‘Blue light’ welcome for charity cyclist
A Kent police officer was given a ‘blue light’ welcome to Gibraltar yesterday as he arrived on the Rock after cycling 1,700 miles from the UK to raise money for charity.
Tristan Stevens was flanked by a Royal Gibraltar Police motorcade complete with flashing lights and sirens as he cycled to Europa Point.
“It’s one of the hardest things I have ever done,” he said of the gruelling three-week trip.
Mr Stevens was also greeted by his partner and cheerleader, Jen Shepherd, who described the challenge as “long and very worrying, especially when he said things like, ‘I’ve not seen a person for two hours and I’m down a farm track’.”
Several RGP officers, together with four members of the Gibraltar Rotary Club, was also present yesterday as Mr Stevens crossed the finish line, marking the end of his solo adventure.
Upon arrival, Mr Stevens told the Chronicle he felt “exhilarated.”
“After 22 days of cycling I’m exhausted but it has been overtaken by the fact I have managed to get here,” he said.
“Because there were times along the way that I thought that was not going to happen due to weather, the heat and the hills giving me shear exhaustion etc.”
“Now that I am here I am over the moon.”
Mr Stevens has been with the police for 20 years and is no stranger to challenges, including cycling long distances.
But this was his longest trip by far.
The aim of his challenge was to raise money for ‘More than Words’, a charity set up by a former colleague, Paul Hughes, whose daughter Gracie had developmental problems and at a young age was unable to communicate with her parents.
Through this charity, Mr Hughes was able to teach Gracie ‘Makaton’ sign language and the charity has gone on to deliver teaching to children and parents across the county.
Mr Hughes has been in regular contact with Mr Stevens throughout and called him “mad” on several occasions.
However, with nearly £3,000 raised for the charity, the Hughes family are “overwhelmed” and “over the moon” with Mr Stevens’ success.
“He always said, ‘I think you’re mad but I know you will do it’,” said Mr Stevens of his colleague.
Officers from the RGP also donated money to Mr Stevens’ cause.
The police officer completed the 1,700 miles, unsupported and camping on route. The camping element meant he had a lot of weight to carry on his bike.
“You have heavy bike, you’re at 30 degrees centigrade and then you are on an 8% incline it knocks you out,” he said.
“Being by yourself and when you hit that hill and you think ‘this is going to be hard work’ and you haven’t got anyone around you to say ‘go on you have got to keep on going’.”
“Jen was on the end of the phone every day encouraging me all the time that was amazing.”
“That was the hardest bit, battling my own self-motivation,” he added.
Mr Stevens worked a system out while on the saddle.
He would rise at 6am and be on the bike by 7am, cycle for five to six hours and then stop before the intense heat of the day.
John McKillop Smith, the President of the Gibraltar Rotary Club, formed part of the team who welcomed Mr Stevens to Europa Point.
He explained that because Mr Stevens is a Rotarian in Kent the local club wanted to show their support. The Gibraltar and Kent club are linked.
“Because one of our members was coming we decided to form a welcome committee for him,” he said.
“It is a long way and I am quite pleased he made it,” he added.
The Rotary Club took Mr Stevens and Ms Shepherd for celebratory dinner last night.
To support Mr Stevens visit https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=TristanStevens2&pageUrl=3
Pics by Johnny Bugeja