Simon Futcher is a supporter of St Wilfrid’s Hospice and recently took on the Prudential Ride London challenge to raise money for us.
Until recently, Simon's sponsored cycling events have involved gentle rambles with small groups through the quiet country lanes of Northern France and Sussex. This year was to be somewhat more challenging for Simon as he embarked on the Prudential Ride London. This event (a legacy of the Olympic Games) shuts the streets of central London and many of the South Western suburbs to allow up to 100,000 cyclists to participate. It includes everything from short gentle rides for families with young children to a very rigorous 160km road race for top professionals. Simon opted, along with 25,000 others, to attempt the London-Surrey 100 miles.
Four intrepid staff, volunteers and supporters decided to fundraise for St Wilfrid’s. Simon Futcher, Hannah Presgrave, Ian Foden and Adam Grummett, kicked off their day at a very early 5.30am!
With rain showers throughout day, the weather was certainly not on their side! However, they did not let this dampen their spirits. With the spectators singing crowd favourites like Dancing Queen, they kept riding strong.
The route past many of London’s iconic landmarks: the Tower, the Eye, Trafalgar Square, Harrods, Chiswick Waitrose (for Simon's wife Ursula!), Richmond Park and Hampton Court.
As the roads were shut to all other traffic there was a certain anarchic delight to be had from cycling the wrong way round roundabouts, through red lights and up the fast lane of the Hammersmith Flyover!
With all Simon's previous rides, there was no time pressure to finish, however as there was a professional road race following them, they were told that if they had not passed certain points by certain times they would be unceremoniously scooped up and dumped either at the nearest railway station or at the finish line! The team was anxious to avoid this fate and kept going to meet the timings, planning to stop just three times along the entire 100km route.
There were two steep hills (Leith Hill and Box Hill) on the ride. These came shortly after the half-way point. The organisers provided a shorter by-pass route for those who didn’t want to tackle the hills. The team were keen to see if they could do them but unfortunately, when they reached the start of the first climb, everyone was being directed onto the by-pass route by default because of a serious incident. When they reached the second cut-off point for Box Hill, that was also closed for a lesser emergency.
On heading back to London with the wind behind them, the cycling became considerably easier. After a brief stop at Esher, they moved back into the outer suburbs – through Kingston and Wimbledon, across Putney Bridge and then a gentle run through Chelsea, up the Embankment, along Whitehall to the finish in the Mall.
Despite the weather, there were crowds of enthusiastic people out in force, lining the route cheering on the riders. It was an amazing day – bringing out the best in human nature and it is remarkable to think that this event raised over £12.5 million for charity. Once gift aid was added to Simon's personal sponsorship, he managed to raise just over twice his original target of £600! He would like to thank all of his very generous supporters.
St Wilfrid’s would like to thank all of the riders that took part in the event and raised money for us, and to Simon for taking the time to share his story with us.