Marathon cycle pair discover it’s a small world

CYCLING DUO: French Connection pair Pete Parkes and Roger Hargreaves are making good time on their journey to Rivesaltes.
CYCLING DUO: French Connection pair Pete Parkes and Roger Hargreaves are making good time on their journey to Rivesaltes.

TWO French Connectioners who are cycling to Rivesaltes in memory of two much loved late members are finding it hard to leave their Ribble Valley connections behind.

Just over a week into their 1,000-mile cycle to Clitheroe’s twin town, Roger Hargreaves and Pete Parkes have already met several people with connections to the area.

Speaking to Clitheroe joiner Roger on Monday evening, he recalled: “Cycling through England down to Portsmouth, we stopped at a site at Wolverton and the first man that came over, can you believe, was from Wilpshire!”

Roger (63) and Pete, who celebrated his 60th birthday on Thursday aim to reach Rivesaltes in the South of France by Good Friday, April 22nd, to coincide with the arrival of the 25-strong party of fellow French Connection members.

They decided to make the trip to raise funds for the French Connection Memorial Fund, which has been set up 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.

Highlights of the duo’s expedition so far have included travelling through Wootton Bassett, which became Royal Wootton Bassett in March after it was granted Royal patronage by HM Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of the its role in 21st century military funeral repatriations which pass through the town.

Cycling through the town resonated with the duo who plan to donate any money raised from the cycle challenge to, amongst others, Ribble Valley soldier Sgt Rick Clement, of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, who suffered horrific injuries while on patrol in Afghanistan last May.

The expedition has already raised around £4,000 with the final total also being shared between the North West Air Ambulance, Crossroads Care and Riding for the Disabled.

So far, the cyclists have made such good time that they caught the ferry from Portsmouth to Caen in Normandy a day ahead of schedule. Prior to making the crossing, they were treated to a well earned rest courtesy of Shire Hotels, Blackburn, which donated a complementary overnight stay at the Solent Hotel and Spa, at Fareham, near Portsmouth, for the weary travellers.

Arriving in France, the duo were reminded again of their Ribble Valley roots when cycling through Normandy.

During a pit stop, they met a farmer and his wife, who asked if they were from Clitheroe after reading the sign on their support van.

“She said that she’d brought a party of children over to Clitheroe in 1996 to Ribblesdale School, we couldn’t believe it, we were in the middle of nowhere, in Alencon, Normandy!” Roger explained.

More local connections were made at the camp site they arrived at on Monday at Tours in the Loire Valley.

Travelling from Argentan and through Le Mans, famous for its annual 24 hour car race, the first person Bolton-by-Bowland resident and member of the duo’s support team Colin Darlington met at the Tours campsite said her husband used to work for BAE at Samlesbury.

“Everything’s been great and the weather has been fantastic,” Roger added.

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