A HAMPSHIRE Royal Marines officer has described how the care that helped him walk and cycle again after a near-fatal cycling accident has inspired him to undertake a £100,000 fundraising challenge.

Major Paul Spanner suffered a serious spinal injury after he was involved in the accident, in which he collided with a concrete pillar at 33mph last July.

Out of gratitude for the care provided by him, the 47-year-old is now embarking on his Towers Challenge – cycling in a peloton of 20 riders from London’s Tower Bridge to the Eiffel Tower in Paris via the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth in just 42 hours.

Launching the bid at Goodwood House, Chichester – close to where the accident happened – Maj Spanner, from Winchester, said: “You prepare yourself for difficult circumstances when you deploy in the military, but not when you do everyday things like riding a bike.

"My accident came as such a shock and it made me realise that it doesn’t matter who you are, fate can turn your world upside-down so quickly.

“I am so thankful for the organisations who rebuilt me and put me back together. You have meant I can keep doing the things I love – cycling and skiing.

"Almost a year after my accident, I will shortly be returning to work. I can’t thank the medical teams enough for what they did.”

The charities to benefit from the challenge include the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, Love Your Hospital Charity (Western Sussex Hospitals), Southampton Hospital Charity, and the British Heart Foundation.

On July 2 last year Maj Spanner, a former elite-level cyclist, and his brother Ian, a serving Royal Navy submariner, were on a routine training ride ahead of a charity cycle event. As weather conditions deteriorated, he lost control of his bike, colliding with a brick pillar at a speed of 33mph.

Maj Spanner said: “I was taken to hospital where I found the extent of my injuries was more than I’d initially thought – I’d fractured my skull, broken my back in six places, plus ripped several of my fingers open.

“It was amazing – only nine hours after the spinal surgery I was walking again and I got back on my bike after about six weeks.”

The team of riders will undertake the Towers Challenge on June 29. For more information, visit thetowerschallenge.com and uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/The_Towers_Challenge.