The Jo Cox Way: ‘Inspirational’ cyclists complete epic 288-mile bike ride from Cleckheaton to London
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The large group, as part of The Jo Cox Way, set off on their journey on Wednesday from Princess Mary Athletics Stadium before crossing the finish line in the capital earlier today.
The ride, now into its eighth year, aims to keep Jo’s legacy alive by promoting community spirit, togetherness and the power of sport, while also supporting causes that were important to her - all of which were on show during the five-day event.
“We are just elated,” said Tim Smith, one of the organisers. “Cycling 280 miles, it’s the third time I’ve done it, but it’s really quite something that so many people, from so many different backgrounds and ages, want to do it and love it.
“We are really delighted that they’ve all enjoyed it so much. Everyone who finished the ride immediately said, ‘Sign me up for next year.’ They all enjoyed the challenge, they all enjoyed the company and they all enjoyed the whole experience.”
He added: “The More in Common message is definitely getting stronger and I think it is more relevant as the years go on. It is a really powerful message which people understand and as people spend more time with each other and get to know each other, they do get that we do have more in common.
“We’ve had a 17-year-old lad from Batley and a 77-year-old woman from Keighley - they would never meet. But they have been cycling together and now they not only like each other but they understand each other a little bit more.
“Perhaps we all realise that we are not that different; we might be different ages and from different places but we do have more in common as Jo said seven years ago.”
Asked what his feelings were when he crossed the finish line, Tim replied:
“Sheer exhilaration. People were cheering. Young Yaseen (Fadal, the 17-year-old from Batley, and youngest participant this year) was in tears. He was so overcome with emotion. His parents and sister were there. It was a really emotional time.
“People were just overwhelmed that they had done it. It is quite something cycling all the way from Yorkshire to London. Everyone had their own story and own reasons for doing it. It was a time full of joy.”
Jo’s sister, Kim Leadbeater, who followed in her footsteps to become MP for Batley and Spen, was “chief cheerleader” for the event, in one of five support vehicles throughout the trip after cycling the first part of the ride to Horbury Bridge.
She said: “I feel amazing. What a four and a half days. The ride has just got bigger and better than ever and this year’s has been hugely emotional. It’s been a physical challenge, a mental challenge and a journey for so many participants.
“It is everything that Jo believed in.”
She added: “We have had such a mixed bunch of cyclists this year. We get together with a shared goal, a shared endeavour - getting to London in 288 miles and we find the common ground.
“These people are inspirational. It’s tough, it’s not an easy ride but they’ve got on with that grit and determination and it shows the real best of humanity.”
The Jo Cox Way event of 2024 will be the ninth ride since its inception by Sarfraz Mian in 2016, just weeks after her murder.
And while this year’s saw the record number of women take part, Tim wants more female riders to get involved next year. He said:
“We love to welcome our riders back and we would love them all to take part next year. But we also want to attract new riders and we are very keen on trying to achieve the goal of making our ride 50-50.
“This year 41 per cent of our riders were women which is greater than we have ever had before. But Jo was passionate about making sure 50 per cent of people in Parliament were women. That still hasn’t been achieved. We would love for the Jo Cox Way to be 50-50.
“We might not achieve it next year but perhaps by the time the tenth ride comes around we will. That is certainly what we’d like to do.”