about asking friends and family for money,” Bagshaw says.

The ride is now in its third year, after previous trips from Milan to Nice via San Remo, and from Geneva to Nice, which each raised 250,000 pounds ($329,000) across the two charities.

“Our aim is to raise one million pounds ($1.3 million) within 10 years,” Bagshaw says. “We’ve already hit 500,000 pounds ($660,000), so we’re well on our way.”

This year, more than 60 riders will cover 400km from London to Paris across three days, starting tomorrow. I will be joining them, raising money for a guest charity, Team Rwanda, a nonprofit organization that helps male and female riders in Rwanda fulfil their dreams of becoming professional cyclists. It is playing an important role in the country’s recovery from the 1994 genocide, during which most of the team’s riders lost their parents and other family members.

Team Rwanda has achieved considerable success since being established in 2007 by Jock Boyer, a former U.S. pro cyclist and the first American rider to compete in the Tour de France. Four Team Rwanda members have gained contracts with professional teams, with Adrien Niyonshuti riding for Team Dimension Data alongside British legend Mark Cavendish, who won four stages in this year’s Tour de France and is widely regarded as the greatest sprint cyclist of all time. In 2015, Team Rwanda’s Jeanne d’Arc Girubuntu become the first black woman to race at the UCI Road World Championships, competing in Richmond, Virginia; the Team won Rwanda’s first ever gold medal in the All Africa Games, in the men’s cycling road race. Two of Team Rwanda’s cyclists will soon be traveling to Rio to compete in the 2016 Olympic Games. (This article in The New Yorker offers a detailed look at its history and development.)

Team Rwanda is purely financed by donations and philanthropy. If you would like to help, you can make a donation via this link. I am personally covering all of the costs associated with the ride, so 100 percent of the money raised will go direct to the charity. Any donation, no matter how small, really would make a difference.

If you would like to sponsor Ian Bagshaw and Dan’s Trust, click on this link instead.