Stuart cycles for Transaid

Stuart cycles for Transaid

Irizar UK’s northern area sales manager Stuart Smithson is resting his aching legs after raising well over £2000 for transport industry charity Transaid by taking part in the organisation’s 240-mile sponsored cycle ride from London to Paris.


Coach sales ace Stuart rode with 58 cyclists from the road transport industry on the three-day ride, which reached the Eiffel Tower on the afternoon of September 24.


“I got a bike last year to help me try to lose a bit of weight,” he recounts. “Then I was persuaded into doing the event by one of my customers: Chris Owens of North Wales coach operator Alpine Travel. The other challenge was getting pledges of at least £2000 in sponsorship. Irizar weighed in with a generous donation of £800 to start me off, and so I had to take it a bit more seriously and started training twice a week.


“Crystal Business Finance and Mistral Asset Finance chipped in with £250 each too, which was very generous.


“We set off from Richmond Park in London on the Friday, heading for the overnight Portsmouth ferry. The first real challenge was Bexley Hill (470 ft in two km): it was a bit of a nightmare to be honest.


“But the great thing was the way everyone from the coach industry, which included Ian Luckett of Lucketts Travel, Andy Pulham of Pulham & Sons Coaches, and Andrew Scott of Stanley Travel, all pulled together. There were riders who were very fit and others like me who could have done with losing a bit of weight. It was gruelling, but we worked as a team and all supported each other through the tough bits. It was noticeable how sociable the people from the coaching industry were on the ride.


“Over those three days, I go to know a lot of different people from the industry very well: some of them I had met before, and some not. It was great.”


The ride has already raised over £100,000 for Transaid’s work in developing safe, sustainable transport in sub-Saharan Africa, such as the current Professional Driver Training – Uganda project which will train truck and bus drivers at four different locations to meet the requirements of the East African Community (EAC) Standardised Curriculum for Drivers of Large Commercial Vehicles to help meet an increasing need for transport professionals from the expanding Ugandan economy.


“It was tough, but I’d happily do it again,” Stuart says.