Ride of Remembrance blog: Emotional end to epic cycle challenge

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IN my 20-year career as a professional sportsman I faced few challenges as tough as this year’s Foundation of Light cycle challenge.

But we did it – and as the 50 cyclists and support team members posed for pictures under the Eiffel Tower, there was a feeling of real pride.

Marco Gabbiadini

Marco Gabbiadini

The sense of camaraderie and mutual support has been a major part of the success of the ride, and that was felt more so today as the ride neared its end.

All week the heat has been more than just oppressive, it has been draining and dangerous.

Some days the temperature soared above 40 degrees. Yet time and time again, scores of riders put aside the aches and pains, crammed their water bottles with ice and climbed back into the saddle.

We did so because we firmly believe in the life-changing work of the Foundation.

And as the Foundation enters its next exciting phase – the development of the Beacon of Light – it’s vital that the city and the region supports its aims and endeavours.

Thankfully, there are those who are willing to do far more than offer moral support. Sunderland-born Gavin Slark is MD at Grafton Group and has for the last four years been the principal sponsor for the cycle challenge. On behalf of the Foundation – for whom I’m proud to be an ambassador – I would like to place on record my sincere gratitude for their continuing support.

Other companies who’ve sponsored various aspects of the ride include Sunderland company Dunelm Glass – who provided the Awards and whose riders added so much enjoyment to the ride and logistics company OSE. The ride was also in partnership with Forward Assist, a veteran support charity, for whom several riders took part.

This year’s ride should raise in the region of £90,000, a tremendous sum that will enable the Foundation to provide more life changing and life enhancing opportunities for so many young people and their families.

Our last day was quite an eventful one – four days of hard cycling after leaving Brussels, we arrived in a noisy, hectic Paris.

We left Soissons at about 7am this morning, and were quickly into idyllic French countryside; whizzing through small hamlets and villages to the accompaniment of crowing cocks, barking dogs and very little else.

The pace was relentless, the organisers keen to get all 50 of us into the French capital in good time. So we weren’t hanging about, covering more than 50 miles before stopping for lunch next to a canal.

We joined a canal heading into Paris 25 miles out and followed it in on a two-lane cycle path into the heart of the city.

After a quick celebratory drink we gathered under the Eiffel Tower to mark the end of the ride – it was quite an emotional experience after such a gruelling challenge. Seeing all of the Foundation jerseys lined up looked amazing, special thanks also go to sponsors Utility Brokers, Apex Radio Systems and Powerbar.

Then it was back to the hotel for an awards dinner, marking various achievements during the week.

The Ride of Remembrance may be over, but it’s not too late to sponsor one of the riders or to donate to the Foundation. To find out how, log on to the Foundation’s new website at www.foundationoflight.co.uk

Thanks for reading – and if you fancy joining me next year, keep an eye on the website for details.