July 24 - Britain's women's volleyball team have set off on their four-day cycle ride from Sheffield to London to help raise funds for their preparations for the 2012 Olympics.

They plan to reach the capital on Tuesday (July 27) to coincide with the two years countdown to the opening of the Olympics.

Financial constraints have recently dictated that their Sheffield-based programme be suspended for the next eight months and the cycle ride was their idea to generate the additional funds necessary to establish them as an Olympic squad with genuine potential and the capacity to make an impact on the Games.

The sport as a whole - indoor, beach and sitting - qualified for  funding of £4.3 million ($6.8 million) over four years from UK Sport – set at that level because of their previous lack of Olympic experience - but the GB women’s squad are now determined to make up any shortfall themselves.

The planned route will take them through Nottingham, Loughborough, Leicester, Stratford, Oxford, Reading, Hampton Court, Richmond Park, Westminster, Trafalgar Square and finishing at Earls Court, the Olympic volleyball venue, on Tuesday evening.
Along the way, they will take part in demonstration volleyball events, offer the public  rides on a giant seven-seater-bike, provide an inflatable volleyball court, meet the local people and spread the word of their intention to raise a necessary total of £250,000 ($399,000) to maintain their programme over the winter 2010-2011.

The squad have received support from Sebastian Coe, the London 2012 chairman.

He said: "Every athlete trains to be at their peak at the greatest competitive event of their lives so good luck to the team in their efforts.

"They have come so far already in such a short time. I hope that the team's dedication is repaid with a fantastic performance at Earls Court in 2012."

Five times Olympic gold medalist, Sir Steve Redgrave, said: "As someone who competed at five Olympics, and almost all of them with an overdraft, I understand what it's like to strive for a goal on very little money. 

"My ambition was to win an Olympic gold medal and I was stubborn enough to keep going.

"The GB women's volleyball team have a similar ambition - to compete in London 2012 as the very best athletes they can be.

"That is all you can ask of yourself.

"I applaud their dedication and taking responsibility for themselves in these difficult financial times. I wish them well and hope they do our country proud in London."

Dame Kelly Holmes has also sent a message of support.

She said: "I know only too well how difficult it can be to ensure that everything is right for you to produce that perfect performance on the biggest stage of all, the Olympic Games. 

"Elite sports men and women face many challenges on their way to the top, and unfortunately in these current times, funding and financial backing is an increasingly common issue. 

"I wish the GB women’s volleyball every success with their efforts, and sincerely hope that the Cycle 250 brings the rewards it deserves. 

"Your team spirit is there for all to see and I look forward to seeing you on the Olympic stage in 2012."

Audrey Cooper, the GB women's volleyball head coach said: "It's no surprise to me the girls are doing this, knowing their determination and energy.

"They are not willing to turn up at London 2012 under-prepared.

"They want to be as good as they can be at our home Olympics to make the country proud.

"They've conducted themselves so admirably and professionally this season.

"They've played some absolutely tremendous volleyball against really tough opposition.

"We need that competition.

"We need to go on playing quality matches so we can do our best in 2012.

"When we realised the required funding wasn't there, we said: 'What can we do as a group of athletes and staff to get off our backsides and help ourselves?'

"We came up with the bike ride and we are prepared to do absolutely anything to keep our 2012 dreams alive.

"We started from nothing in 2007 and we've improved out of sight since then.

"We are simply not prepared to give up now."

Related stories
June 2010:
 Lucy Wickes - Funding cut is devastating but we will not give up
June 2010: British volleyball team forced to pedal their way to London 2012