September 2 2014 Latest news:
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
The cheers of hundreds of supporters greeted cyclists as they returned from a 310-mile ride from France to Bury St Edmunds in memory of 18 rugby club members who died in a plane crash.
The 94 cyclists and their 25-strong support team were welcomed back to Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club on Sunday on completing the five-day Memorial Cycle Ride which began at the crash site at Ermenonville, near Compiegne.
The challenge - which has raised a minimum of £100,000 to be split between the rugby club and St Nicholas Hospice Care - marked the 40th anniversary of the tragedy which saw 18 Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club members lose their lives.
Five of the men who lost fathers in the crash walked through a tunnel formed by supporters and cyclists at the homecoming.
Austin Cornish, who lost his father Laurie in the disaster and was one of those to take the walk, described it as a “very moving occasion”.
Mr Cornish, 43, who helped organise the memorial cycle ride, said at the gathering: “These last five days have been a pretty epic adventure.
“Thank you to everybody for supporting us and seeing us back home. We have really felt all the support and we have needed it as well. It is good to be back.
“When we first came up with this event we hoped we would raise £40,000 to be split, but it looks like we’re going to do more like £100,000. It is an incredible amount of money. Thank you to everyone who’s donated so generously.
“And let’s not forget why we did this in the first place. I think we made them proud.”
Mr Cornish said all of the cyclists, with an age range from 21 to 77, arrived back to the town in one piece.
He said the ride was “tough,” adding it involved cycling through rain, 50mph winds and 12,000ft in total.
One cyclist who took part used a 1930s racing bike and another pair completed the challenge on a tandem.
Speaking at the homecoming, Gerry Lowden, Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club president, said: “It was a fantastic event and everyone involved did their bit. It is nice to see everyone here today supporting us, and I think we deserve it!”
Lizzie Cross, St Nicholas Hospice Care Corporate Fundraiser, said: “On behalf of the hospice, thank you so much to everyone involved for what you have raised. The money raised will pay for a hospice specialist nurse to go into someone’s home for a year.”
The cash raised for the rugby club will be spent on floodlighting for the club’s youth pitches.
Everyone who took part or volunteered on the support team was handed a commemorative medal on their return to the rugby club.
To donate, and for more information, visit www.memorialcycleride.co.uk