OUR Coast2Coast8 Challenge cyclists enjoyed an emotional homecoming in Aberdeen on Sunday - and have now reached their incredible £1million fundraising goal.

The 70-strong group of cyclists, who set off in groups from Skye and Oban on Friday, triumphantly arrived in the Beach Ballroom after braving typically Scottish conditions to complete the 260-mile route.

In its seven previous years, the Coast 2 Coast Challenge - started off by employees at BP - has raised a remarkable £837,000 for good causes. This year the target was to take that figure beyond the £1 million mark and the riders have now reached that landmark figure.

All money being raised by the riders is being match-funded by BP. You can visit the C2C fundraising page or still make a donation by clicking HERE.

  • (This picture and main picture courtesy of David Yates Photography - www.dmyphoto.co.uk)

The four chosen charities this year are MND Scotland, Support in Mind Scotland, Charlie House and Home-Start Aberdeen, and all four are enormously grateful for the money being raised for them to continue their vital work.

Jon Turnbull (below), who has taken part in all eight rides since he helped launch the Challenge, said: "I can confirm that we have now beaten the £1M cumulative target and this year each of the charities will receive more than £40,000, which is immense.  

"I know more than anyone how much of team effort this is.   The steering group did their very best to make this successful and are to be congratulated.  Without their commitment and efforts this would not work.  So a special word  of thanks goes to Jim Blacklaws, Darran Byrne, Chris Cais, Jamie Davidson, Clair Ferries, Andrew Fowler, Steve Johnston, Giles Mackey, Hillary Mulligan and Ben Walls.

"Thanks also to our support drivers who play a pivotal role too, as we all found, so well done to Phil Keeble, Den Weiss, Dan Ryan, Andy Sharples, Greg Stewart and Philippa Hourican and also to ASCO Transport for their generous part in getting our bikes across Scotland.

"I continue to be impressed by the generosity of those who contribute, whether it be our relatives, BP colleagues, other friends or random people we met like Fraggle in Burghead pub!  The desire to help those in need is strong and it is gratifying to witness  this so vividly."

Half of the riders set off from Oban on Friday, with the other group leaving from Skye.

Support in Mind Scotland was nominated by Marie O'Hanlon, who embarked on the cycle ride for the first time this weekend, and was one of the first to arrive in Aberdeen, where she was met by friends, family and Support in Mind Scotland chief executive Frances Simpson.

Here is Frances's account of her weekend meeting the cyclists...

"This weekend I had the privilege of being part of this phenomenal event:  69 cyclists completed nearly 300 miles coast to coast to raise money for four charities, including ours.  The cyclists all had a connection to BP, either as current or retired employees, with families and friends either cycling with them or providing the essential back-up that has to support an event of this magnitude.

Torrential rain, thunder, sunshine, hills, traffic – all navigated safely and successfully to raise £150,000 this year for Support in Mind Scotland, MND Scotland, Charlie House and Home-Start Aberdeen, and all four charities were represented at the homecoming in Aberdeen Beach Ballroom on Sunday evening.

I was completely humbled by the cyclists' unanimous commitment, good humour and generosity

Frances Simpson, CEO Support in Mind Scotland

I had met the cyclists in Elgin on the Saturday as they celebrated two days done and contemplated their third and final push to Aberdeen, and I was completely humbled by their unanimous commitment, good humour and generosity as they all spoke of the personal challenge of coping with sore legs, sore behinds, punctures, and permanently sodden feet. Each one had their own very personal reasons for undertaking such a gruelling physical challenge, but what they had in common was the ultimate motivation of knowing that this wasn’t just about them. They all knew that their hard work would help to change the lives of thousands of people across Scotland through the significant donations that our organisations would receive.

 Marie O’Hanlon (pictured above with Frances) was our sponsor who had been motivated to nominate us after she had visited our Edinburgh service and met a woman around her age whose life had been so completely different from Marie’s due to trauma, poverty and serious  mental ill-health.

Marie has also given me invaluable support and guidance over the past 15 months or so,  offering her professional business experience to help our organisation become much more resilient for the future.  Therefore my interest in this cycling challenge was much more than simply the significant financial boost it would bring: it was personal.  

And so it was an emotional homecoming in Aberdeen on Sunday as Marie cycled home along Aberdeen’s spectacular esplanade in the first group, waving and smiling as though she had just completed a run round the block – not the full width of Scotland from the Isle of Skye to the edge of the North Sea.  This was Marie’s first event of this type – or of any type –as she took up cycling to complete this challenge, and that makes her achievement all the more remarkable.

One of the cyclists, Jon Turnbull, was given special recognition as this was the eighth Coast to Coast cycle and was the culmination of an idea he started as a one-off to raise £25,000 for Motor Neurone Disease.  Eight years on, and £1,000,000 in total raised for many good causes, Jon was embarrassed by the standing ovation his fellow cyclists, families and friends gave to acknowledge his unwavering commitment.

This cycle involved a total of nearly 80 people who had to arrange routes, support rotas, cycle maintenance, accommodation, food, snacks and first aid so that everyone completed the cycle and came home safe; and this was all out of the cyclists’ own pockets, as they had to commit to paying a minimum personal sum to cover the cost of these logistics.  And this on top of weeks and weeks of training in their own time, taking them away from families at weekends, before returning to demanding full time jobs during the week.

The faces of the proud families as their cyclists came home were priceless, against the backdrop of a sparkling blue North Sea

C2C8 is over and the cyclists are back at work – but what a fantastic experience this has been for Support in Mind Scotland, and for me personally.  The faces of the proud families as their cyclists came home were priceless, against the backdrop of a sparkling blue North Sea – a fitting canvas or an event inspired by the camaraderie of a group of BP employees – and said much more than all the words I might write in thanks.

But we are very grateful and we wish Marie and her colleagues in BP all the best in these most uncertain of times."