MOUNTAIN biker Gareth Bailey and his friends set out on a 500-kilometre fundraising ride through Wales today, boosted by having already secured a five-figure sum for their cause.

Mr Bailey has planned the ride in aid of the Wales Air Ambulance, as a “thank you” for its coming to his aid after he broke his neck in an accident whilst mountain biking in the Afan Argoed forest, near Neath, last year.

Inspired by the work of air ambulance crews, whom he believes were instrumental in saving his life and in getting him to hospital as soon as possible for treatment, he and a group of friends will cycle from north to south Wales, visiting air ambulance bases on the way.

Starting today, they aim to complete their trek on Friday May 9 – they have already broken the £10,000 barrier.

Mr Bailey, 36, from Llantarnam, Cwmbran, over-rotated whilst taking a jump on a course in the forest early last year.

In addition to breaking his neck, he dislocated a shoulder and collarbone and broke several ribs.

He has no doubt the air ambulance crew who attended the scene and airlifted him to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, not only saved his life, but played a vital role in ensuring he was not paralysed.

He feared he might never walk again, but though it was seven months before he rode a bike again, he was back on his feet in a month, although he needed a number of operations. These included a bone graft to deal with a ruptured spinal disc that also required a metal cage to be fitted to keep his neck stable.

It was only after his accident that Mr Bailey discovered the Wales Air Ambulance is a charity that relies on raising several millions of pounds a year to keep its three helicopters operational.

“They were there when I needed them,” he said.

The fundraising ride is dubbed the Tour de Wales 2014. To donate, visit