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By Janet Tansley
The Liverpool waiter happily admits cycling 300 miles from London to Paris this summer may have been a midlife crisis, but it’s one that fulfilled a lingering ambition, and raised thousands of pounds for charity.
Winston, from Halewood, says: “The London to Paris Bike Ride is something I have always wanted to do, but I just thought there was no way I could do it.
“But when it came to my 50th year I wanted to see what the body could do.
“Call it a midlife crisis, but I thought about it during Covid and decided I wanted to give it a go.”
The mammoth bike journey saw Winston travel from the capital of England to the French capital in just four days and he admits it was challenging, but he adds: “It was an amazing experience.
“I never thought I was going to give up, but I went through phases when my body said ‘that’s enough’. But other cyclists kept me going and got me through.
“And when we got to the Eiffel Tour it was a blast, it was unbelievable. People were shouting and screaming at us…it was incredible.”
Winston raised £3,000 for Claire House Children’s Hospice in what was his third charity bike ride this year.
He had earlier completed a 70-mile cycle in his hometown of Capetown for a charity there, and the Liverpool to Chester bike ride which he does every year, before completing the testing ride which took him across the channel.
And he only started cycling as a dare!
Winston, who works at Coast Coffee in Woolton, explains: “I took up cycling by chance in 1999 and it was a dare from a friend in Capetown who said he would buy me a bike – a cheap bike – if I would do a cycle ride with him.
“I said okay, and we trained and trained and then, on the weekend of the ride, he chickened out. So I thought, what the hell, I’ll do it anyway. And that was it. I was hooked.
“I have done the Liverpool to Chester Bike Ride ever since I came to Liverpool 15 years ago, after my marriage to my husband, Allan, who’s from here, and when I raise money for charity it has always been for children’s charities.
“I don’t have children myself but my philosophy is that children don’t ask to be born and they can’t change the way their lives turn out; but it’s down to us adults to do our best for them, to give them the best life possible.
“So that’s why I do it.”
Winston started a strict training regime at the beginning of the year for the London to Paris Bike Ride which he did in July. He changed his diet and allowed himself just one alcoholic drink a week as he set about cycling between 80-100 miles a week and sessions in the gym to prepare for the challenge.
The ride took him from Croydon and through Kent to Dover and then, after the ferry crossing to Calais, he travelled through Amiens and Chantilly – ‘beautiful countryside’ – before arriving in Paris.
“It was tough,” he says. “In the first leg to Dover it was all uphill, and it was during the heatwave, so that was horrendous.
“But there were 185 cyclists doing the ride and we got each other through.
“When we got to Paris we had to stop at the Louis Vuitton building while they got us into groups of four and six to go down the Champs Elysees, and that was amazing – and quite funny. We arrived in Paris the day before the Tour de France finished and tourists thought we were ‘it’ and started taking photos.
“But arriving at the Eiffel Tower was something I will never forget, cycling up to this iconic landmark after such an achievement.”
And there was something else Winston found hard to forget: “My neighbour from Halewood was in Paris on holiday and so decided to greet me, with his son, when I got there.
“It was such a surprise, I couldn’t believe that he was there but it was great to see him – and so we had a beer to celebrate.”
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