HUNDREDS of cyclists took on some of the county s toughest hills in an epic coast-to-coast cycle ride in aid of the North Devon Hospice on Sunday. Some 350 riders saddled up for this year s Devon Coast to Coast challenge, setting off from the Barbican in

HUNDREDS of cyclists took on some of the county's toughest hills in an epic coast-to-coast cycle ride in aid of the North Devon Hospice on Sunday.

Some 350 riders saddled up for this year's Devon Coast to Coast challenge, setting off from the Barbican in Plymouth and choosing either a 70 or 100-mile route via Dartmoor to reach the finish line on the Strand in Barnstaple.

The annual fund-raiser, which started in 1999 with just four riders, has steadily grown over the years and organisers hope that this year's efforts will help them to smash last year's record-breaking £26,000 total, raised by 211 cyclists.

Co-organiser Simon Paddon, said he felt exhausted but pleased with the event: "A few years ago, this was just a group of mates doing a sponsored cycle.

"To be here with so many other riders is an absolute dream and we are so thrilled that so many people took part; with the sponsorship they raise, we hope we will smash through last year's fundraising figure of £26,000.

"We do this every year to raise money for North Devon Hospice because we know how much their care and support means to families across the area."

Emma Lowe, from North Devon Hospice's fundraising team, took part in the ride just months after having major spinal surgery.

"I've been supporting the Coast to Coast guys for the last few years and I always wanted to join them on the ride one day, but a riding accident several years ago meant it wasn't possible," said Emma, who raised £300 in memory of her best friend, Sarah Taylor, who was cared for by the hospice.

"However, I had an operation on my spine last year and, on Sunday, I was thrilled to be able to cycling the length of our beautiful county with 350 other riders.

"It was really tough going at some points, but everyone got through it and there was an amazing sense of camaraderie amongst the riders.