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Touching tiny lives, one bike at a time

Jaap Kamp and Alfons Lievens cross the finish line at the London to Paris Bike Ride 2007

1 Aug 2007 Posted: 14:34 (CET) - Source: Corporate Communications

Story highlights:
  • Former SWIFT Chairman Jaap Kamp and Alfons Lievens from ESA cross the finish line at the London to Paris Bike Ride 2007
  • A total of EUR 6,876 raised for Action Medical Research's Touching Tiny Lives Campaign, including EUR 1,366 in matching funds and a EUR 2,500 pledge from SWIFT
  • SWIFT staff encouraged to participate in London to Paris Bike Ride 2008 as a team

Jaap Kamp and Alfons Lievens cross the finish line at the London to Paris Bike Ride 2007

Bright and early on Wednesday morning 25 July, day one of the London to Paris Bike Ride 2007 – two things were on Jaap Kamp’s mind: “Am I going to cross the finish line this year?” and “How the hell will Alfons Lievens ever get from London to Paris on an enormously heavy bike and a pair of sandals and socks?” Thus began the exhilarating 300-mile (483-kilometer), four day cycling adventure for our former Chairman and SWIFT colleague to raise funds for Action Medical Research’s (AMR) Touching Tiny Lives Campaign.

Preparing for the journey ahead

For Alfons, the challenge was to “ride a bike from the shadows of Big Ben in London to the foot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.” He explains in his online journal ( “To put this into perspective, I clock up an average of 15-20 miles per year, so as you can imagine, this will be tough!” He biked a total of 3,030 kilometers (1,882 miles) since March 2007 to prepare for the event. “That is more than the distance from Brussels to Rome and back,” Alfons reveals, adding, “Eight times I woke up at four o’clock in the morning to bike to the office.”

Because it’s his second time in the event, Jaap’s regimen wasn’t as rigorous as it was last year. “This year, I made a few 50 kilometer trips and was confident that I could tackle each 120 kilometer stage without special training,” he says. “Mentally you know what lies ahead the second time you do it, so you feel at ease from the beginning.”

Touching Tiny Lives is Action Medical Research’s special campaign to help sick and vulnerable babies.

Every year 70,000 babies are born with problems and need special care, and 50,000 are born prematurely. Not enough money is raised to help find the causes and treatments for conditions which affect expectant mothers and their babies. Every year AMR organises the London to Paris Bike Ride, which helps raise funds for Touching Tiny Lives.

More info on AMR:

Surprises lurk at every stage

Despite his unorthodox choice of footwear and Jaap’s reservations about his mode of transport, Alfons was confident that his hybrid city-bike was FNAO-compliant. Of course, that was confirmed after seeing mountain bikes and a three wheeler ice car, along with modern light-weight bikes. Unfortunately, he was not prepared for the hilly roads of southeast London on day one, the longest route of the four day race. “Beforehand, the route was described as being undulating. Now I know how you have to spell that word: with some F’s in the middle!” he jokes. “But everyone arrived in time to catch the ferry from Dover to France.”

As usual for an event of this size, a few cyclist experienced hiccups such as flat tires, broken equipment and dehydration. Fortunately, the staff from AMR made sure they did not over extend themselves and that they rode responsibly and in an orderly fashion. Special signs were posted to clearly indicate each route. Caterers and doctors were also present to make sure the cyclists stayed in perfect condition with nutritious food and drinking facilities.

In the middle of the French countryside, Jaap experienced long stretches of fatigue...but not necessary due to the topography. “During the mornings of day two and three, there wasn’t any coffee in sight for over three hours of biking because most villages in northern France have a little old church but unfortunately no cafe or bar,” he explains. “This revelation made me suddenly realise how addicted I am to one or two cups of coffee during mid-morning.”

At the final stage of the bike ride on Saturday 29 July, the cyclists rode through Paris in a convoy via the Arc de Triomphe over the Champs Elysées on their way to the Eiffel Tower where friends, family and champagne await. “People standing beside the road were waving to us,” Alfons recalls. “They took pictures, and they clearly were impressed by our large group of bike riders.” He adds, “I can assure you, we enjoyed it a lot, and many of us became emotional.”

When crossing the finishing line, “Special feelings pop up,” Jaap shares. “I am moved by riding down the Champs Elysées on a bike with over 400 people and seeing everyone touched by this. Paris and its visitors do not expect it and are positively surprised.” He stresses, “It is an emotional ending knowing that we made it and that friends are waiting to celebrate it all.”

A clever scheme, a wonderful SWIFT

London to Paris Bike Ride 2007 route:

» Day 1 - London to Dunkerque (87 miles / 145 km)
» Day 2 - Dunkerque to Arras (71 miles / 118 km)
» Day 3 - Arras to Compiègne (75 miles / 125 km)
» Day 4 - Compiègne to Paris (54 miles (90 km)

In addition to being a race of endurance, the London to Paris Bike Ride is also a fundraiser, which wasn’t lost in Alfons’ mind. He devised a clever scheme to raise money by asking fellow SWIFT colleagues to sponsor each kilometer or mile that it will take him to ride from London to Paris. As an incentive, SWIFT pledged to match each contribution from employees. The plan was so successful that he extended it to cover the distance back to Brussels from Paris!

“I signed an agreement with AMR that I would raise a minimum of EUR 1,500 for their Touching Tiny Lives Appeal,” he notes. “To be honest, I never expected to succeed in raising the full amount.” In total, Alfons ended up raising EUR 4,376 for AMR. “I have to thank, from the bottom of my heart,” he says, “all of the colleagues who were kind enough to sponsor me.”

Next year, both Alfons and Jaap look forward to participating in the London to Paris Bike Ride 2008 with a bigger SWIFT team. “I’ve said that this would be a once in a lifetime event for me – I even joked that I would sell my bike afterwards in an auction for AMR,” says Alfons. “But I am changing my mind now; I would love to participate again next year.”

Jaap also encourages more SWIFT staff to take part in this dynamic event. “AMR is a highly professional and widely respected organisation,” remarks Jaap. “For this year’s event, over one million euros was raised by 450 participants. We have contributed to an excellent cause and we feel great in achieving it all, so I invite you join us in 2008.”

Congratulations to Jaap and Alfons for crossing the finish line at the London to Paris Bike Ride 2007!

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Copyright © SWIFT, All rights reserved.