Team of riders cycling to Barry from Billericay

Article by the Brentwood Gazette: International rugby stars hit the road in Billericay on Friday (August 22) to take part in a 250-mile charity bike ride in honour of a real-life Gavin and Stacey.

Former Wales Rugby Union players, including Alix Popham, took part in the Gavin 2 Stacey Bike Ride in honour of Paul Symes, 34, from Colchester and his wife Lisa, who is from South Wales.

When they first began dating, Paul used to make the long journey to Wales to see Lisa and after they tied the knot a year ago, he and his friends decided to take on the charity challenge.

Paul, along with 50 others, decided to cycle from Hannakins Farm Community Centre to Barry Island in aid of Macmillan Cancer in homage of his father who died of the disease a decade ago.

[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Alix"]Paul and I have been friends for years and the idea came about at his wedding over a few drinks. We used to always joke about the Gavin and Stacey thing so then we decided to raise money for it. We arrived in Wales on Sunday and it is great achievement, especially when you consider all the money raised for charity.[/quote]

Hit BBC show Gavin and Stacey, which aired between 2007 and 2010, was based around the long distance relationship of Billericay boy Gavin and his girlfriend, Stacey, of Barry.

Paul, who raised over £3,000 for Macmillan by Friday, says it is slightly surreal being referred to as one-half of a real-life sitcom couple but added his family are proud of his fundraising feat.

[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Paul"]Being known as Gavin and Stacey has always added a bit of comedy value amongst friends. It has been good laugh and we have raised money for good causes out of it, so it's great. My mum is delighted with the money I have raised, Macmillan supported her when my dad was ill and we were very appreciative of the support they gave the family. So ever since we have always tried to do anything we can to support people in the same boat.[/quote]

Following overnight stops at Reading and Bristol, the cyclists arrived at Barry on Sunday and enjoyed a few well-earned drinks and some fish and chips.

An avid cyclist, Paul hopes to make the ride an annual event and praised the atmosphere among riders on their journey.

[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Paul"]It was a real team event, the team spirit got everyone through. Hopefully we will all keep in touch and build friendships from this. We hope the event can become an annual thing, the number of people who have got involved has been really good and we are trying to get the event on the British Cycling calendar.[/quote]

Alix, who made 33 appearances for Wales as number eight and played an integral role along with his wife Jo in co-ordinating the event, echoed those sentiments.

[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Alix"]We just wanted to raise as much money as possible, make some new friends and have a great party afterwards. Hopefully the group will become friends for life and we can make the event an annual thing. The ex-rugby player also said the bond he forms with fellow cyclists on the road has replaced the buzz he used to get from his previous sport. I really enjoy cycling, it has replaced the adrenalin that rugby used to give me. It is something I never thought I would do. I never liked running when I was a rugby player but I'm OK with cycling since I retired. It is a very social activity and there is great camaraderie within the group when you go out cycling.[/quote]

Among the Welsh rugby players taking part were Colin Charvis, Rhys Williams, Lloyd Burns and Mark Regan, as well as former England man Ben Johnston.

Ex-weathergirl Sian Lloyd also rode the final leg from Bristol.

Although the ride may now be over, donations can still be made to Alix, who is looking to raise £1,000, at and to Paul at 

Article and image by the Brentwood Gazette


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