Duncan Ferguson saluted the Speed Cycle participants’ “tremendous achievement for a great cause” after they completed their epic 230-mile ride at Goodison Park on Sunday night.
The group of football fans embarked on a mammoth journey over the weekend as they honoured the memory of former Everton skipper Gary Speed and raised money for The People’s Place, Everton in the Community’s groundbreaking mental health campaign which aims to deliver a dedicated mental health facility within the Goodison campus.
The cyclists received a rapturous welcome at the Grand Old Lady, with the riders’ friends and family joined by Gary Speed’s parents, Roger and Carol, who cheered them home along with Toffees legend Ferguson.
The group travelled to the stadium of each club boyhood Evertonian Speed played for.
After setting off from Newcastle United’s St James’ Park at 6am on Saturday morning, they rode an incredible 114 miles to Elland Road – home of Leeds United.
Sunday saw the group tackle a host of punishing uphill climbs, totalling some 7,777ft. First, they cycled to Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane, before commencing a demanding ride to Bolton Wanderers’ University of Bolton Stadium and then on to Goodison.
“It’s a tremendous achievement,” Everton first-team coach Ferguson told evertontv. “We’re all really proud of them.
“There’s such a mix of ages, too, for the younger ones up to people in their seventies. They’ve done brilliantly.
“It’s for a great cause, too. I knew Gary Speed very well, we loved him and we all miss him terribly. It’s a fantastic cause and this fundraiser couldn’t be for a better fella.
“Mental health is such an important issue, we all need to talk about it more. We want to get the [dedicated] facility up and running.”
The Speed Cyclists are aiming to raise £65,000 for The People’s Place campaign.
The fundraising target represents £1,000 for every first-team appearance boyhood Evertonian Speed made for his beloved Blues.
Gary’s mother, Carol, was eager to pay tribute to the cyclists’ efforts.
“They have done incredibly well – even the people who are not regular cyclists have gone the whole way,” she said.
“I’m so proud that they’ve had this event in Gary’s honour – and so proud that everyone thought so much of him.
“The People’s Place is a very important cause, because it really will help so many people.”
Everton Director of Marketing, Communications and Community Richard Kenyon was also at Goodison to welcome the returning cyclists after their remarkable journey.
He emphasised the Speed Cycle’s success in shining a light on the importance of mental health.
“To take on this challenge is incredible,” he said.
“For these people to put in so much effort – they covered so many miles and the hills they have had to contend with… it’s absolutely amazing.
“The money they have raised will be great for the People’s Place campaign.
“Not only that, through this cycle they have raised a lot of awareness about the issue of mental health.
“It was also a privilege and an honour to have Gary Speed’s parents at Goodison to welcome the cyclists. They are absolutely great people and we are proud we do something like this is Gary’s name.”
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