CYCLISTS saddled up to raise money in memory of a much-loved colleague.

A team of four rode off from Le Mans Crescent in Bolton town centre on Sunday morning to cycle to Rue de Bolton Le Mans in France in honour of Colin Needham.

Mr Needham, who is originally from Harwood and lived in Ramsbottom, was a popular member of staff at Bolton-based George Cox and Sons Ltd, who died of a brain tumour in January this year, aged just 50.

In remembrance of him, the four have undertaken the endurance challenge to raise money for The Brain Tumour Charity to fund research into the condition, and provide support for families.

Christopher Cox, managing director of George Cox and Sons Ltd, said: “Colin was our longest serving employee, have worked there since he was 18 for 32 years.

“Colin was immensely popular.

“Every year we hold a charity event and this year we are doing it in memory of Colin.”

The lack of training for the ride has been made up with bags of enthusiasm.

Mr Cox said: “I did the Manchester to Blackpool cycle ride last year but we are enthusiastic.”

The team are aiming to cover 70 to 80 miles a day for the 480 mile trek.

The team had hoped to raise £2,000 but that has been smashed after member Steve Abbott and his new bride, who married the day before, asked for donations to the charity instead of presents.

Gill Abbott will form part of the support crew accompanying the cyclists. Her first husband Paul Bousher, aged 59, died after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.

She said: “This cycle ride is to raise money for the charity.

“We decided to get married because of this event and I think what the team is doing is brilliant.

“I am looking forward to it – I’m not at all daunted!”

Family and friends gathered in Le Mans to wave the team off, including Mr Needham’s sister Melanie Jones.

She said: “Colin is my baby brother, he was as strong as an ox and he moved in with me for a while, where he had me wrapped round his little finger.

“It is a very emotional day but I am really proud of the team, what they are doing means so much for the family doing.

“I feel he is remembered by doing something so positive.”

Mayor of Bolton Cllr Linda Byrne and her husband Cllr John Byrne were also there to wish the riders luck.

During his office as Mayor of Bolton, Mr Byrne adopted the Brain Tumour Charity as one of his chosen causes to raise money for as it also has a personal meaning to the family.