Bon voyage!

AU REVOIR: Blackburn Rovers' footballers Phil Jones and David Dunn bid farewell to French Connection cyclists Pete Parkes and Roger Hargreaves with Clitheroe Town Crier Roland Hailwood, centre.
AU REVOIR: Blackburn Rovers' footballers Phil Jones and David Dunn bid farewell to French Connection cyclists Pete Parkes and Roger Hargreaves with Clitheroe Town Crier Roland Hailwood, centre.
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BLACKBURN Rovers footballers David Dunn and Phil Jones gave two Clitheroe French Connectioners, who will cycle to France in memory of two late members, a celebrity send off.

The footballers were joined by Clitheroe Town Crier Roland Hailwood, family and friends at Clitheroe’s Castle Gate on Tuesday, April 5th, to say bon voyage to Clitheroe joiner and French Connection member Roger Hargreaves and fellow French Connectioner Pete Parkes.

The duo will cycle the 1,000-mile journey to Clitheroe’s twin town of Rivesaltes, hopefully covering around 60 miles on their first day, and arriving at Portsmouth on April 7th. They will then catch the ferry to Caen in Normandy and bike to Rivesaltes in the South of France.

Well supported by friends and fellow French Connectioners, Roger and Pete were joined by fellow members Paul McGuire, whose company Little Town Farm chilled food distributors, is sponsoring the challenge, and Mick Wood on their bikes for the first day of cycling.

They are also being followed by a support team of French Connection founder member Dave Johnson, alongside long-standing members Colin Darlington and John Lund, with John and his girlfriend Maggie Knight joining the team in Portsmouth. Clitheroe company, James Alpe Sign and Design, have also provided signs for the support team’s van describing the challenge.

Roger and Pete aim to reach Rivesaltes by Good Friday, April 22nd, to coincide with the arrival of the 25-strong party of fellow French Connection members.

Roger (63) and Pete, who will celebrate his 60th birthday on the trip, decided to set up the French Connection Memorial Fund in memory of Roger’s late wife Catherine, and member Pete Carter, following their deaths in December. Both Cath, who was one of the French Connection’s founder members, and Pete were active and much-loved members of the group.

The duo’s expedition has already raised around £4,000 with the final total being shared between the North West Air Ambulance, Crossroads Care, Riding for the Disabled and Ribble Valley soldier Sgt Rick Clement, of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, who suffered horrific injuries while on patrol in Afghanistan last May.

Setting off on Tuesday, Roger said: “We’re really looking forward to the trip and hoping to be at Clitheroe Square in Rivesaltes by Good Friday.”

Roger’s daughter Claire, who was there to say farewell with her 16-month-old son Thomas, added: “I’m so proud of my dad, it has long been an ambition of his to cycle to Rivesaltes. I would’ve loved to have joined him myself if possible.”

In the 34 years the French Connection has been in existence, members have raised more than £25,000 for local charities. At Cath’s funeral, £750 was raised for the North West Air Ambulance and £643 for Riding for the Disabled.

Clitheroe’s French Connection group was set up when a Clitheroe Royal Grammar School French teacher, Francois Sanmartin, invited his Ribble Valley friends to go to his home town of Rivesaltes for a football tournament.

A 12-strong party made the journey in Easter 1977, with the party of French players, plus their wives and girlfriends, travelling to Clitheroe for the return fixture.

French Connection has continued with its exchange visits every year. This Easter will be members’ 18th visit to Rivesaltes, which was twinned with Clitheroe in 1986.

To support the cycling duo and make a donation call Roger on 07970 648514