A KEEN cyclist will ride home from Italy this summer in memory of a friend.

Kris Sladewski, 29, is taking on the 2,200-mile challenge in memory of Debbie Rooke, 31, from Westcliff, who was killed after being hit by a car when she was riding her bike in Norfolk last April.

Debbie, a teacher at De La Salle School, in Basildon, was planning to ride from Palermo, Sicily, to Westcliff with Kris last summer before tragedy struck.

The idea was originally Kris’s, but he shared it with her at a New Year retreat organised by Youth 2000 in Balham, just months before Debbie died.

The Catholic pair shared a love of cycling and kept in touch via email as Kris lived in Southampton at the time, but work commitments got in the way of any joint training rides for their planned adventure.

Kris, 29, from Eastleigh, Hampshire, will now take on the challenge alone next month, aiming to raise £1,220 for Mary’s Meals, a Scottish charity which aims to provide hungry children with one meal every school day and encouraging them to gain an education to get them out of poverty.

Kris said: “Debbie was so amazed with my plans that after knowing me for just a few hours, she asked if she could join me.

“After a few seconds of not very intensive thinking, I agreed.

“My Journey will now be a personal pilgrimage to Assisi, as it was meant to be before I met Debbie.

“Since then its meaning has been upgraded though and now I’m doing my pilgrimage in memory of a friend and for a charity she supported, and I now do too.”

Kris will fly to Palermo with his bike on June 22, before riding home, stopping for a few days in Assisi for reflection and prayer to his patron saint.

As Kris intends his journey to be a pilgrimage, he will ride without a support team and without listening to music, using just a bare minimum of internet.

To sponsor Kris, visit justgiving.com/KrisSladewski


  • Start: Palermo, Sicily, Italy
  • End: Eastleigh, Hampshire
  • Distance: 2,200 miles
  • Countries visited: Italy, Switzerland, France, England
  • Significant birthdays: Kris will turn 30 on the trip, somewhere between Paris and Eastleigh
  • Religious communes visited: Assisi in central Umbria region of Italy, the birthplace of St Francis and home of the Franciscan religious order
  • Where will Kris sleep: In a bivvy bag
  • How will Kris cook? On a wood and gas stove
  • How long will it take: No more than five weeks (with a few days’ rest)
  • How many miles per day: 80
  • Fundraising target: £1,220 – enough to feed 100 children for an entire school year in some of the poorest countries in the world.