IT IS hoped a poignant cycle ride across the battlefields of France will push forces charity Help for Heroes through the £100m mark.
Cyclists are braving the wet weather across Normandy for the Big Battlefield Bike Ride which left from Portsmouth.
Hundreds of spectators gathered first at Southwick House in Southwick and then the international ferry port to wave goodbye to the 264 cyclists who will ride 350 miles to Paris, stopping at important historical sites in St Mere Eglise, Caen and Evreux along the way.
Two of those on the cycle challenge are father and son, Tim and Jon Baines, from Havant.
Tim, from Broadmere Avenue, said: ‘We had a great send-off from Southwick and a smooth crossing to Le Havre.
‘It looks as though we will be getting a tad wet as we have to cycle approximately 50 miles in a day.
‘We have 14 injured lads on hand bikes, nine of whom are Americans.
‘If ever we need inspiration during the week they will remind us why we are here.’
The group was due to visit Gold Beach and Omaha Cemetery yesterday afternoon.
And, in a message to News readers, he said: ‘We are so close to the £100m so if ever there was a need to sponsor us it’s now.’
Waving them off was Mr Baines’ wife Jan, who says she is extremely proud of her loved ones.
‘It was a brilliant atmosphere at Southwick House and the ferry port,’ said Mrs Baines.
‘There was a real air of excitement and I wished I was going with them.
‘It has been very wet over there which will probably make it a bit harder.
‘But what struck me was there were so many amputee veterans there – really young lads. They have inspired me to take part next year.’
The cycle ride ends in the French capital on Friday – Free French day – which marks the liberation of Paris.
Riders will follow the route many soldiers took in the liberation.
A wreath will be laid at the Arc de Triomphe and the cyclists will make their way down the Champs Elysees before heading to the finish at the Eiffel Tower.
The Help for Heroes charity, which was set up in 2007, supports service personnel injured in the line of duty.
It’s hoped the cycle ride will raise £1m and so push the charity through the £100m milestone.
To make a donation go to helpforheroes.org.uk/ donations