Bury St Edmunds: Cyclist gets heroes welcome as he returns to work at West Suffolk House

“I ONLY went for a cycle ride.”

Those were the first words from council worker Pete White after he was welcomed back with a huge cheer from colleagues following his 6,000-mile fundraising ride to Rwanda.

Staff at St Edmundsbury Borough Council yesterday crowded into the foyer at West Suffolk House to applaud his homecoming, which signalled the end of an extraordinary 66-day journey in the saddle.

The 31-year-old senior planning officer was part of a team of three cyclists who averaged 90 miles a day as they pedalled through Europe and into the heart of Africa to raise money to buy sporting equipment for schools in Rwanda. The Herculean effort is part of the Sport For Rwanda appeal, which aims to raise �80,000 to leave a lasting legacy from the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 140 schools in the country.

Describing the expedition as an ‘emotional rollercoaster,’ Mr White said his journey had been a mixture of highs and lows – a once-in-a-lifetime trip where he experienced the kindness of strangers and the despair of being sick and alone in a far flung land.

He added; “On the whole it has been very positive. I ended up cycling a lot of Africa by myself as one companion wanted to push on and the other had to wait around in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, for a new bike frame to get shipped out after the original snapped.

“In every town or village I stopped at in Africa I was treated with kindness and shown where I could find a place to sleep or get something to eat.”

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Reuniting with his fellow cyclists in Rwanda, Mr White said he will also never forget the reception they received. This included a police escort as soon as they crossed the border, a meeting with the sports minister and being made guests of honour at a ceremony held at the national sports stadium. The Rwandan Olympic and Paralympic teams will train in Bury before the Games kick off this month

But despite the hospitality, father-of-one Mr White said he lost at least a stone and a half in weight as he battled through stomach upsets and exhaustion.

He said: “The worst I felt was in Egypt. It was so hot – 50 degrees centigrade at times – and none of the villages we stopped at had refrigerators, so we only had hot water to drink. By the time I did get my hands on a cold bottle of water my body couldn’t take it and I was sick.

“There were several times, after a bad nights sleep and being sick, that I felt like giving up but the text messages of support from back home kept me going through the difficult times.”

His boss in the planning department, Ian Poole, said work mates had followed his progress by sticking post-it notes onto a wallmap.

Around 13 colleagues had also donated holiday allowance to enable him to take the time off he needed to complete the trip.

“We’ve all been rooting for him and are incredibly proud of what he has achieved,”added Mr Poole.

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