Pupils pedal length of Africa in virtual bike race challenge

Youngsters inspired to cycle more by race

Schoolchildren in England are competing in a virtual bike race across Africa, as part of a scheme to encourage more youngsters to cycle.

Some 80 schools are taking part in the first ever national Bike It virtual bike race - a 7,500-mile journey from Cairo to Cape Town, based on the route of the international Tour d'Afrique bicycle race and expedition.

At the end of last term, pupils took part in 'Bike to School' days and brushed up on their cycling skills for the warm-up stage between London and Istanbul. The virtual race is now fully under way and participating schools are cycling as much as possible to clock up the miles needed to be first across the finish line in Cape Town.

The race is expected to take four weeks to complete from start to finish, but with less than halfway to go the competition is starting to hot up.  The winning school is expected to finish just before the summer half term holiday in the week ending Friday 23 May.

The national prize is £2,000 to be spent on bikes for the winning school and the results will be announced in first week of June.  There will also be prizes for regional winners.

Andy Casson, Sustrans' Bike It officer for London, said: "This race will help young people get into the habit of riding to school regularly and demonstrate to them and their parents the huge amount of distance that can be covered collectively by bike.  Even a few miles of pedal power each day soon adds up and can make a significant contribution to people's health and the environment."

The pupils are monitoring their progress on a giant map of Africa and taking part in lessons based on the places they virtually travel through.  Some of the schools taking part are being sponsored so that they can supply bicycles to schoolchildren and health workers in Africa.

The challenge is taking place in the following places: Ashford, Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset, South Gloucestershire, Bury, Darlington, Gateshead & South Tyneside, Lancaster, London, Luton, Bedford & St. Albans, Merseyside, Reigate & Banstead, Swindon.

The Bike It project is funded and supported by Cycling England, Bike Hub - the cycle industry levy scheme, the Big Lottery Fund's Wellbeing Programme, Transport for London and local authorities.

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