A team of cyclists struck by two family stories of tragedy and fortune have set off on a 700-mile journey to Lyon today (Friday) raising awareness of brain tumours among young people.

Seven men and their families set off from Barnstaple Square at 11am with a speech from Barnstaple Mayor Ian Roome and a surprise armed police escort.

The Tour to Lyon crew said they have already raised £9,000 for brain tumour charities after a Tour of Britain bake sale raised £760 alone on Monday.

One cyclist taking part has also teamed up with local singer Maddie Warren to record a song, Dear World, now released online and accompanied by a YouTube video, all fundraising for The Brain Tumour Charity and the Tuberous Sclerosis Association.

It all began in 2016 when 17 year-old Chloe Wickham and her French exchange friend Agathe were both diagnosed with brain tumours just months apart.

The Tour to Lyon set off from Barnstaple Square today (Friday). Picture: Ewan SomervilleThe Tour to Lyon set off from Barnstaple Square today (Friday). Picture: Ewan Somerville

The experience turned the Wickham family upside down, but after surgery it was luckily benign and Chloe was back at college within weeks. Agathe sadly died in May 2017.

Agathe’s ‘heart-wrenching’ funeral spurred the Wickham family into 14 months of planning a huge fundraising mission to help the many young people suffering from brain tumours, and campaign for more funding.

“We’re hoping to see Agathe’s family so that will be emotional because obviously they’ve struggled a lot over the last year, but it’s all for a good cause so it should be happy tears rather than sad tears,” Chloe told the Gazette.

Julie Wickham, Chloe’s mum, added: “We’re going to be met by the family when we arrive in Lyon and that’s going to be very poignant because they’re obviously still coming to terms with the grief of losing their daughter and we’re still unbelievably thankful that ours is still with us.”

The Tour to Lyon set off from Barnstaple Square today (Friday). Picture: Ewan SomervilleThe Tour to Lyon set off from Barnstaple Square today (Friday). Picture: Ewan Somerville

Chloe’s dad Roger Wickham is taking part in the mission, and said: “Agathe was a special girl and she had a bright future ahead of her so it’s been a very sad time.”

They are hoping to fund more research to help teenagers like Chloe’s ‘fabulous’ friend Lauren McWhinnie, who suffers from tuberous sclerosis, a condition where benign tumours grow on organs around the body.

Paul McWhinnie, Lauren’s father, said: “It’s special, watching the video last night for the song and seeing photographs of Chloe’s surgery and her friend Agathe, it just brings it home to you quite how serious brain tumours are.

“When you see the statistics of how many children brain tumours affect, its massive.”

The Tour to Lyon set off from Barnstaple Square today (Friday). Picture: Ewan SomervilleThe Tour to Lyon set off from Barnstaple Square today (Friday). Picture: Ewan Somerville

Today the Tour to Lyon crew are cracking on with their mission, keeping in mind how one daughter wasn’t so lucky.

Roger added: “I’ve been looking forward to this – it’s been 14 months in the planning and all of a sudden its arrived so I’m looking forward to getting on the bike now and getting cycling.”

If you would like to donate, please go to www.justgiving.com/teams/tourtolyon. You can also donate to the hospital that treated Agathe at www.alvarum.com/tourtolyon .