18 June 2018
A team of cyclists used pedal power to complete a gruelling 250-mile ride across Croatia and raise vital funds for Sunderland AFC’s official charity Foundation of Light.
The 32 riders, including SAFC cult hero Julio Arca, set off from Dubrovnik on Thursday and reached their final destination, Split, on Sunday evening.
The Argentinean, who has so far raised over £1,300 through his JustGiving page, was among the first to pay tribute to all those who supported the riders.
He said: “I feel great, and rewarded after all the hard work we did over the four days. To be honest, it was difficult, especially for me.
It was the first time I’d done something like that, but it was really rewarding to see everyone cross the finish line.
We knew it was going to be tough, but it was a mental challenge as well as a physical one.
“The support we received from everyone and the people who looked after us was absolutely fantastic.”
Tens of thousands of pounds have been raised for the Foundation as a result of the annual event which has previously included Brussels to Paris, Poland to Prague and the French Atlantic Coast to the French Mediterranean coast.
Among the others to take part was Gavin Slark, Chief Executive of event sponsors Grafton Group plc. “This is the seventh year we’ve sponsored the ride,” Gavin added: “The Foundation does unbelievable work, and I think the people of Sunderland and the area really benefit from the work the Foundation does.
“My team and I keep coming back because we think it’s such a special charity doing such special work in an incredible city.”
Cycle Challenge veteran and former Sunderland Echo editor Rob Lawson described the event as the toughest challenge to date. “Most riders would agree that this is the most difficult one we’ve completed yet,” he said. “The climbs were tough, because this time around we did about 23,000ft worth of climbing over four days, which is a lot.
“It was also very warm for most of it, which added to the difficulty. This was the first time Julio has took part and he was absolutely brilliant.”