AMATEUR cyclists planning to cycle 700km across the Alps have raised £40,000 sponsorship before even setting off.

The 'Peaky Climbers' from Wantage originally wanted to raise £30,000 for two charities by the end of their seven-day cycle next month.

Now, astonished by their supporters' generosity, the eight friends have decided to push their luck just slightly further by raising their target to £45,000.

Team leader Paul McIntosh, who lives in Woodlands Brook, Wantage, with wife Nicola and their sons Jai and Ethan, said: "It's just incredible.

"When we first created the idea of the Peaky Climbers challenge and when we spoke to both charities, never in our wildest dreams did we think we would hit more than £40,000."

The team, completed by John Boaler, Mark Crick, Ben Heavers, Neil Barson, Stuart Eadie, Allen Stacey and Simon Haly, is taking on the mountainous mission in memory of three people close to their hearts.

First is Grove teenager Maisie Norton, a friend of Jai's who lost a lengthy battle with cancer in October 2015.

In her honour the team are collecting donations for the Caring Cancer Trust, which organises holidays for terminally-ill children and teenagers – including Maisie.

The Peaky Climbers are also are also raising money for the British Lung Foundation in memory of Mr McIntosh's late mother and sister.

His mother Valerie, who lived in Hertfordshire, died ten years ago from a lung disease called Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.

His sister Tania Masters passed away in November 2015 from a different lung condition – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

The Peaky Climbers will set off on their 700km ride on Saturday, September 9, from the Hautacam ski resort in the French Pyrenees.

Over the following week, cycling approximately 100km every day, they will cross the Pyrenees and the French Alps, including the highest peak in Provence, Mont Ventoux.

The so-called King of the Mountains challenge is considered by many to be the pinnacle of amateur cycling.

Mr McIntosh added: "A massive amount of thanks has to go to so many people, especially every single person that’s been kind enough to sponsor us – however big or small.

"Thank you to everyone that’s supported and attended any of our fundraising events in 2017: there’s been the apres ski party, the golf day, the peaky Pimms party, the Prosecco party and the C U Tuesday’s anniversary gig.

"A huge and special thank you to all of our corporate sponsors that are enabling us to focus on the training and the fund raising.

"Our two chosen charities will be ecstatic about the amount of money raised – let's push on and try and get to £45,000."