NEARLY 800 cyclists took to Dorset’s country roads today to raise funds for charity in the 26th annual Macmillan Dorset Bike Ride.

The more experienced pedallers embarked from Corfe Mullen Recreation Ground at 8am on the 100-mile route through Blandford, Wimborne and nearly as far as Sherborne before circling back to Poole.

Others set off on 60, 48, 28 and 25-mile routes throughout the morning, taking in Charborough Park and the Stour and Winterbourne valleys.

See all the pictures from the Macmillan dorset Bike Ride in a gallery

Last year the event raised around £80,000 for the cancer charity and this year organisers hope to reach a similar total.

Ride organiser Peter Smith-Nicholls said: “We are a bit down on numbers this year as some French people decided to run another cycling event in Yorkshire today and I know a few people have gone up to that.

“But we are very pleased with the turnout and we are getting increasing numbers of people taking part in the 100-mile ride as the sport becomes increasingly popular.

“We get all sorts of people coming here from all over the country, from young families to people who go out riding every weekend. Some people haven’t dug the bike out of the shed since this time last year.

“For many people it is about raising funds for Macmillan and it is the charity’s biggest event in Dorset.

“People come to remember those they have lost and for some it is part of the grieving process.”

The Daily Echo-backed event, sponsored by Sunseeker, was started by veteran Macmillan cyclist Gerry Robinson of Broadstone, who, celebrating his 81st birthday today, has been taking part for many years and has raised more than £10,000.

Having beaten prostate cancer himself, he said he had lost several friends to the disease.

“I just feel an obligation to do the ride, because Macmillan Cancer Support have been so involved with all of them,” he said.

Among those taking part was David Edgar, from Dorchester, whose partner Carmel Meaney died of lung cancer last year. He was joined by his daughter Fay and granddaughter Beth.

“My partner had a love-hate relationship with cycling and we support Macmillan whenever we can,” he said.

“This is our second time here. There is a great atmosphere here and everyone is very friendly.”

The riders were supported by mechanics from Primera, a massage team from the Anglo European Clinic of Chiropractic, and refreshments laid on by Macmillan volunteers.