by Chris Broom
It started as one cyclist’s drive to save the lives of children more than 20 years ago.
And at the weekend, Peter McQuade saw his fund-raising exploits reach a staggering landmark – 1m.
Mr McQuade undertook the first Paris-to-Hayling Charity Cycle Ride in 1986 – and has never missed the event since.
He decided to undertake the ride after attending the funeral of a friend’s child, who had died of cot death.
He wanted to do something to help raise money for research and his sponsored cycle ride raised 1,100.
When he got back, a group of friends from Hayling said they would join him if he did it again – and the following year, 19 cyclists took part.
The ride has since got bigger and bigger – and once the sponsorship money is collected this year, the total raised over the years is expected to top 1m.
The remarkable landmark meant the 182 members of this year’s cycle ride had even more reason to cheer when they arrived back on British soil at the weekend. This year the youngest cyclist was 14, while the eldest was 71.
People taking part can nominate their own charity, and among those to have benefited over the years are local schools, Scout and Guide groups, Age Concern, Families in Crisis, Friends of Hayling Trees and First Responders.
This year 124 riders set off a week ago on the full 430-mile route, and were joined by a further 59 for the last 240 on Tuesday.
Paul Fisher, chairman of the ride committee, said: ‘It’s been the wettest we have ever done but it has been tremendous.’
And Mr McQuade, 60, from Hayling Island, added: ‘The support team this year was the best we’ve ever had, and the first two days were a totally new route, so that was brilliant as well.’
Of all the riders that started, only one was unable to finish, due to health problems.
And at Versailles two bikes locked together were both stolen – but the riders were able to complete the trip on borrowed cycles.
Mr Fisher, 60, said: ‘There have been a few injuries and bike problems, but nothing we haven’t been able to cope with.’
The organisers said that once the sponsorship money comes in for this year, it will push them over the 1m mark.
The current total stands at 915,000, and they already know of at least 75,000 in pledges, a further 5,000 from Vodafone, with more still to come. And they are already looking forward to next year, having already sketched out a new route.