Charity cycle champion
285. Paul Loftus
The founder of a famous annual Cumbria charity cycle race that has raised over £1 million for charity.
Paul Loftus, 70, is the lead organiser of the Fred Whitton Challenge, a race which raises funds for MacMillan, Air Ambulance and Mountain Rescue. The Challenge is a 112-mile bicycle race around the Lake District and is named after a close friend of Paul’s who died from cancer in 1998 at the age of 50.
When ‘The Fred’, as it is also known, started in 1999, just 75 riders took part and the race has grown into one of Cumbria’s biggest sporting events raising hundreds of thousands each year for charity. Now in its sixteenth year, the Fred Whitton Challenge charges a £50 registration fee to join and half of this is donated to charity. Most riders also seek sponsorship to race the gruelling 112 miles, taking in the iconic climbs of Kirkstone, Honister, Newlands, Whinlatter, Hardknott and Wrynose passes.
This year due to the popularity of the event, those riding had to be chosen by ballot, with 2000 riders selected. Over 200 volunteers also line the route, marshalling traffic, manning refreshment stands and guiding the way for the riders making it an event celebrated by the whole community.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
“It is inspiring when people can turn personal tragedy into an initiative that helps others. Paul has tirelessly worked to ensure his friend’s legacy is a sporting challenge enjoyed by many and has raised over £1 million for charity in the process. I am so pleased to make him the UK’s 284th Point of Light.”
“This event for us is not just about raising money for charity. It’s been about getting people on bikes. It really is beyond our wildest dreams how the event has grown. Winning this award is great and it’s great to get recognition for what we’re doing.”
Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock said:
“The Fred Whitton Challenge has grown into one of the big-pull cycling events in our corner of the UK. The race is a force for good in so many ways and much of its success is down to Paul Loftus who fully deserves this award. I am sure his family and his Lakes Road Club mates will be really chuffed for him and I would like to add my congratulations on his special day.”