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      Toby Wait reaps rewards from ‘Bike to’ challenge


      Being directly related to one of Crystal Palace’s most famous figures must come with its own set of challenges – but then, Toby Wait has never been one to shy away from a good challenge.

      For the grandson of Arthur John Wait – the former director, Chairman and eventual Life President of the club, who lends his name to Selhurst Park’s north-eastern stand – has already signed up for this year’s Bike to Wolves fundraising challenge, run by Palace for Life Foundation with the goal of improving the lives of young south Londoners.

      With time running out to sign up – the deadline to register for this year’s event is Sunday 31st March – Toby will be one of a number of supporters cycling to Molineux to watch Palace take on Wolves in May.

      In doing so, Season Ticket holder Toby will be raising valuable funds for the young local community with which his family has so long been associated.

      “It is a long family history!” he laughed, speaking to “Obviously my grandfather was Arthur Wait, as in the ‘Arthur Wait stand’ – he kindly named it after himself!

      “My cousin's been a season ticket holder for quite a long time. I've lived in the West Country for quite a while, but for probably the last 12 years, my son and I have been Season Ticket holders, and I've been supporting them from day one really.

      “Who doesn’t enjoy a Saturday afternoon down in Thornton Heath?!”

      It will be from there that Toby and his fellow cyclists set off in mid-May for the Eagles’ final away match of the season.

      But do the fans around him recognise Toby for that strong family connection? “I don't really mention it!” he says, modestly. “It's quite funny – none of the guys that I sit around, or that I've sat around for the last 12 years, have any idea.

      “I sort of keep that to myself. What is quite funny is when you're listening to the chanting between the Holmesdale and the Arthur Wait stands, and you go: ‘oh wow, that's my granddad they’re singing the name of’ – which is always quite strange.

      “My son finds it even stranger! But it's nice to have that connection, it really is.”

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      It was amazing. It was a great experience

      Toby Wait

      Bike to Wolves will be the second ‘Bike to’ Challenge which Toby has taken part in, having raised £4,628 last year as part of ‘Bike to Villa’.

      “I started cycling last year,” he recalled. “I was looking heavier in January last year than I am now – not too bad, but about a good stone-and-a-half, something like that!

      “I was desperate to try and find something that was going to give me something to aim for, to get my levels of fitness up and try and lose some weight. I just saw ‘Bike to Villa’ advertised in the matchday programme and I thought: ‘well, look, why not? Let’s give that a go.’

      “I had a couple of mates who were also interested… and managed to back out in about the first two weeks, so that really helped! But it was quite unusual for me. I cycle, but I’m not a massive cycling fan, to be honest – my wife might disagree!

      “I’d never really gone cycling in a big groups or anything like that. I usually cycle on my own, so to ride in a big group was going to be interesting.

      “But it was amazing. It was a great experience.”

      As in previous years, the event is split over two days: on the first day this year, riders will set off from Selhurst Park to travel 111 miles up through the Oxford countryside, before stopping off for the night in a hotel in Warwickshire.

      The next morning, riders will complete the remaining 49 miles to the Molineux – with enough time for a shower, lunch and a drink before Palace’s final away game of the season.

      Riders can choose between the Challenge and Ultra ride options, where Challenge riders will be offered a minibus boost to the first refreshment stop on day one and two.

      There’s no doubt that a ‘Bike to’ event presents quite a challenge, for cyclists of any level of experience, but Toby was impressed by the support he received throughout the journey.

      “Cycling in a big group is very different to cycling on your own,” he explained. “You've got to be with other people, work out with other people, try not to crash into other people… and try not to fall over, which is embarrassing!

      “My worries were cycling in a group, cycling through London, and having to put Lycra on! But actually, my worries were alleviated very much from the word ‘go’. We had amazing cyclists that came with us.

      “The way it was organised and the way you were looked after was brilliant. You were put in groups that were of your ability. I think I was in the third fastest group out of five, or something like that.

      “But actually, most of the groups travelled pretty much the same speed anyway. And yeah, it was fabulous. It’s a whole mixed bag of very lovely people, from speed cyclists to people who have not been cycling before, and people who are lifelong Palace fans.

      “It’s a whole great mixture of people. And it's really interesting to hear about all the different jobs that people do.

      “It's a real mixed age group as well, which I was quite surprised about. I thought it might be, you know, older males in their 50s and 60s, which it wasn’t at all. It was a really mixed age group, you know, from mid-20s upwards, and it was lovely to chat with everyone.

      “You've got something in common. And I think that's one of the key things: I signed up on my own. I didn't know anybody at all there before. But immediately you have something in common because you have this thing where you support Crystal Palace for some reason!”

      Bike to Aston Villa | Palace For Life Foundation

      Although the result did not match the pleasure of the journey to Aston Villa last season, Toby highlighted that camaraderie as a highlight of the entire away day.

      “Actually, it was more about the whole experience,” he smiled. “And, you know, you were there with people from the Friday morning and we played on the Saturday afternoon, and we were all sat together.

      “You've got that camaraderie of: ‘oh, it doesn't really matter too much.’ And it was a real surprise being sat amongst Palace away fans, but actually the result didn’t feel quite as important as it normally does – but they probably all disagree with me on that!

      “On the bus on the way back, we were still chatting away, still having a good time, so that did make it a unique experience. And the way the cycle is organised is also a unique experience.

      “You don't have to carry your own kit. That's all taken care of for you. You get fed along the way, which is quite unique, so that was all lovely – it really did feel like you were just doing the cycle.”

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      You suddenly realise the amount of hard work and effort which goes into... trying to make a difference

      Toby Wait

      As for any nervous supporters, Toby offered reassurance: “You can be any sort of level of cyclist. You need to do a bit of training, but it's nothing more than just a gentle cycle on a Saturday afternoon, really.

      “There are a number of groups, which means you can actually choose at what pace you want to go, and there's lots of stops because you do spend the whole day getting from A to B, so you've got a long time to do it. It’s not as demanding as it might sound.

      “As for the sponsorship, that is all set up for you. It's made very, very simple to do that online. If I can do it, anyone can do it - it's really straightforward, and it's amazing the response you get!

      “One of the real positives around ‘Bike to’ was getting more of an understanding of what the Palace for Life Foundation. You get to speak to people working for the charity, supported by the fans and Palace itself.

      “You suddenly realise the amount of hard work and effort which goes into just that: trying to make a difference.”

      Why take part?

      Not only is the ride an incredible physical feat, Bike to Wolves will be a great way to connect with likeminded Palace fans, watch the Eagles in action, and most importantly, raise funds for young south Londoners.

      The money you raise will go towards three key areas of the Foundation's work:

      • Keeping more young people away from knife crime, violence and anti-social behaviour
      • Helping more young people find career & job opportunities
      • Supporting more young people with their mental & physical health