Five tireless cycling pals from Gloucestershire have beaten the odds by riding from London to Paris and smashing their fundraising target for charity.
Tour de Friends at the Eiffel Tower
The team of parents, called 'Tour de Friends', cycled 300 miles in four days, overcoming a tyre puncture and a rider fall, and have so far raised more than £7,500 for Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity.
The group of novice cyclists broke down in tears after reaching the Eiffel Tower before going on an extra ride - around the Arc de Triomphe – in celebration.
Stephanie Spry, Emily Archer, Rachel Jones, Kate Roby and Dom Cook are now aiming to raise £10,000 having received more than £5,000 online on their JustGiving page with Gift Aid, more than double their original target of £2,000, plus £2,500 offline.
Stephanie, regional marketing manager at Bovis Homes' Western offices in Bishops Cleeve, said: “It was brutal, but because we did so much training, by the time we came to the challenge, we were really prepared. I hadn’t ever ridden that many miles before in my whole life.
“It was really emotional. We all just cried when we got to the Eiffel Tower, out of pride. We thought, ‘we’ve done it’. Team spirit just got us through.
“We wore our ‘London to Paris’ jerseys and once we got to the Eiffel Tower, people could read it and loads of people were shouting ‘tres bien, tres bien!’.
“We then decided it would be great fun to go for an extra ride, around the Arc de Triomphe, and we nearly died. It was absolutely terrifying. I just screamed the whole way around. There are no set lanes. That will be forever etched in my brain!”
Stephanie still doesn’t own a bike and borrowed one to complete the challenge. She said the team pushed through low points by thinking about the cause they were raising money for, in memory of Rachel’s niece Charlie and godson Shermie.
“There were a couple of times that I really wanted to stop and walk but remembering why we were doing it, just kept us going,” she said.
“Day one, we were about four miles out of Dover and Dom got a puncture. That was really hard because we were right near the finish line for the first day and we were all shattered, but had to stop and wait.
“Also, Rachel fell off her bike about ten minutes outside of Paris. We were about to set off, but she wasn’t clipped in properly and just toppled! Fortunately she was fine, and other than that, we didn’t have too many dramas.”
Tour de Friends
Stephanie, who had no real cycling experience before borrowing a bike in March, said the open French countryside and little villages made the trip extra special. Dom, who has competed in the 100-mile cycling festival RideLondon and regularly trains, helped motivate the group.
The team listened to Rachel Platten's Fight Song and Miley Cyrus' Wrecking Ball as motivation to help tackle tough terrain. They rode with the support of event management company Zeus Events, which meant they had an experienced cyclist heading the pack and a support vehicle with provisions.
Nicola Goldsmith, Bovis Homes’ Western regional sales and marketing director, said: “All the team deserve huge congratulations and I am so very proud of Stephanie’s achievement. She’s a terrific member of the marketing team, showing real grit, determination and energy both inside and outside of the office.
“To cycle from London to Paris with no prior cycling experience is a testament to her character and I’m happy to have her safely back at work!”
To donate to the Tour de Friends cause, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/tour-defriends1