Cyclists have reached the end of mammoth charity challenge after journeying more than 320 miles on the Continent.
Nearly 40 riders have cycled along the French Atlantic coast to the Mediterranean to generate cash for Sunderland AFC’s Foundation of Light charitable organisation.
The rides are always a challenge – and Day Four this year was particularly so – but very rewarding.Marco Gabbiadini
The team are expected to have raised more than £70,000 from the challenge, which ended in the French coastal town of Gruissan.
Supported by a logistics team and led from coast to coast by two lead cyclists, the riders were in training for months to take on the challenge.
Among them was former SAFC striker Marco Gabbiadini, who has now completed every annual Foundation ride since they started five years ago.
This year, he was accompanied by his son Jules, and joined on the last night by his mum, who met him en route.
“It’s always an enjoyable few days with a great group of people – and a fantastic way to raise thousands of pounds for such an important charity,” said Marco, who signed for the Black Cats from his home town club York City in 1987.
“The Foundation provides a valuable service in Sunderland and across the wider North East, and it’s testament to the work they do that so many cyclists come back year after year.
“The rides are so well organised by the Foundation team, and all of the cyclists are friendly and supportive.
“The rides are always a challenge – and Day Four this year was particularly so – but very rewarding.”
The cycle challenge has been supported since it began by building materials company the Grafton Group.
Other ride sponsors included logistics company OSE and Springfield Motors.
The Foundation’s head of commercial, Richard Hopper, who was tour manager for the ride, said he was impressed by the riders’ commitment and spirit.
“No matter how hard the days were, and some were really tough, the cyclists never lost their sense of humour,” said Richard.
“I’m grateful for their efforts, and also grateful to the Foundation.”
Alan McGee, from Cleadon, who completed his third ride for the Foundation, said: “It was an interesting route this year, which became more and more challenging.
“But the sight of the Med after four days of hard riding was very welcome.
“It’s a good way of spreading the word about the work of the Foundation, and I hope to be back next year.”