Stevenage’s Twin Town cyclists say: ‘We did it’ after gruelling charity ride across Europe

Twin Towns in Autun

Twin Towns in Autun - Credit: Archant

The Comet has been tracking Stevenage’s inspirational Twin Towns cyclists as they rode across five countries in their bid to raise as much money as possible for Lister Hospital – and the message after more than 1,000 kilometeres is: ‘We did it!’

Twin Towns in Autun

Twin Towns in Autun - Credit: Archant

The heroic band of brothers – including Ade Morris, Ben Austin, Brian Hopgood, Darren Heath, Graham Hoare, Peter van Poolgeest, Pete Woolmer, Stephen Hibberd, Steve Clarkson and Steve Watkins – made it to their final destination of Autun – Stevenage’s French twin town in deepest Burgundy.

The cyclists are hoping to raise enough money to open a prostate cancer treatment centre after the NHS successfully helped Graham in his battle against the disease.

Graham said of the fantastic effort, the equivalent of cycling from John O’Groats to Lands End: “It’s been hard work, but we crossed the finish line in Autun on Saturday afternoon with 11 working bikes and 11 working – just – riders.

“Our motto when things haven’t gone exactly to plan has been ‘Nobody died’ to put things into perspective. It’s been a real team effort.”

Twin Towns in Autun

Twin Towns in Autun - Credit: Archant


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The Comet has been following the Twin Towns 1000k cause after they were given a warm send-off in Stevenage the morning after the General Election as they embarked on their gruelling tour through Europe.

They were waved off by friends, family and well-wishers at The Cromwell Hotel in the Old Town, before being supported by the Lloyds team at Bank House in Primett Road – who chose the organisation as one of their charities to support.

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The intrepid group split the gruelling 770-mile ride into three main stages.

The first stage had been across scenic home counties countryside and onto Harwich Docks, where the terrain tested the riders with some reasonable climbs before they headed to the overnight ferry to the Netherlands.

Twin Towns reach Autun

Twin Towns reach Autun - Credit: Archant

The second leg started with breakfast on the boat, before heading off into generally-flat Holland.

Then it was on to Germany, with a minimal climb all the way through to Stevenage’s German twin town, Ingelheim, west of Frankfurt along the Rhine.

They were met with warmth from the locals, with the group handing over a framed team shirt as a gesture of their appreciation.

Captain Steve Watkins said of the reception: “We met the good people of Ingelheim and were treated to a lovely evening meal, and picked up some notable donations from the council of Ingelheim.

“Words cannot do them justice – they were great hosts.”

Heading south from Ingelheim, the route followed the Franco-German border past Strasbourg, falling just short of Switzerland before heading south-west to Autun – with the group having to dig deep over the last three days due to the steep hills and soaring temparatures.

But they all crossed the finish line as a team, and at the last count have raised nearly £30,000 for the hospital.

Skipper Steve, reflecting on hardest part of the final stage of their ride, said: “Day seven done and dusted. Boy was that one tough.

“France threw the works at us in terms of weather and road conditions. However us Brits are made of stern stuff though and they will need to try harder than that.

“Temperatures very quickly rose into the 30s, and combined with the hills, we were struggling to come to terms with it – well I was anyway.

“But we fought back and soldiered on and as a group got through the 70 miles plus.

“A big hand to all the team, both on and off the bike we really had to dig deep.”

Brave Graham wants to continue the team’s connection with the twinning association and looks forward to an annual exchange event to deepen the ties between the three towns.

He added: “Our fund is now around £28,000 – we hope to get into the low £40,000 by early 2018.

“If we do this then we can purchase what we want to for the children’s wards and the dementia wards. The Twin Towns Prostate Centre for the Lister’s Urology Cancer Department can also open and we are busy planning various events to help us achieve these goals.”

To sponsor the heroic team, have a look at justgiving.com/fundraising/twintowns1000.

To follow their exploits, look up Twin Towns on Facebook or follow them on Twitter using the handle @twintowns1000.

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