CHILDHOOD friends Matt Luker and Mike Francis’s stamina and endurance were put to the ultimate test as they pedalled their way to Paris to ensure the future of end-of-life care in Swindon.
The pair drew on every ounce of strength and willpower they possessed to complete the 300-mile journey from London to the French capital in a bid to raise £3,000 for Prospect Hospice, the charity which cared for Matt’s mother Karen until she succumbed to ovarian cancer in January 2013.
After four days on the road, the unexpectedly steep inclines and hilly terrain took their toll but failed to break the close friends, who reached the finish line first of their group at the national challenge.
“We wanted to do this together for the Prospect Hospice,” said Matt, 25, of North Swindon.
“They supported my mum for six years. It is really difficult to imagine going through everything we, as a family, have gone through without the Prospect Hospice.
“We wanted to ensure that the level of service me and my family received is continued for people going through these stresses in their life now.
“Through the six years the Prospect Hospice were with us to support both my mum and my family.
“My mum also got assigned someone who she could meet up with on a weekly basis and have a coffee and discuss how things were going and what challenges she was facing and to also provide information every step of the way.”
He added: “The challenge was harder than we expected. It was 300 miles but it felt a lot longer.
“I thought Northern France was flat but it was very hilly. There was about 15,000ft worth of climbing over three days. It really tested us.
“We started training in January and I’m glad we did. At least we managed. Some people there looked like they hadn’t seen a bike since they were six.”
Matt and Mike set off on Wednesday, July 23, reaching the French capital the following Saturday.
Mike, 25, of Stratton added: “There was a hill at one point which was more like a mountain.
“It felt like cycling in the Alps. It was hard. But I wanted to do this with Matt.
“We’ve known each other since we were seven years old and I saw how Prospect helped Matt and his family.
“When it was getting hard we just thought about people worse off than us; although it didn’t feel like there were that many at the time.”
To support Matt and Mike visit www.justgiving.com/mathew-luker/