A KENDAL born man will be attempting to complete one of the oldest cycling challenges in the world to mark the one year anniversary since his close friend died.

Philip Thomas, aged 37, will participate in a gruelling 1,200km cycle route in France in memory of former Sedbergh School friend, Sam Barker, who tragically died from bowel cancer aged 36 last year, leaving behind his wife and two young children,

The cycle challenge, Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) started in 1891 as a 1,200km race, and it has only happened 26 times.

More than 6,000 participants from across the world are expected to take part in the race.

Many riders sleep as little as possible as the aim is to complete the route in 90 hours. There is also an emphasis on self-sufficiency, as riders must buy their own supplies along the course and do their own repairs.

Even getting to the start line is a challenge. Before being accepted, participants must do a 300km pre-registration ride and then complete a series of ‘randonneuring’ events (200km, 300km, 400km and 600km) within the same calendar year as PBP.

“I’d been bumbling through assuming that nothing bad ever happens,” said Mr Thomas.

“Sam’s death at such a young age made me realise how incredibly lucky I was to be in the position I was and to not take life for granted.”

The cyclist, who lived in Sedbergh and Casterton for more than 20 years, has chosen to raise funds for Cancer Research UK and Maggie’s Centre, Cambridge.

Maggie’s Centre is a cancer charity that gave incredible support to Sam and his family throughout his illness and continues to provide support for his wife and children after his death.

Mr Thomas’s fundraising target will be the total number of kilometres he will cover across all the events, which is 3,018km.

“My wife, Annie, and the kids (Kara and Freddie) have all been incredibly supportive, and I wouldn’t have been able to do this without them,” he said.

“The whole experience will be something I will remember for the rest of my life. And it’s a memory that will always be associated with Sam. I think he also would have been proud.”

Mr Thomas is set to start the race on August 19.

To donate to the cause go on: justgiving.com/crowdfunding/phil-thomas-paris-brest-paris.