Students pedalling for famous cathedral

Five school students from Canterbury in England are biking some 1,110 miles to Rome in Italy along an ancient pilgrim route, to raise money for their city's famous cathedral.

While thousands of cyclists have tackled the Race Across America, or pedalled from Land's End to John O'Groats in the UK, a group of British teenagers are following one of the oldest routes of all.

Five school students from Canterbury in England are biking some 1,110 miles to Rome in Italy along an ancient pilgrim route, to raise money for their city's famous cathedral. The journey will take them from Canterbury - the most important city for the Church of England, to Rome, the capital of the Catholic faith. And it's so important to them they'll even be opening their end of school exam results while they're on the road.

The youngsters are among 27 cyclists travelling along the route, known as the Via Francigena, with part of the money they raise going to the £50 million Save Canterbury Cathedral Appeal.
Each cyclist has put in at least 100 hours of training covering 1,000 miles in preparation - the equivalent to the team cycling at least once around the world.

Earlier this summer they followed the Cyclosportive route from London to Canterbury ahead of the Tour de France as part of their preparation.

The teenagers in the group comprise 17-year-olds Luke Ryan, Millie Westlake Alice Gerth, and Hugh Saffrey, a former chorister at Canterbury Catherdral, along with Jerome Condry, 16. Jerome, Luke and Hugh all have family members also taking part in the epic journey, which snakes through France, Switzerland and Italy.

The group set off on August 10 and are currently on the Swiss-Italian border tackling the hardest part of the challenge - a 20 mile climb through the Grand St Bernard Pass over the Alps. They are averaging more than 75 miles per day and plan to arrive in Rome on August 24.

Before the team left Luke told his local newspaper, the Kent Messenger: "The only thing that gets me up a hill is knowing I get to go down the other side."

The Via Francigena was first documented in the 10th century when the then-Archbishop of Canterbury, Sigeric the Serious, traveled to visit the Pope in order to complete his consecration as archbishop. The current Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, who holds the highest position in the Church of England after the Queen, last year announced that £50million is needed to save Canterbury Cathedral.

All 27 cyclists have now raised more than £90,000 and are hoping to top £100,000 by the end of the ride. You can follow the group's progress here. For more information on the Cathedral appeal, visit www.savecanterburycathedral.com. Other national and international charities the teenagers are supporting include the Footprints care home in Fordwich, Pilgrims Hospice, Sittingbourne Home Start and Farm Africa.

© BikeRadar 2007

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