FOUR days and more than 280 miles after setting off from Geneva, 38 Foundation of Light cyclists arrived at their destination in France.
In arriving at Mulhouse on Thursday afternoon, the cyclists had raised more than £30,000 for SAFC’s official charity which works with young people and their families throughout the North East.
The last leg of this year’s Cycle Challenge was from the beautiful lakeside town of Gerardmer to Mulhouse, a distance of 60 miles, and involved 4,100ft of climbing.
Marco Gabbiadini, legendary number 10 for SAFC was one of the cyclists: “It has been a great experience – a beautiful, challenging and exciting route, great fellowship among the riders and, always, terrifically well organised from start to finish.
“Parts of our route this year involved cycling portions of the Tour de France so it was never going to be easy. But all of the riders are committed to raising funds for a wonderful, life-changing charity and we were all delighted to hear how much money had been raised.”
Gavin Slark, the Sunderland-born Group Chief Executive of Cycle Challenge sponsors Grafton Group plc, said he and 15 other cyclists from his company had thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would be sponsoring next year’s challenge.
It is the eighth annual challenge, all of which have been sponsored by Grafton’s, a UK and Ireland-based builders’ merchants business.
Ritchie Pitt, the FA Cup winning former SAFC centre back, was part of the ride support team, stepping in to help out at only a few days’ notice.
“I’ve done some work in the past with the Foundation and know about the important work they do in local communities, so was only too pleased to help,” he said.
While Marco, who was cycling with his daughter Evie, has completed the cycle challenge several times before, it was the first time Ritchie had been involved.
Over the past few years, the annual Foundation rides have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to support North East communities. Previous rides have been from Dublin to Sunderland; Pisa to Venice; Brussels to Paris , the French Atlantic coast to the Mediterranean; Poland to Prague and, last year, Dubrovnik to Split in Croatia.
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.
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 who work so hard behind the scenes to make the challenge as smooth as possible for the cyclists.
“We’re already thinking about routes for next year and it was lovely to hear so many of this year’s cyclists wanting to be signed up for 2020.”
The award-winning Foundation of Light was established in 2001 and uses the power of football to involve, educate and inspire people of all ages and from all backgrounds to realise their potential.
One of the largest and leading sports charities in the UK, it has an excellent track record of working with children, young people and their families. Structurally and financially independent of Sunderland Football Club, the Foundation raises more than £4 million every year to deliver life changing and pioneering programmes across the region.
Written By CHRIS FRYATT
21 June 2019