Four fit and determined friends from the UK set off from Stansted to Santander, on the north coast of Spain, for a challenging eight-day journey to the Algarve in aid of charity.
Debbie Hopkisson, Sandy Dooley, Ali Ferris and Samantha Williams, aka The Saddle Sisters, all from Kent, decided they would cycle from Santander to Loulé to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the UK’s leading charity dedicated to beating Multiple Sclerosis.
Why Loulé? Debbie lived in Loulé with her husband and three daughters for six years before returning to the UK in 2006 but returns several times a year during the holidays.
“We are all keen cyclists and, with the challenge in mind, I wanted Sandy, Ali and Samantha to see the Algarve and, in particular, my once home town of Loulé, so when we decided to do the ride, Loulé seemed an obvious choice,” said Debbie.
The four intrepid cyclists left Santander and planned to arrive eight days later in Loulé. The route is approximately 1060km (660 miles) long. They cycled west of Madrid and east of Salamanca, before crossing into Portugal near Valencia de Alcantara. The last three days saw them head down the eastern edge of Portugal through the wine areas of Reguengos and into the Algarve.
Cycling between 72 and 98 miles per day with no support vehicle, they had all learned to change an inner tube and mend a bicycle chain but luckily they only suffered one puncture during the entire trip.
Arriving in Loulé on Wednesday and on schedule, they were greeted by friends and relatives to resounding cheers and flag waving. “Our aim was to raise £10,000 for multiple sclerosis,” said Debbie. We chose the MS Society as one of our party has a family member who has had MS for 10 years. We knew before we set off that it was going to be tough but we were determined to see it through and thanks to our many generous sponsors we have reached our target and donations are still coming in.”
Photo from left: Debbie, Samantha, Sandy and Ali