Epic charity cycle ride across Alps in memory of young colleagues…

Islay O'Hara

Staff from The Chapel hair salon in Tunbridge Wells are among riders setting out on a gruelling European cycling event in memory of colleagues who were diagnosed with cancer.

Co-founder Toby Dicker explained the Cycle 4 Cancer – 4 Chapel Challenge aims to raise £50,000 for two causes, including Pickering Cancer Drop-In Centre, which helped staff member Natasha Douglas, who died from breast cancer last month.

The epic charity ride takes place in May and will also be in aid of Cancer Research UK. It starts from the salon’s branch in Verbier, Switzerland and then goes across the Alps.

In total the team will journey 1,400km over 10 days averaging 110 miles per day. This includes a series of highly-testing mountain climbs.

It will see them pass through Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and France, before heading back to Tunbridge Wells, also calling at its other salons in Sevenoaks and Islington.

Mr Dicker said: “The inspiration for the challenge has been very much about the fact we have had five team members diagnosed with cancer in the past couple of years, with three of them recently having passed away at young ages, between 26, and 34, so we wanted to set a large fundraising target.

“The most challenging part will be in the Alps going through to Strasbourg, which will be 230km.”

Mr Dicker started the business with his wife, Amanda, who will be also be joining the ride.

The couple set up in Chapel Place in 2001, and have seen the business expand considerably over the past few years.

Mr Dicker added: “A couple of years ago, when I’d reached the age of 41, I went on a business course and I was incredibly unfit. One of the parts of the course had asked where we saw ourselves in five years, and I answered that I wanted to feel healthy and be able to spend more time with my family. So that was a big change for me, and I got into cycling, shed a few stone and got fitter.

“I told one of my colleagues, Natasha Douglas, who had been diagnosed with cancer, that we wanted to do something special in terms of fundraising, and I thought that doing this ride would be the least I could do.”

One of the team, James Thornton, has already got the fundraising ball rolling by offering to donate the cost of his hair cutting services.

The initial group of six riders will be reinforced by a further 12 joining in Brussels with respective teams from its four branches getting fully behind their venture.

On Pickering’s work, he added: “What is so impressive about Pickering is the work they are doing is voluntary, and 100 per cent of donations goes directly to helping individuals.

They are assisting people with cancer who have nowhere else to turn.

“With Cancer Research, there’s also a high percentage of donations that actually go directly to the cause’s work, which was something that was important to us.”

Mr Dicker said there would be opportunities for riders to join in the latter stage of the challenge for its UK leg. This will involve travelling between Kent, and its branch in Islington, before returning back to Tunbridge Wells.

The Cycle 4 Cancer challenge has attracted some sponsors, but further shirt sponsorship opportunities are available. For more information, visit www.c4c4cc.co.uk

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