Cyclists prepare outside Herne Hill Velodrome

Dulwich cycling club reopens annual charity cycle to the public

Dulwich Paragon Cycling Club reopened its annual long distance charity cycling event, the Ride of the Falling Leaves, to the public on Sunday in a bid to get more people interested in the club.

Following a virtual event in 2020 and a private ‘test’ in 2021, the ride was back in force on Sunday, with more than 200 riders departing from Herne Hill Velodrome.

The ride was originally created in 1998 to honour journalist and friend of the club Ruth Picardie who died at 33 from breast cancer a year prior.

In her memory, sisters Justine and Beth Wagstaff, who also died from breast cancer, set up the Lavender Trust which aims to raise funds and support for younger women suffering from the disease. 

However, in the last five years, the ride has been unable to generate any significant money for the charity due to running costs.

Event organiser Gwyn Thomas said: “In the early days it properly made money for the Lavender Trust, but as our costs to put the thing on have escalated, it’s become a bit more breakeven.

“However, I think there’s at least two or three people on our committee who said they joined Dulwich Paragon after doing the Ride of the Falling Leaves, so it does quite well to make people aware of the club.” 

Costs also forced a switch to participants self-timing their efforts and an increase in price by £5 to £25.

Moreover, the 25th edition of the ride failed to see a return to pre-pandemic levels, where nearly 400 riders would take part.

However, those that did take part included riders from the likes of Dulwich Paragon CC, Penge Cycle Club and Velo Club Londres.

CYCLING HUB: Herne Hill Velodrome is one of London’s most iconic cycling venues

Velo Club Londres is a club that has focused heavily on youth development and was the former club of Joanna Rowsell, a gold medallist from the 2012 London Olympics, Fred Wright, one of Britain’s best current riders and both Ethan and Leo Hayter, the respective British National Time Trial Champions at elite and u23 level.

Participants either chose to complete the longer 110 km route or the shorter 70 km route, both of which took a cafe stop at the Velo Barn near Westerham in Kent.

Thomas, 55, has been a member of the Dulwich Paragon for seven years and has completed the cycle before himself.

He said: “The route goes out through West Wickham, which always to this day amazes me how you suddenly have this row of houses and London just stops.

“It’s quite hilly, it’s quite challenging, there will be longer cycles out there, but for 110km there’s quite a lot of tough climbs involved, mainly the dual test of Toys Hill and Sundridge Hill in Kent.”

Riders were greeted with refreshments at both the start and finish as part of their entry fee, and the club has since commended all the volunteers along the route who made the event possible.

Dulwich Paragon is run by volunteers and has existed since 1935.

Outside of the Ride of the Falling Leaves, they also organise the Crystal Palace criterium races.

The club also runs a monthly introductory ride which allows non-members a chance to come on a 55km ride and introduce themselves.

It’s no test and all experiences and abilities are allowed to join one of London’s friendliest cycling clubs. 

You can find out more here.

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