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Mark Silverstein: Back in the saddle again for Palace For Life

The Eagles Beak writer and Palace for Life fundraiser, Mark Silverstein wrote about his experience of Bike to Bournemouth and why he has signed up again for the Southampton edition this April.

When I completed the Palace For Life Bike to Bournemouth back in March 2020, there is no way I would have believed it would be over two years before there would be another Palace For Life fundraising cycle taking place.

Even though the Bike to Bournemouth took place at the very start of the pandemic, it was inconceivable at that stage the pandemic would put a halt to outdoor fundraising like this for two years. Since March 2020 there have been more inconceivable events than anyone could have imagined so charity cycle rides are on a long list!

The good news is after all this time we are back in the saddle; cycling from Selhurst Park to St Mary’s Stadium in Southampton. The ride is organised so that we will finish in time to watch Palace take on Southampton before getting coaches back to Selhurst Park. Given that the distance is roughly 100 miles and there will be a mix of cycling abilities, the ride will take place over two days with an overnight stop near Portsmouth.

One change from the Bike to Bournemouth is we will be riding with the Saints Foundation who will have their own team of charity cyclists joining us for the ride. I am sure that will add a different perspective to the ride and potentially get some friendly competition going between the riders from the two foundations!

To tell the truth there, were various points in the Bournemouth ride where I questioned my sanity in undertaking the ride, but of course in the end I enjoyed it tremendously. When the opportunity came up to sign up for the next ride I signed up straight away.

The primary reason for signing up again is to raise money for the Palace For Life Foundation. As many will know already the Palace For Life Foundation supports young people in the Croydon and surrounding areas with a number of initiatives including free football and other sporting activities, a social mobility programme and mentoring programme for those people needing one to one attention. The focus is very much on those young people who may not be getting the support they need from other areas of the community.

Beyond these fundraising objectives, the highlight of the Bike to Bournemouth was the opportunity to spend a day and half cycling through some amazing countryside with like-minded Palace supporters. Palace For Life provides fantastic support on the day with experienced ride leaders for each group with back up in terms of any mid-ride repairs and plenty of food and drink at each of the feed stops during the day. The overnight hotel stop is an opportunity to relax, have a drink and have a proper catch up with your fellow riders.

Two things I am looking forward to in particular this year (he says crossing his fingers) are not having the spectre of a looming pandemic hanging over us and actually being able to watch a football match at the end of the two days. Although we did not let Covid stop the ride in March 2020 it did create an air of slight uncertainty about the whole event. The only actual negative impact was the postponement of the match in Bournemouth but certainly for me there was a feeling that we were heading into a period of global uncertainty and risk.

In the end these global risks turned out to be more extreme than any of us envisaged as we were cycling to Bournemouth to file into an empty Vitality Stadium. I am not so naive to think that the past two years will have been erased by the time we saddle up for Southampton but at least we should know what we are dealing with when it comes to Covid (and I hope it is no longer such a concern!). Although you can never say never, I am confident that at least we will be able to watch the match against Southampton!

Although I am not sure how many Bike to Bournemouth cyclists will be returning for more punishment in April, I am sure there will be quite a few and it will be a fantastic opportunity to catch up with them, having not seen many of them since March 2020. Over the years of doing various Marathon Marches and long distance cycles for Palace For Life, I have accumulated new Palace pals each time and I am sure the Bike to Southampton will be no different. There is nothing like a physical challenge for a great cause with like-minded Palace supporters to bring out a superb sense of camaraderie to get you over those final miles and hills.

I am planning on my first long training ride this week and I will be getting my fundraising going soon so do look out for me on my bike and for my fundraising link on TEB Twitter!

You can follow The Eagles Beak on Twitter @TheEaglesBeak and check out more Palace pieces online theeaglesbeak.com

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