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Cyclist recalls moment her brakes failed on Hardknott Pass descent during Fred Whitton Challenge

Vivienne Sherry relives ordeal on More4 TV show Emergency Helicopter Medics this evening

A cyclist whose brakes failed while she was descending the Hardknott Pass during the Fred Whitton Challenge in May this year will relive her ordeal this evening on the More4 TV show, Emergency Helicopter Medics (9pm).

Vivienne Sherry, from Preston, had ridden almost 100 miles of the event when she reached the Hardknott Pass – rated 10/10 for difficulty by author Simon Warren in his route guide on the Fred Whitton website, and followed by what he describes as a “terrifying descent.”

Recalling that climb, Ms Sherry said, “I remember it being so steep that I actually had to get off my bike and walk for some of it,” reports

But the 36-year-old realised that something was wrong as she speeded up on the descent towards Wrynose Bottom, and was shouting at people to get out of her way.

“I pressed my brakes, and nothing happened,” she explained. “I just wasn’t slowing down. I didn’t make the corner and ended up hitting a rock and coming off my bike, landing in a gulley.

“I was lying on the ground just looking up at the sky and I could hear my friend screaming. She told me not to move while she ran for help.”

A helicopter from the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) was alerted, and Ms Sherry said: “I can remember the air ambulance coming for me – they were with me very quickly and they were great.”

She was taken to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough and despite having extensive cuts and grazes did not sustain more serious injury.

“The worst thing was that I had took so much skin off all over my body,” she said. “My arms are still a bit of a mess from the accident, but you can’t have everything, and I feel really lucky.”

After being discharged from hospital, she went to stay with her mother and sister who provided support.

“I couldn’t even get dressed,” she said. “Four weeks later I managed to go back home once my bandages were off.

“When I had to get my bandages changed and cleaned it was just awful and so painful,” she added.

Ms Sherry was back on her bike three weeks after the crash, although she said that the pain was so intense she could only ride for one mile.

“I was in tears, but I tried my best to get back on,” she said. “It’s been a mental struggle as I worry that I might fall back off and wonder if it will happen again.

“It makes me nervous but hopefully it will settle down soon.”

One of the most popular sportives in the country and considered by many to be the toughest, with the route including some of the country’s most feared climbs, the Fred Whitton Challenge was first held in 1999.

It was named after Fred Whitton, racing secretary of the Lakes Road Club, who died from cancer at the age of 50 in 1998.

After the inaugural event in 1999 it has been held every year since, other than in 2001 when it was cancelled due to the foot-and-mouth epidemic.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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