THE London to Brighton bike ride may have been cancelled this year but that didn’t stop one determined cyclist from taking part... in her kitchen.

Mel Bucknell was diagnosed with a rare heart condition after giving birth and had signed up for Sunday’s ride to raise money for the British Heart Foundation.

Though the race was called off amid the coronavirus lockdown, the 33-year-old still wanted to cover the distance.

She completed the 54 miles in under five hours on an exercise bike at home, smashing her target and raising hundreds of pounds for charity – while her husband Piers held up pictures of landmarks along the way.

“I was going to have a break in the middle, but I just powered through it,” said Mel from Westham, near Pevensey.

There was a moment on the ride where her heart rate shot up and wouldn’t come down. Mel felt light-headed – but the trouble passed, and she crossed the finishing line two hours ahead of schedule.

Mel, who cycles to work at Eastbourne Borough Council and had not completed the ride before, said she wanted to prove to herself she could still take on a challenge.

She was diagnosed with peripartum cardiomyopathy after giving birth to her second child, Camilla, in 2017. She has another daughter, Harriet, five.

The condition has no known cause and can occur towards the end of pregnancy or in the first few months afterwards. It damages the heart muscle, leaving it unable to pump effectively.

Mel said: “I had quite a normal pregnancy and didn’t notice anything different from my first child. It was about six weeks after I gave birth that I started to feel unwell. I was very tired walking anywhere and I had difficulty breathing.”

She went to her GP, who referred her to hospital, where a nurse spotted her pulse was fast. When she was diagnosed with the rare condition, Mel said she was “in complete disbelief”.

“I felt all the blood fall from my face,” she said. “I’m only 30. I’d never had any health concerns before.

“It was a horrible time. I had a new baby who was only a few weeks old and two-year old at home. My husband and I had to have a conversation about what would happen if I died.”

Since then, Mel has been managing her condition with medication, though she may one day need a pacemaker.

Pete Tarrant of the BHF said: “We’re so grateful to Mel taking on this cycle challenge.

“During these difficult times we are all going through, it is inspiring to see people find inventive ways to raise money for causes close to their heart.

“The incredible energy and enthusiasm Mel has shown is helping us beat heartbreak forever, and we would like to say a huge thank you for her support.”

Mel has raised more than £700 for the BHF. You can donate at justgiving.com/fundraising/mel-bucknell