Stevenage gives inspirational Twin Towns riders heroes send-off – as cyclists get stuck into gruelling charity ride across Europe

PUBLISHED: 13:26 13 June 2017 | UPDATED: 13:43 13 June 2017

The Twin Towns 1000 team outside Bank House with the Lloyds Bank team on their way to France. Picture: Danny Loo

The Twin Towns 1000 team outside Bank House with the Lloyds Bank team on their way to France. Picture: Danny Loo

Danny Loo Photography 2017

A formidable group of riders were given a warm send-off in Stevenage as they set off on their inspirational 1,000km ride through Europe to raise £100,000 for the Lister Hospital.

Twin Towns 1000k, a charity team set up to fundraise for the hospital, 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 local charities to support.

The Twin Towns 1000 team outside Bank House on their way to France. Picture: Danny Loo The Twin Towns 1000 team outside Bank House on their way to France. Picture: Danny Loo

The riders – including Ade Morris, Ben Austin, Brian Hopgood, Darren Heath, Graham Hoare, Peter van Poolgeest, Pete Woolmer, Stephen Hibberd, Steve Clarkson and Steve Watkins – have split the gruelling 770-mile ride into three main stages.

Twin Towns riders during their 82 mile ride from Stevenage to Harwich Twin Towns riders during their 82 mile ride from Stevenage to Harwich

Dean Thompson, general manager of the Cromwell – who have backed the group throughout with generous use of the hotel as a site to host well-attended quiz nights and business events – paid tribute to the riders laying on a leaving breakfast.

The guys on the overnight ferry to Holland The guys on the overnight ferry to Holland

He said: “We are always happy to support as it’s a great cause. What they are doing is above and beyond what most of us can do. Good luck to them.”

Graham Hoare and Steve Watkins enjoy a moment at a Dutch windmill Graham Hoare and Steve Watkins enjoy a moment at a Dutch windmill

The first stage has been across scenic the Home Counties countryside, via Herts, Essex, Suffolk and onto Harwich Docks – but it also tested the riders with some reasonable climbs through rolling terrain past Colchester, before gradually ascending into the port and the overnight ferry to the Netherlands.

The Twin Towns team on the Belgium border The Twin Towns team on the Belgium border

The second leg started with breakfast on the boat before treading on new ground in Holland and heading south-east towards the German border.

Steve Watkins on the Belgium border. Steve Watkins on the Belgium border.

With Holland generally being flat it was on to Germany, with a minimal climb all the way through to Ingelheim, west of Frankfurt along the Rhine.

Twin Towns' at Twin Towns! Twin Towns' at Twin Towns!

Graham said: “Day three was long and hot in the saddle but we arrived only 30 minutes behind schedule at 7.30pm after leaving at 8am.

The riders along the glorious Rhine river The riders along the glorious Rhine river

“Day four to Ingelheim was probably the best day of cycling most of us have ever done – and then the hospitality of Ingelheim could not be faulted.”

The riders in Ingelheim. The riders in Ingelheim.

To the thousands of backers in North Herts and beyond, he added: “Please keep up the incredible support – it means the world.”

The riders are greeted by a warm welcome in Ingelheim. The riders are greeted by a warm welcome in Ingelheim.

The brave 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.

Captain Steve Watkins hands over a framed shirt to a representative from Ingelheim to thank them Captain Steve Watkins hands over a framed shirt to a representative from Ingelheim to thank them

The final leg of the ride – which the lads embarked on this morning – is the longest, and looks to be the most testing.

Captain Steve explained last night: “Day four is now done. The previous three days have been arduous, bordering on torture.

“Today we were rewarded. Only 75 miles or so, at a sensible pace, and pretty much all of it along the banks of the Rhine, which was simply stunning.

“To cap it all, we then met the good people of Ingelheim, 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.

“I rather have the feeling it will get a bit bumpier as well – the serious stuff looks just around the corner.”

Heading south from Ingelheim, the route follows the Franco-German border past Strasbourg, falling just short of Switzerland before heading south-west to Autun, Stevenage’s French twin town.

It’s generally a gentle climb to the half-way point before a slight descent down to the outskirts of Autun, where it could be a little lumpy for the final 25 miles or so.

No doubt the team will take this in their stride, as they know the end is not too far away – with the target being to roll into Autun on Saturday.

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.

Video by Engage Plus Marketing.

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