Lee trains at Quadrant for American bike trek with Welsh rugby greats

A MAN who plans to ride over 300 miles through the USA alongside a pack of Welsh rugby legends to raise cash for cancer patients has made a flying start to the gruelling challenge at Swansea’s Quadrant Shopping Centre.

Lee Venn, who runs a gym in Glynneath, spent a day on a spin bike at the Quadrant and raised an incredible £1250 for the Velindre Cancer Centre, in Cardiff.

In September the 37-year-old will join former Wales icons Jonathan Davies MBE, Martyn Williams, Mike Hall, Shane Williams MBE, Tom Shanklin, Rhys Williams and Andy Booth on the testing East Coast charity bike ride.

It will see them aiming to cover the 320 miles (515 kilometres) from Boston to New York in just five days and raise many thousands of pounds for the Velindre Centre.

Lee is in strict training for the strength-sapping challenge and is planning another eight-hour spon bike session at the Quadrant on Sunday, June 29, as he builds up to his USA odyssey.

Lee, who was born and raised in Glynneath, started his career as a greetings cards salesman in Cardiff but seven years ago decided to team up with his father and brother to open Trainstation Fitness in his home town.

When he’s not supervising sessions in his gym Lee is also an accomplished video cameraman who films at weddings and other events.

And it’s this skill which brought him into contact with some of Wales’s rugby greats who he’ll be joining on the East Coast ride.

Lee explained: “For quite a few years I’ve been doing short videos featuring former Wales players which they play at speaking engagements and other events.

“The films are humorous and have plenty of jokes in them, which goes down well with the lads and their audiences, and so I’m known to them as a bit of a joker.

“I was invited along on the ride in America by a few of them for the banter. Basically, they expect me to take the mickey out of them while we’re all riding along from Boston to New York.”

But Lee admits that although he’s looking forward to jetting across the Atlantic on September 8 to start the ride, the physical challenge will certainly be no joke.

“Some of the former Wales lads did a similar ride through California in 2012 and raised about a quarter of a million pounds for Velindre, so they tell me this one will be just as tough,” he said.

“The ride will begin in Boston, and then travel through colonial villages, rolling hills and seaside towns along the Atlantic coast. It will finish by crossing Brooklyn Bridge in New York.

“It will be five days of hard riding over mixed terrain which I understand includes quite a few climbs, so I have to make sure I’m pretty fit to complete it.

“When I was younger I used to do weight training and power lifting. With that and having the gym I’ve always managed to keep up a pretty good level of fitness.

“About three months ago I decided to get into cycling. I bought myself a decent bike – a full carbon road machine for about £2,500 – and started going out on regular rides.

“I ride whenever I have the time and have a regular route which takes me from Glynneath and back through the Valleys and Swansea.

“The longest ride I’ve done out on the road so far is 67 miles, which took me down past the Mumbles and the Gower, so to give myself some extra training and raise some money for Velindre I asked the management team at the Quadrant Shopping Centre if I could do a static ride there.

“I’m very grateful that they gave me permission to do it and, helped by my friends from the gym Heledd Williams, Kaleigh Smith and Brian Morgan who rattled the collection buckets for me, I rode for eight hours with just one short toilet break and must have done the equivalent of about 160 miles on the road.

“I raised £750 for Velindre, which included £500 very kindly donated to me by Renault Cardiff.

“Jonathan Davies, who lost both his father and his first wife to cancer, is president of Velindre and I’m supporting the centre because it’s such a fantastic place.

“I’ve seen quite a few of my family members affected by cancer so I thought raising money for somewhere like Velindre was the least I could do.”

Ian Kirkpatrick, Manager of the Quadrant Shopping Centre, said: “Lee had a brilliant day here and did really well for what is a very worthy charity.

“It’s great that he’s headed for the USA with some of Welsh rugby’s biggest names and I’m sure he’ll keep them entertained along the way as they raise a mountain of cash for the Velindre Centre.”

Lee, who is single, added: “I’ve just been given the go-ahead by the Quadrant to do another static ride there on Sunday, June 29, when I’ll be trying to do another eight hours riding and raise a similar amount for Velindre.

“I reckon this will all help me achieve the right level of fitness for the big ride in America when my fundraising target is £5,000. From the various events I’ve done so far, including other collections and fundraising nights, I’m already on £3,500 but any extra cash I can get from my latest ride at the Quadrant will help tremendously.

“I hope as many people as possible will come down and help support what is a really great cause.”

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