Duo Set Off on Penny2Paris Charity Challenge

The town erupted with cheers on Saturday morning as cancer survivor Matt Richardson and his long-time friend Bill Pollard set off to Paris on their Penny Farthings. The ride began at 9:20 a.m. from a bustling Market Place. The 5-day journey, which had been long in the making, had finally started.

Mayor, Councillor Rory Hunt delivered an inspiring speech, expressing his admiration for the duo’s courage and determination. Representatives from Macmillan Cancer Support, their voices filled with pride, praised the cyclists for their incredible fundraising achievement of £14,000 on the first day, a significant contribution to the cancer support community.

The duo hope to complete the ride to Paris within the week, crossing from Newhaven to Paris, riding around 40 miles per day.

Matt recovered from throat cancer last year and wanted to do another cycling challenge to mark his recovery.  He isn’t unfamiliar to big cycle challenges – most of them previously on his Raleigh Chopper. In 2014, Matt he rode up it up Mount Ventoux, in 2015 he set the new hour record distance of 31.87km (19.8mph) and in 2016 he rode to the top of Passo dello Stelvio in Italy and in 2017 up Alpe d’Huez.  All of these challenges were to raise money for Bloodwise, a blood cancer charity, and in memory of his father who died aged just 55.

Bill organised a ‘Ride a Penny Farthing’ 50th birthday present for Matt and six friends with Neil Laughton from the Penny Farthing Club and this year they both bought modern day equivalent bicycles which then inspired the #penny2paris ride.

Before leaving Matt said, “We’ve made good preparations. Yesterday was a bit of a panic, but I believe we’re ready. Bill and I are both a bit nervous because it has been a long time coming and we feel as though we’ve built up everybody’s expectations. You have an idea that you ride a penny farthing to Paris and suddenly it’s happening today, and you’ve told everyone, which is probably a mistake. If we’d done it in secret, then it wouldn’t have mattered if it didn’t work out, but we’ve certainly got to do it now, haven’t we?”  Matt expressed how much planning and preparation has gone into the ride, commenting, “It’s kind of like planning a holiday, but more—halfway between that and some sort of expedition.”

They are certainly dressed for an expedition; however, their fantastic outfits are inspired by 19th-century adventurer Thomas Stevens, who encouraged the Penny Farthing culture, giving a historical touch to the event. Bill remarked, “What inspired this outfit in particular was a gentleman called Thomas Stevens, who rode around the world on a Penny Farthing in the 1880s. It took him three years, and he wore a very similar outfit to this, so we thought in his honour, we should dress as Thomas Stevens.  It’s the perfect English eccentricity. Cycling around the world, and he (Thomas) had nothing with him really. There weren’t roads about a third of the way, he went cross-country, he had to get his bike over rivers and streams and all sorts.”

The duo were tailed by an entourage of cyclists from GS Henley, who rode with them for their first mile.

On Saturday the duo stopped off in Horsley, the second day (Sunday) was a long one from 8:30 until 6:30 and hard with over 3400 feet of climbing and descending before arriving in Warninglid near Haywards Heath before taking the ferry crossing overnight to Dieppe.

They have raised over £14,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support, if you would like to donate to the cause you can via https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/penny2paris and you can keep a track of where they are up to here

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