A SOUTH Lakeland cycling champion, who is preparing for her most gruelling charity challenge to date, desperately needs help to replace her stolen mountain bikes.

Shelley Barlow, from the Kentmere Valley, is hoping to become the first female off-roader to cross the entire length of the Pyrenees from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.

But before she can embark on this major endurance test on September 21, she needs to raise around £2,000 to buy the high specification bike required to tackle the undulating terrain and extreme weather.

Ms Barlow, 36, who was dubbed Killer Queen by a leading mountain biking magazine, was devastated when her hard tail and full suspension bikes were stolen from the back of her van in Buttermere in May.

“The bikes were worth around £7,500 so it was a real blow,” she said. “I am hoping local businesses may want to sponsor the challenge to help me buy a new mountain bike.”

The challenge will will push Ms Barlow to her mental and physical limits, often requiring her to carry her bike on her back as she scrambles up near vertical inclines, following tracks rarely used by other cyclists.

“I have spent a lot of time researching it and, as far as I am aware, I will be the only woman to do it,” she said. “It is really exciting. I just hope I can do it, as the date approaches I am getting more and more nervous.”

Ms Barlow is financing the trip herself and hopes to raise £20,000 to help PaddlersForLife – a charity that offers dragon boat paddling as therapy to cancer patients – buy two new boats.

She is being accompanied by fellow mountain biking enthusiast John Helme, of Coniston, and the pair have been training in the Cumbrian countryside, Ms Barlow on a makeshift bike.

“I managed to cobble together a frame and other parts but it is a bit of a shed and it won’t be suitable for the challenge,” she said.

“We aim to cover 60km a day, which in cycling terms isn’t very much, but will be difficult in the mountains.”

If you think you can help Shelley replace her bike or want to donate cash go to the website below contact 07866 747685.