16 June 2022

Many of the 40 cyclists who set off from Redhill to Bruges as part of a YMCA Challenge last weekend had been waiting for nearly three years to complete their fundraising trip after it was postponed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ian Burks, Chief Executive of YMCA East Surrey, completed the 160-mile road cycle to the stunning city of Bruges on a tandem with wife, Pam. Following the event, he said:

“It’s been a long wait, but so worth it. We had two wonderful groups of cyclists – one of which cycled to Bruges in three days and one of which tackled the distance in just 24 hours.Everyone did so well, not just to achieve a personal challenge but also to raise such a fantastic sum of money for our charitable work. We couldn’t have done it without a great team of volunteer leaders and support crew who worked so hard to ensure everyone made it safely to Bruges.”

Peter Gregory, 73, completed the YMCA Bruges Challenge on a hand-powered bicycle due to a severe health condition called cauda equina syndrome, which occurs when the nerve roots in the lumbar spine are compressed, cutting off sensation and movement.

No stranger to YMCA East Surrey’s cycling challenges, he has previously completed rides to both Paris and La Rochelle but was unsure if he would make the Bruges challenge until the middle of April this year.

“I had spinal surgery last May,” says Peter, “and was in hospital for four weeks. I couldn’t do any physical activity at all until September 2021 and, at first, I could only manage five minutes on the hand bike. It took more than a month before I was fit enough for a short ride on the road.”

Despite his concerns, the Bruges trip was a resounding success.

“We had glorious cycling conditions for the last leg from Ypres to Bruges,” says Peter, who lives in Smallfield. “The beautiful, cobbled streets slowed me down a little but the weather was stunning, there was a following wind and the European drivers are extremely considerate of cyclists.”

“It was a pleasure to complete the challenge and support such a special cause at the same time.”

The fundraising total from the YMCA Bruges Challenge currently stands at £20,244 and sponsorship money is still coming in. With the recent pandemic taking a huge toll on all young people, but especially those who are vulnerable or disadvantaged, the money raised will go towards YMCA East Surrey’s Life Change Fund, supporting a range of YMCA services, projects and programmes to help young people build the resilience, belief and confidence to overcome the challenges they currently face.

Among many notable fundraising achievements, Tracey Cheall and Dianna Bullock have both raised in excess of £1,600 and Nick Lee has raised more than £1,400 to date. Group of four, Mandy Love, Fiona Scott, Julie Sinclair and Alison Swain set up a joint fundraising page which has so far raised a fantastic £4,253.

London-based agency, Clockwise Marketing, sponsored the YMCA Bruges event and its Managing Director, Simon Ellis, was among the one-day group cyclists.

For more information about the YMCA East Surrey Challenge programme, contact the challenge team at challenge@ymcaeastsurrey.org.uk.