Sunderland riders raise £66,000 with Pisa-to-Rome Foundation of Light Cycle Challenge

A group of cyclists has raised more than £66,000 for SAFC’s charity arm by peddling from Pisa to Rome.

The gang of 39 cycled the mountainous, 280-mile route over four days in sweltering heat for the Foundation of Light Cycle Challenge, followed by a nine-strong support team.

The challenge is an annual event, although it was cancelled in 2020 because of Covid and only a local, one-day ride was possible last year.

The 2022 Pisa to Rome challenge was the tenth Foundation ride. Over the last decade riders have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for the charity, which works with young people and their families across the North East.

Foundation of Light cyclists at their finishing point at the Ponte Milvio Bridge in Rome. Picture by Michael Oliver.

Previous rides have been from Dublin to Sunderland; Pisa to Venice; Brussels to Paris, the French Atlantic coast to the Mediterranean; Poland to Prague, Dubrovnik to Split in Croatia and Geneva to eastern France.

The ride was sponsored by builders’ merchants Grafton’s, whose chief executive Gavin Slark is originally from Sunderland and a long-time supporter of the charity.

One of the riders was former Echo editor Rob Lawson, who said: “It was a really tough challenge this year, with a combination of heat, mileage and climbing taking its toll. I’ve done eight of the Foundation cycle rides and this was certainly the hardest.

“However, the Tuscan scenery was absolutely beautiful, the Italians very friendly and the camaraderie among the riders kept us going.

Sean and Allison Thompson on their tandem during this year’s Foundation of Light Cycle Challenge. Picture by Michael Oliver.

“The rides are always extremely well organised, with regular stops and daily briefings on what to expect the following day.

"It has become an important event in the calendars of many of the riders and many of the ‘regulars’ have got to know each well over the years; although it’s always great to welcome new faces, which we did again this year.”

Jemma Dowson, head of events at the Foundation, said: “I’d like to thank all of this year’s riders and their generous sponsors for helping to raise so much.

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“The Cycle Challenge has become one of our most important fundraisers and we’re very grateful to everyone involved, especially Grafton’s and our Foundation support team.

"They work so hard behind the scenes to make the challenge as smooth as possible for the cyclists.”