UK

Countess of Wessex completes 450-mile cycling challenge

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Media captionCountess of Wessex : "I feel amazingly well after cycle"

The Countess of Wessex has completed a 450-mile cycling challenge from Edinburgh to Buckingham Palace.

Sophie was met at the end by supporters and her husband Prince Edward, who gave her a diamond pin to mark her completion of the Diamond Challenge.

The countess and her team began the ride on Monday at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Scotland.

The ride raised more than £180,000 for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary.

The Diamond Challenge was launched by the Duke of Edinburgh's Award and involves people carrying out "once-in-a-lifetime" challenges to raise funds for the award programme this year.

'Overwhelming'

Before her palace-to-palace bike ride, the countess said her only prior experience of cycling had been with her children and "never for more than the odd hour".

On the toughest days, she cycled more than 80 miles and spent at least five hours on the saddle.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Sophie finished her challenge at Buckingham Palace

Her children Lady Louise Windsor, 12, and eight-year-old James, Viscount Severn, as well as her father, Christopher Rhys-Jones, were also there to congratulate and hug her after the challenge.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Her husband, Prince Edward, was also there to meet her at the finishing line

Sophie, 51, said the final mile along the Mall was "really special", adding it was "overwhelming" to see so many people.

She said: "If you told me that I would feel like this at the end of seven days cycling I would never have believed you.

"I do feel good and it has been a lovely, lovely experience.

"We have been extraordinarily lucky with the weather and I do think that if it had been driving wind and rain you would have seen a slightly shabbier, slightly more dishevelled and tired looking party arriving."

Image copyright AP
Image caption The countess's team included riders drawn from the four Royal regiments she is linked to

Sophie set off on the final leg from RAF Halton in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, on Sunday morning to pedal more than 40 miles into central London.

She was joined by six team members, including riders drawn from the four Royal regiments she is linked to - 5th Battalion The Rifles, RAF Wittering, Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps and Corps of Army Music.

The team also included members from the Army Physical Training Corps and Boardman bikes.

The countess said that, while she planned to rest for the next couple of days, she was keen for another challenge.

"I feel like I don't want to lose what I've done so I've got to get out there and do something else," she added.

Prince Philip set up the Duke of Edinburgh Award in 1956, inspired by his headmaster Kurt Hahn and his school days at Gordonstoun, Moray.

It has become one of the best-known self-development and adventure schemes for 14 to 24-year-olds, with around 2.5 million awards achieved in the UK since its inception.

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