The rain poured down and the wind was biting. The weekend was perhaps not the best time to go or a bike ride but more than 200 fund-raisers turned out to complete the tough 105-mile route of The Argus Appeal South Downs Way Challenge. The event has now raised more than £100,000 in five years. Simon Barrett reports.

Weary and saddle-sore, dozens of exhausted cyclists enjoyed a wellearned pint in a pub at Beachy Head on Sunday afternoon.

From experienced cross-country cyclists to novices, 228 riders had just taken part in the fifth annual The Argus Appeal South Downs Way Challenge.

Half started their journey at Winchester and headed east along the South Downs Way to Beachy Head, with overnight stops in Brighton and Midhurst.

The other team travelled in the opposite direction.

Some were riding for the fifth time to raise funds for good causes across Sussex.

Among those taking part was Graham Martin, from Hove, who undertook the challenge for the second time in memory of his son Ryan, who was too ill to compete in 2005.

The Argus Appeal had presented Ryan's parents with a £1,000 off-road bike for the 25-year-old, who was suffering from myeloid leukemia, but he died before he was able to use it.

This year Graham was joined by son Leon, 24, and Leon's girlfriend Nicki Pennells, 25. Ryan's mother Ann was on hand to help out with refreshments on Friday morning.

Graham, 49, said: "It was tough going - harder than last year because of the conditions.

The mud, rain and wind made it a bit of a nightmare.

"There was no question that I wouldn't finish though. Just thinking of Ryan helped keep me going. Last year Leon and Nicki ran the London Marathon in Ryan's memory.

"They did so well this weekend too, even though they admitted they should have put in some more training. I'm really proud of them."

Ninety nine red balloons were released into the air at the finishing post in memory of Ryan, whose favourite song, 99 Red Balloons, by Nena, was played at his funeral.

Graham said: "It was a lovely touch by the organisers, a really nice surprise. The appeal has helped so many people over the years so I am determined to give something back.

"The volunteers are all brilliant, from the people who made the sandwiches to the lorry drivers who took the bikes up to the Downs. I'd just like to say a big thank-you to them all."

Claire Roberts, from Burgess Hill, has tackled the challenge for the past four years, alongside her friend Linda Dalgleish.

This year Claire was also joined by her father Ken, 70, who travelled from Merseyside to take part.

She said: "My dad did really well.

He was in front of us for most of the way. He cycles a lot on his road bike but as this was crosscountry it was a bit different.

Although it was really windy we didn't get completely soaked until the last couple of hours when the heavens opened so it wasn't too bad.

"The past few years we have taken it easy, enjoyed the sunshine and the views but this time we just wanted to get it done as quickly as possible because of the weather.

"I decided to give it a go originally because I live right at the foot of the Downs but never seem to go up there. Now I wouldn't miss it for the world."

Organisers ensured there were drinks and food for the riders, much of it donated by sponsors such as Warburtons the baker, which supplied all the bread for the sandwiches. Staff from Syd's Bikes in Hove were on hand to run a "cycle surgery" in the evenings, while scouts were recruited to run checkpoints.

Appeal co-ordinator Elsa Gillio said this year's ride was expected to take the total raised by the challenge to more than £100,000 - every penny of which goes to good causes in Sussex.

She said: "The bike ride is a major fundraising event for us. A lot of people put a lot of hard work into the organising and running of it to make it a success. It could not be done without their commitment.

"Everyone has been extremely supportive and I would especially like to thank Brighton and Hove Buses, which changed its schedules for us and whose drivers were brilliant. Unfortunately, we only repaid them by leaving muddy track marks on some of the buses.

"The conditions were absolutely appalling so we are so grateful to those people who took on the challenge. Most of them were camping overnight in the wet and cold as well, which can't have been a nice experience.

"Only 23 couldn't complete the course but some of them are going back to finish it this week. That just shows how determined people are. It's fantastic."

  • Determined riders who rose to the occasion

WINCHESTER TO EASTBOURNE: Stuart Adams, Mark Anderson, Simon Bailey, Stephen Barnett, Julian Becher, Brian Bird, Steve Blackwell, David Blow, Emma Boniface, Jim Botting, Carol Brooker, Amy Brooker, Dave Buglass, Steven Burgess, Adrian Campbell, Cherry Cannon, Averil Claridge, Lucinda Clarke, Mark Collins, Alex Columbo, Nathan Crew, Adam Crew, Linda Dalgleish, Nick Davis, Paul Dunn, Matthew Dunn, Phil Gibbs, Nigel Gladstone, Stuart Gould, Anthony Grant, Mary Grocott, Michelle Halligan, Matthew Harding, Richard Hargrave, Maxine Harrington, Brandon Harris, Giles Hatch, Martin Henley, Helen Herbert, George Heywood, Trudi Hills, Graham Holter, Dave Hummerston, Nicholas Hunwicke, Russ Johnson, Phil Jones, Charlie Kinross, Carol Kocsielny, Simon Law, Mark Lawfull, Christopher Linsdell, Andrew Logue, Daniel Lovell, Jonathen Lunt, Ros Lunt, Rebecca Marshall, Steve Martin, Leon Martin, Graham Martin, Lee Mitchell, Tessa Mitchinson, Adrian Nitsch, Adam O'Donnell, Matthew Osborne, Nick Osborne, Joycelyn Owen, David Parker, George Paterson, Nicki Pennells, Nigel Pepper, Leon Perilli, Cliff Peters, Richard Prince, Dave Prior, Colin Rabet, Carole Richmond, Jasper Richmond, Claire Roberts, Tim Roberts, Ken Roberts, Steve Schofield, Samantha Seeds, Paul Shields, Andy Siantonas, Mike Simmonds, Jonathan Smith, Paul Smith, Carl Smith, Steven Spencer, Shaun Terry, Martin Thomas, Louis Thomson, Janine Thomson, Mark Tickel, Alistair Tillman, Nick Timpson, Symmie Tyson, Peter Unsworth, Damian Van Aswegen, Jim Webber, Jon White, Tim Wilburn, Daryl Willcox, Philippa Woodhouse, Richard Wootton, Brett Wyatt, Peter Brooks, Andy Delius, Dean Page, Richard Piggott, Paul Stevens, Alex Morgan, Sophie Owles, Sarah Warrington.

EASTBOURNE TO WINCHESTER: Tim Addison, Paul Ashford, Graham Barham, Trudie Bessant, Olli Blair, Stephen Boarder, Matthew Boyton, Mark Bristow, Tim Buck, Frank Bull, Richard Carter, Samantha Case, Nathan Chilvers, Gordon Chladek, Tony Coggan, George Coleman, Neville Cook, Carl Dene, Liz Dennis, Mark Dowsett, Dominic Dring, Stuart Durand, Simon Dyer, Clive Edwards, James Emberson, Sean Emberson, Jonathan Fagence, Phil Fenwick, Jean Fish, Warren Fisher, Tony Foulger, Paul Francis, Robert Gallie, Dean Galloway, Robert Gilespie, Steve Goose, Liam Gozzard, Chris Harding, Barry Hatton, Chris Heywood, Andrew Hodgson, Garry Holmes, Ken Holroyd, Andrew Howell, Trevor Jordan, Martin King, Stephen King, Duncan Lade, Innes Lange, Corrinne Lange, Jan Leeming, Steve Longly, Ted Low, Robert Lyddon, David Mason, Bridget McMullan, David Mears, Andrew Mitchell, Hugh Mostafid, Mark Nicholls, Virginia Nicholls, Malcolm Parsons, Larry Patching, Steve Pearce, David Pearce, Shaun Pearce, Kieran Pearce, Carol Peddlesden, Chris Perry, Bill Perry, Andrew Pitcher, Aleks Polanski, Bea Potashnick, Klara Price, Brian Rainey, Clare Rainey, Charlie Reed, Trevor Reygate, Clare Robison, Jacqui Shaw, Neville Smith, Graham Smith, Kate Smith, Chris Southwell, Andy Southwell, Andrew Stainton, Helen Staniford, Andrew Stoner, Jeremy Symondson, Gregory Symondson, Chris Talbot, Dominic Tansley, Deleece Tapping, Andrew Thompson, David Vickers, Jonathan Walker, Gary Walker, Mark Watson, Craig Watson, Melanie Watson, Colin Wingrave, Mark Yexley, Antony Young, Catherine Young, Keith Zebott, Oddfrey Moore, Gerry Wadman, Simon Clark, Ian Hatley, Matthew Turner, Shirley Turner, Chris Townsend, Richard Sharpe, Rob Williams, Marc Day, Jeanette Kemp, Brad Kemp, Amy Dormer, Paul Dormer, Gaynor Collins.