Tough Swiss ride for plucky trio

Kevin Balson
Kevin Balson

A fitness instructor and two students who attend his classes have raised £4,000 for Macmillan Nurses and the Stroke Association after completing a 660 mile, eight day cycle ride from London to Geneva.

Min Peterken and Jo Davies, who go to classes at Uckfield and Hailsham leisure centres run by Freedom Leisure instructor Kevin Balsdon, 47 from Westham, joined him to take part in the gruelling charity ride.

Kevin is in remission from Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after completing an intense chemotherapy programme three years ago. He and Jo cycled the entire distance from London to Geneva, via Paris. Min accompanied them as far as Paris before returning home.

They had an eventful eight days and climbed just short of 20,000 feet. They experienced temperatures as high as 40°C in Arras (France) to as low as 4°C at the top of the Col du Faucille overlooking Lake Geneva. They cycled through cities, across towns and up mountains. They had some glorious weather, some spectacular rainfall and a few storms to weather. But every mile was worth it.

“We averaged 85 miles a day and some days were easier on the legs than others it’s fair to say,” said Kevin. “The last day was the hardest and best. We were tired having cycled for seven days already and the mountain roads on the French/Swiss border are legendary! The last steep climb to the summit of the Col de Faucille is infamous as one of the toughest sections of the Tour de France but having accomplished that it was the most glorious 20 miles descent into Switzerland and down into Geneva where we met our partners by Lake Geneva in front of the fountain,” Kevin explained.

One hundred and thirty other cyclists joined the Freedom Leisure trio for some sections of the journey. Most cycled from Blackheath to Paris, while 40 did the Paris to Geneva leg. Many cyclists were raising money for other charities and the camaraderie and shared challenge is something Kevin will always remember.

That and the pain! “It did hurt at times but that only served to remind me I’m lucky to be alive to feel the pain,” said Kevin. “The feeling of accomplishment as we completed our challenge is beyond words and I know I can speak for Jo and Min when I say that this trip has etched itself on our hearts: we enjoyed and endured in equal measure.”

Kevin, Jo and Min are still fundraising: if you are inspired by their achievement please donate at