On Wednesday 19 July, 90 cyclists began a 300 mile journey from Crystal Palace to Paris in order to raise funds for Action. But for some riders, this challenge was not enough. Andy Beattie, Geoff West and Chris Shirt – collectively known as the ‘Fireflies’ – continued their bike journey on to Nice via Geneva. That’s a total of 1000 miles! So far they have raised around £13,000. We caught up with them to find out how the ride went and why they rode it in the first place!
Team Fireflies: (L to R) Chris Shirt, Geoff West and Andy Beattie)
Congratulations gentlemen on a monumental cycling challenge! Where did the idea come from?
AB: “It was my 50th birthday this year so I thought I’d go for something big to celebrate. I’ve cycled three ‘London to Paris’ rides previously and thought it would be nice to go on a bit further! I looked at Lands End to John O’Groats and London to Nice, which were similar distances. London – Nice won by virtue of the fact the weather should have been better and there were less midges! I phoned Chris and told him I’d booked him a flight home from Nice and asked how he was getting there. You won’t be able to print the exact answer, but I needed to go and Google some of the words to see what they meant! Geoff came on board after Chris gave him one too many drinks and then asked him!
So how do you all know each other?
AB: Chris and I have known each other for nearly 20 years through work and being on the same training course (albeit a few years apart!). The first time I met Geoff was the evening before we started in Crystal Palace.
GW: Yes, I live in Geneva, Switzerland but knew Chris from way back because our wives are friends. In fact they went to school together and have stayed in touch which is nice.
CS: Ha, in effect Geoff and I were obliged to become friends, but as it turns out he and Andy are great team-mates and we all seemed to rub along very nicely!
You’re obviously no strangers to long rides, but you must have put a lot of training in before this challenge…
AB: “Chris and I did about 3000 miles training before we set off for Paris. We are at a slight disadvantage in that we live in Norfolk where the “hills” are not very steep or long. We have no idea what to expect once we reached the “proper” mountains but the miles before certainly helped a lot. We tried to do 100 miles per week and had a couple of weeks with more mileage than that before we went. Finding time for the training is difficult with the 101 other things going on in life. Luckily we all have supportive wives which helps enormously.”
You must have seen some stunning sights along the way. Were there any particular highlights?
GW: There were so many highlights! I’d have to say the rides out of Geneva and out of Grenoble provided the most spectacular and stunning changes of Alpine scenery.
You’ve set a fundraising goal of £14,750. Why did you want to help Action Medical Research?
AB: I did an internet search before my first L2P and Action came up. I’ve cycled for the charity for four years now doing London to Paris, the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey event last year and now London – Nice. Having initially signed up I did some research and was amazed at what the charity has achieved over the years.
CS: I have thankfully never needed the help of any charity organisation, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to need the help of the wonderful people Action helps fund....I turn to jelly when my 16-year-old son gets a splinter! My first London to Paris was all about the challenge and to some extent the fundraising was secondary. I would say that’s swapped around now because of contact with the charity and other riders who do have a more personal connection.
Finally, having now completed your 1000 mile challenge would you do something similar again?
AB: “If you’d asked me that at the finish in Nice I would have said “No”! Today … it’s a “Probably”! Actually, I’m looking forward to next year already. If I can sort the sponsorship I’ll do the same again..
You can find out more about the Fireflies on their sponsorship page.