A MOUNTAIN biker who feared being left paralysed after breaking his neck in a freak accident a year ago is cycling 500km for the air ambulance service which rescued him.

Gareth Bailey, 36, thought he may never walk again when he was airlifted out of the Afan Argoed forest by the Wales Air Ambulance last year, following a fall in which he also dislocated his shoulder and collarbone, and broke several ribs.

But one year on he is back on his feet – and back on a bike – preparing to undertake a gruelling ride to raise thousands of pounds for the charity.

Llantarnam resident Mr Bailey said they saved his life, adding: “Wales Air Ambulance (WAA) is actually a charity, that receives no government grants or lottery funding, which is pretty amazing and shocking at the same time because they provide such an invaluable service.

“They need to raise at least £6 million a year to operate their three helicopters, which can be anywhere in Wales within 20 minutes.

“They were there when I needed them. I went over a jump, over rotated and it all went a bit pear-shaped.

“They got me to the Heath Hospital and I underwent several operations.

“I ruptured a disc too so they had to do a bone graft and used a metal cage in my neck to hold it together.

“I was out of action for quite a while but I was back walking in a month, albeit not very far, and I was back on a bike after seven months.

“That might not have been the case if the air ambulance hadn’t saved my life and got me to hospital in that ‘golden hour’. I was very lucky.”

Mr Bailey said he was more apprehensive returning to the bike than before the accident, but the WAA was an excellent motivator, adding: “This charity is something close to my heart and the ride I have planned is quite a challenge.

“In a fitting manner, the event I have planned is a 500km cycle ride from North to South Wales via all of the WAA bases, which will take place between May 6 and May 9.”

He will be joined by a group of 14 friends on the Tour de Wales 2014, as they have called it. They have already raised around £3,500.

Newport Gwent Dragons are supporting the cause, with the riders set to hold a collection at their final home game of the season – when the riders aim to return to Gwent.

and Mr Bailey’s employers, DHL Supply Chain, are the principle sponsors, while Cardiff Volkswagen is providing a support van.

A blog detailing their training exploits can be found at tourdewales.tumblr.com

Mr Bailey’s Just Giving page is justgiving.com/TourdeWales2014