Over the weekend, a group of dogged Crystal Palace fans and employees cycled 120 miles from Selhurst Park to the Vitality Stadium despite the Bournemouth v Palace match being called off halfway through the ride.
The mammoth journey was in support of Palace for Life Foundation, the club's official charity. The 28 riders, who have nearly raised their £15,000 target, were intending on finishing the two-day cycle by watching the Eagles battle the Cherries in the suspended Premier League match. However, the team were undeterred when they found out the game had been postponed and carried on regardless.
One of those taking part was Anthony Wright, who said: “It was a bit eerie arriving at an empty ground, but it was worth it knowing that it was all for a good cause. It was a tough two days but it was amazing, going through the New Forest and all the scenery. I'm really pleased to be here. Up the Eagles!”
Setting off from Selhurst Park bright and early on Friday 13th March, the group cycled 80 miles on the first day, taking in the Surrey Hills and ending in Winchester. The top flight game between Palace and Bournemouth was officially postponed just before lunchtime due to the COVID-19 outbreak but the riders never considered turning back.
See what happened when our @CPFC #BiketoBournemouth riders arrived at an empty Vitality Stadium 🏟— Palace for Life Fdn. (@PalaceForLife) March 15, 2020
They’ve raised over £12,000 for #PalaceForLife - help them reach £15,000 👉 https://t.co/KiBN2GFANT pic.twitter.com/uFx8ieHUtH
Palace for Life Foundation Chief Executive, Mike Summers, commented: “Considering everything that’s gone on this week, there were times we didn’t think this ride was going to go ahead, but it just shows the power of the Palace fanbase. They’ve all been fantastic throughout.
“It was a mixed feeling arriving at the Vitality Stadium, it’s empty and we’re sad there’s not a game, but there’s a great feeling of delight and camaraderie in this group.”
The final leg of the journey, 40 miles through the New Forest, was completed on Saturday 14th March, with the group arriving at Bournemouth’s unusually quiet Vitality Stadium at lunchtime. Security staff generously opened the ground regardless and allowed the riders to head pitchside, taking in the empty stands and posing for photos in the dugout.
Another of the riders was Stephen Kingdom, who during a previous season cycled to every away game. He said: “It was a bit different getting here and not having a game on, the last time I cycled here we won 2-0! When we heard it was off, we had a quick discussion but we all decided we’d still do it and support the Foundation.”
The money raised will support Palace for Life Foundation’s work with young people who are at risk of being caught up in violent crime or anti-social behaviour. One of the programmes, Divert, was recently named ‘Community Project of the Year’ at the London Football Awards and has helped 130 youngsters find work or training after being arrested.
Mike Summers continued: “We’re working with young people who are on the edge of getting into difficulties, whether that’s with crime, gangs or anti-social behaviour. Just because the football won’t be continuing for the next few weeks, our work will carry on, we’ll still be supporting those young people who need us and the money we’re raising here today will really help.”
The fantastic riders have raised an amazing total so far - donate and help the team reach their £15,000 target here!
To find out more about Palace for Life Foundation, click here now.