When Alex Jones climbed into the saddle to support last year’s charity rickshaw challenge, she admitted she hadn’t been on a bike since she was a child. “They say you never forget how to ride a bike. Well, you do, actually: I went in the hedge so many times!”
This year she will be riding the rickshaw – “Hopefully I’ll be a bit better and safer on three wheels,” she laughs.
This is the third year The One Show has under- taken “The Rickshaw Challenge”, which to date has raised £3.5 million for Children in Need. In 2011, Matt Baker rode Pudsey around Britain solo. Last year, young people who have benefited from the charity’s projects put in the miles, while Alex and Matt were cycling cheerleaders.
“The support we received was phenomenal. Our audience is so loyal and brilliant; they came out and lined the streets. You couldn’t even catch the cash that they were throwing into the buckets as we were passing. So if we have the same response this time, it’s 100 per cent worth doing.”
This year it’s Alex’s turn to chauffeur Pudsey along with five youngsters and their parents. Team Rickshaw will pedal off in Northern Ireland, before crossing the Irish Sea into Scotland and cycling down the west of England into Wales. The finish line is the Children in Need appeal show in London on Friday.
“The challenge is a lot harder this year – 700 miles this time, 300 miles more than last – and we’ll be riding through the night when necessary.” One of the riders has Down’s syndrome and may only be able to manage a few miles at a time, while another struggles with balance and co-ordination after contracting pneumococcal meningitis.
“Ultimately, the buck stops with me because if the team is flagging, I’m going to have to get out there and put the miles in.”
Has she been in training? “There’s been a bit of exercise-bike action, but the hills are no doubt going to be a bit of a problem once we hit the Lake District and Scotland. Nothing can prepare you for 700 miles battling wind and rain.”