Six cyclists from Essex rode from the Tower of London to the Eiffel Tower from May 14th to the 17th 2014 to raise money for Cancer Research UK and the Alzheimer's Society. To cover the 286 miles they put in the hard work on cycling machines over the winter months and then many miles on the open roads to achieve the stamina needed to cover such a distance. Each of them has had their life touched by cancer or dementia in one way or another.
Cyclist Mark Corns made a good point when he said, “It's depressing how many are directly affected." How many people do you know who have had their lives impacted by these diseases?
Rider Stuart Williams revealed, “My mum was one of the lucky ones, surviving breast cancer and having been in remission for 4 years. But you live in fear that it may rear its ugly head again. Having seen first-hand the suffering it brings, let's hope one day we find a cure." By raising more money to help their two chosen charities, the Team hope that by funding more research, that day will come sooner.
However, their efforts are not just about bringing the future forward as fast as possible. Both diseases take their toll on those who care for the afflicted right now. Mike Crowley explained, “Cancer's an illness that I've grown up with, as my mother has leukaemia. She was diagnosed with it when she found out she was pregnant with me and has bravely fought it ever since. The reason I am doing this bike ride is therefore simple – I want to raise as much money as possible for Cancer Research, as I want a cure to ensure other people don't have to suffer as my mother has. I hope our ride raises awareness, as it requires support not only for the sufferer, but for family and carers too."
For fellow cyclist Steve Morgan this is also a highly personal experience. “My mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer's 4 years ago. She lived with it for years, afraid to admit something was wrong. She was married to my dad for over 50 years, and it was my dad who helped cover for her memory loss, disorientation and lack of balance. We were all devastated when she was finally admitted to a psychiatric assessment centre and then a nursing home which specialises in dementia care. The biggest impact was on dad, who was so lonely when she went to a home. He visited her every day, but sadly died of a sudden and unexpected heart attack 2 years ago. My mum is now bed-ridden and unable to speak or look after herself. Sadly, we are now waiting for the inevitable."
Team LifeCycle member Phil Catton has similarly seen the effects that Alzheimer's can have on a close-knit family: “My granddad began to be affected by Alzheimer's disease in his 70s, shortly after his wife of 50 years passed away. He was always a really loving, family guy, so it was a strange feeling when he developed an uncharacteristic short temper with everyone. But that was just the beginning, and soon he didn't even recognise his son. The worst part was our feeling of helplessness and inevitability, knowing there was nothing we could do to help. I hope that in some small way any money we raise will help us understand Alzheimer's and improve the lives of everyone affected by it."
Personal trainer Chris Jones agreed: “Having studied neuroscience, I know the devastating outcome from this degenerative disease. Working in a gym, I talk to a lot of people whose families have been touched by Alzheimer's. Seeing what they go through, I'll do whatever I can to help. The same reason for Cancer Research. Hearing from a client how they have lost their daughter to cancer and the experience that they go through… No-one should have to go through that. So we're going to help as much as we can."
The cyclists of Team LifeCycle and their support vehicle – supplied by Essex Auto Group – set out from Tower Bridge in London towards the Eiffel Tower in Paris in May 2014 to raise money for The Alzheimer's Society and Cancer Research UK.
The last day of the adventure and a far shorter distance to travel, but dealing with the traffic of Paris was a bit crazy! Cycling in the city again meant it was flatter with fewer and weaker headwinds, so the Team made good time and they soon arrived at the Eiffel Tower to meet their super-supportive families and have a glass of fizz.
The journey was well worth it for two causes that are very dear to all of our hearts at Team LifeCycle and Essex Auto Group.
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With an arduous 100 miles from Abbeville to Maffliers in prospect, Team LifeCycle had a cold but sunny start early on Day 3. Sunshine and cycling soon warmed the riders up though as they crossed more breathtaking scenery.
With a welcome pit stop after 25 miles for food and plenty of water, they braced themselves for more energy-sapping hills and headwinds. It was hard going through the afternoon, but after a brief stop to take on more water (and cake) 75 miles in, they went on their way along the long and winding roads.
Despite yet another puncture for the unlucky Stuart with 5 miles to go, the Team finally arrived to find the Chateau de Maffliers and a group of very generous holidaymakers. After such a long and gruelling day, it was time for a much-appreciated meal and a comfortable bed before the shorter ride into the heart of Paris on Day 4.
After frog's legs and a full night's sleep, Team LifeCycle pedalled from Calais to Abbeville. Glorious weather meant that sunscreen was a necessity and the Team made good progress after 10 miles of testing climbs and fast descents, riding most of the day through rolling countryside with beautiful views of the Channel and picturesque towns like Boulogne.
Phil had a scary mechanical problem as he had to brake hard on one occasion, only to find that his handlebars had worked loose and no longer supported his weight. He managed to come safely to a stop, narrowly avoiding an old lady and a dog!
The warm weather meant that Steve and Sylvia in Essex Auto Group's support vehicle were an even more welcome sight than at lunchtime on Day 2 as water bottles were in need of a refill. Cooler temperatures near rivers and the coast, as well as excellent quality cycle paths and an aerodynamic "train" formation, helped them cruise until the last 10 miles of hills and headwinds before the chance to rest up before Day 3's arduous 100 miles.
The challenges were considerable even before the start.
Stuart suffered the first of two punctures before TLC had even got to the start at Tower Bridge while cycling along the road near Aldgate East Underground station. Undeterred, our intrepid cyclists pedalled on through London, Rochester and Canterbury before making the connection with their ferry at Dover and completing Day 1 in Calais.
As well as helping out with printed materials for the successful curry night fundraiser and getting their names in the press, Essex Auto Group supplied a support vehicle and chipped in towards some cycling jerseys.