Hundreds Ride for Life

They came, they got wet, they cycled. And, as usual, they had fun.The drizzle brought out the fresh pine smell throughout the 33-mile course around Thetford Forest as more than 1,000 amateur cyclists took to the track to raise money for East Anglia's Children's Hospices.

They came, they got wet, they cycled. And, as usual, they had fun.

Yesterday's drizzle brought out the fresh pine smell throughout the 33-mile course around Thetford Forest as more than 1,000 amateur cyclists took to the track to raise money for East Anglia's Children's Hospices.

They were taking part in the annual Ride for Life, sponsored by the EDP, with organisers expecting the event to raise about £50,000.

It has now been running for 14 years, and organiser David Went said he was confident this year would push past the £500,000- mark in total.

"We've had 900 sign up in advance and at least 100 have turned up on the day," he said. "We won't know what sort of total we've raised until later in the summer, but last year we raised £62,000 and we're hoping to exceed £50,000 this year.

"This is the biggest fundraiser for EACH each year and a lot of people come and ride year after year. It's very popular and people raise a lot of money through sponsorship for which we're extremely grateful."

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As organisers awoke yesterday, the sun was shining over Thetford, but by the time the first cyclists set off at 8am, it was overcast and drizzly.

While the rain kept competitors cool and refreshed, it also made the sandy terrain hard-going, especially for those with thin-tyred racing bikes.

But that did not stop Charlie Askew, a 47-year-old dairy farmer from Old Buckenham, near Attleborough, who was one of the first to complete the

33-mile circuit in a time of 2hrs 15min.

Last summer, he cycled 1,000 miles from Easton College, where he also teaches, to a sister college in the Czech Republic - raising £16,000 for EACH.

He said it was difficult to pump the same sponsors as last year for another cycle ride, but managed to raise a few hundred pounds this time for the Quidenham hospice.

"I did this ride last year as well and it's a lot of fun, although the going was a bit tough today," he said. "It's a much easier course than from here to Eastern Europe though!"

The number of serious cyclists fully kitted out in professional gear was dwarfed by the fun riders, including many young children, who were also able to take part in routes of 25, 17 or 10 miles.

There were also three and eight-mile jogging routes.

And as they returned to the finish line, dirty but smiling, participants were greeted by a much-visited barbeque, picnic area and licensed bar.

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