England rugby legend Martin Johnson CBE returned to the front of the pack as he led over 150 Vélo Birmingham & Midlands participants on a morning cycle through the Warwickshire countryside.

The Solihull-born World Cup-winning captain and ride ambassador for the annual sportive took on the 40-mile training ride alongside companies that have entered the CBRE Business 100 challenge.

One of Europe’s biggest cycling events, Vélo Birmingham & Midlands is taking place on Sunday May 12, 2019.

The stunning 100-mile closed-road route will take up to 20,000 riders of all abilities on an unforgettable journey through the West Midlands.

It will also raise a substantial amount for local and national charities and boost the region’s economy and visitor profile.

Phil Upton and Martin Johnson at the CBRE Business 100 training ride
 

Starting and finishing in Birmingham city centre, the route will also pass through the heart of the 2019 European City of Sport and 2021 Capital of Culture – Coventry – where riders will cycle in the shadow of St Michael’s Tower at the ruins of Coventry Cathedral.

The CBRE Business 100 challenge offers a VIP experience coupled with exclusive and networking opportunities.

The CBRE team at the CBRE Business 100 training ride
 

The morning training ride on Saturday March 30 was hosted by the award-winning Purity Brewery near Alcester. Purity Brewery produces Saddle Black; a beer created to celebrate the brewery location being discovered during a bike ride.

Companies taking part in the training ride included Business 100 sponsors CBRE, global architecture practice Broadway Malyan, construction group Morgan Sindall, freight experts RIM Logistics, waste management firm Veolia UK and hosts Purity Brewery.

The Vélo Birmingham Business 100 challenge doubled its £100,000 fundraising target at the 100-mile closed-road cycle sportive in 2017. This added to a total figure of well over £2 million raised for charities across the UK by individual participants.

Raring to go: The pack led by Martin Johnson on the morning training ride
 

Johnson, a keen cyclist, said: “Events like this are great for this area. It’s a fantastic place to ride your bike – something people don’t always realise.

“It’s great to show off the beautiful countryside and will be the perfect showpiece for the Midlands.”

Martin Johnson, centre, with Velo Birmingham & Midlands cyclists at the CBRE Business 100 training ride

Among the cyclists at the CBRE Business 100 Training Ride was BBC Coventry & Warwickshire radio presenter and keen cyclist Phil Upton, who will be taking on Vélo Birmingham & Midlands as a Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham Charity ambassador.

He said: “On behalf of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham I’d like to say a massive thank-you to the cyclists at Vélo Birmingham in 2017 who raised £200,000 for good causes through the Business 100.

Martin Johnson, centre, at the CBRE Business 100 training ride
 

“We are in a position where we are going to have 1,000 cycling in the QEHB jersey on Sunday, May 12, and we’re delighted to see the great Chris Boardman among our number on the day.

“We’re really hopeful of smashing our 2017 figure and if you’re not signed up for a charity and thinking about doing so I’d urge you to support QEHB.”

For further information about the Vélo Birmingham CBRE Business 100 challenge visit https://velobirmingham.com/the-ride/business-100/