A former RAF catering officer will be part of a duo to cycle to Paris in a gruelling four-day challenge to raise money for the Royal British Legion.
Neil Baldwin, 49, from Grantham, will join his former RAF colleague and friend, Mark Collins, and more than 300 other cyclists at Eltham Palace, London, on Thursday, August 31, for the start of the Pedal to Paris bike ride to raise money for the British Armed Forces community.
Having served in the RAF between 1988 and 1994 and then again from 2003 to 2015, Neil is no stranger to challenges of endurance and strength, especially as he has also competed regularly in triathlon events. However, Pedal to Paris has become a great lifeline for Neil, with training for the event giving him a focus after his wife, Penny Lowe, passed away in June 2016. The couple met while both serving and she was also a Catering Officer in the RAF and was based at RAF Cranwell in her last post.
Neil said: “When I retired from the RAF in 2015, the plan was to travel and enjoy retirement with my wife. However, when she passed away last year, I found myself at a loss as to what to do and training for Pedal to Paris and focusing on competing in similar endurance events has really given me a boost and become a support for me.”
The ride was suggested to him by his friend Mark, who works for the Legion. The idea was to train for Pedal to Paris and ride the epic journey on a rickshaw bike. Neil said: “When Mark first came to me with the idea of riding the event on a rickshaw bike I laughed and thought he was crazy, so I told him I would do the event with him if he found us a tandem bike and he came back with three!”
During the challenge, Neil and Mark will cycle almost 300 miles through London, Kent and Northern France before finishing in Paris on Monday, September 4, when a service of Remembrance will be held at the Arc de Triomphe. Pedal to Paris is the only other cycling event next to the Tour de France, for which the Champs-Élysées is closed to traffic for the cyclists to cross on to the Arc de Triomphe.
Neil added: “I’m really looking forward to the event itself and meeting like-minded people from all walks of life going through the same challenge as us. The Legion is one of those organisations that survives on fundraising and is passionate about providing for our Armed Forces community, so to be part of that is simply wonderful.”
Neil and Mark are hoping to raise at least £900 for the Legion, the nation’s biggest Armed Forces charity, which supports serving personnel, veterans and their families.
Claire Rowcliffe, Director of Fundraising at The Royal British Legion, said: “We are very grateful to Neil and Mark for taking on the Pedal to Paris challenge. It really is an incredible experience and we wish them all the best for the ride, which is now in its 22nd year. Apart from the training that goes into preparing for the event, the fund-raising that they are undertaking on behalf of the Legion will help those we support live on to a more hopeful future.”
If you would like to sponsor the duo visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/MarkCollinsP2P17