THE 24th annual Nello cycle ride in aid of FORCE Cancer Charity is on course to raise £60,000.
Nearly 900 cyclists took to the roads around Devon to support the Exeter-based charity, which offers free support and advice to local people affected by cancer.
The riders tackled 60 or 100 mile routes in glorious sunshine, starting and finishing at Topsham Rugby Club.
They came from all over the world to take part.
Craig Muldoon travelled 6,000 miles from his home in Thailand to his former home town of Topsham to be a part of an event he first rode 20 years ago.
He lost his father to cancer and was grateful for the support of FORCE when daughter Connie was ill in 2016.
“When my daughter was diagnosed, I felt my world fell away because I thought that I would always be there to protect her and it’s knowing that people like FORCE are there for families,” said Craig, who runs a financial services company in Thailand.
“It’s been a fantastic 6,000-mile journey for such a great cause and I’ll be back next year,” added the former Crediton financial advisor.
First back on their tandem were Paul and Andrea Brown, spurred on by the news of a new addition to the family.
“Grandchild number four, a baby boy, was born at ten past eight while we were cycling around today so welcome to the world Leo Henry Brown,” said a proud Andrea.
Cancer surgeon Steve Mansfield was diagnosed with the disease himself almost two years ago to the day and rode to raise funds as a thank you for the support he received from FORCE.
“The camaraderie is fantastic, we’ve hopefully raised a lot of money, it raises awareness of cancer treatment in general and FORCE in particular.”
Geoff Houghton from Jersey led a team of more than 20 cyclists in distinctive yellow and white jerseys, riding as Team Crouton in memory of his son Ben, who studied and worked in Exeter.
Ben rode the Nello twice and this was the fifth Team Crouton Nello outing.
Geoff said: “Ben rode it, and it seemed like the most wonderful way to honour that. As a cancer charity it (FORCE) does such amazing work here in Exeter that we wanted to support that.”
Exeter Lord Mayor Kevin Mitchell was up bright and early with husband Ian to help set the riders off from Topsham and his deputy, Tess Read, handed out medals to finishers in the afternoon.
“Ian and I really enjoyed being able to assist in our small way and it was amazing to see such a crowd. Thank you for inviting and introducing us to those who make this event so, so special,” said Councillor Mitchell.
Ride founder Marc Millon, who established the event in memory of his great friend, cycling partner and former Topsham restaurateur Nello Ghezzo, has ridden every year.
He and wife Kim usually ride the 100 mile route but completed the 60 miler this year for the first time on their tandem.
Marc was full of praise for everyone involved.
“The organisation today was absolutely brilliant, as was the support, the signage (such a huge yet vital task), and of course the food. The Nello, as today showed, is a very special event. It’s hard to express exactly why it continues to be such a popular and life-affirming charity cycle. There are organised rides every week so still to be able to attract close to 1,000 is an achievement to be very proud of.”
FORCE event co-ordinator Chloe Richardson said: “This is the first time I have been involved in the Nello. I had heard so much about what an amazing day it is and now I know why! Everyone involved makes of this unique event so special.
“It’s our biggest single fundraising event of the year and the money we raise helps massively with our mission to support as many local people affected by cancer as we can.”
The Nello is always held on the final Sunday in June and FORCE is planning to make next year’s 25th ride extra special so get the date in your diaries – Sunday, June 30. Sign up details will be available soon on the FORCE website: www.forcecancercharity.co.uk .