Saddle sore for cancer research
More than 200 cyclists are set to pedal the Wild Atlantic Way to raise awareness of cancer and to raise funds for research
Cancer survivor Jack O’Riordan at Malin Head after completing the Friends of Cross charity cycle last year.
Cancer survivors, international rugby stars, friends, family and cycling enthusiasts will hit the Wild Atlantic Way in a 1,000km trek from September 5th to 11th.
More than 200 cyclists will pedal from Skibbereen to Donegal, aiming to raise more than €150,000 for the fourth annual Friends of Cross charity cycle.
John Reynolds, professor of surgery at Trinity College Dublin and St James’s Hospital, meets the cyclists along the route every year. He uses it as an opportunity to catch up with old friends, to make new ones, and to thank everybody for their sweat, blisters and saddle-related injuries.
The money raised by the Cross Rugby Legends Atlantic 1000 helps support his cancer research teams in Trinity and St James’s.
“Without the best technology, you’re not in the premier league,” says Reynolds. “At the end of the day, what’s handed over to Trinity is a sizeable cheque that immediately goes into buying equipment; state-of-the-art technology that enables the work of well over 50 cancer researchers who are working on everything from prevention of cancer, to new treatments, to predicting the response of cancer to chemotherapy and radiation.”
Reynolds says that the cycle provides valuable funding for high-tech equipment that Trinity Cancer Research could otherwise never access. “They’re costly: there’s no way you could buy these and put a bill into the university. Some people who are not involved in cancer research, maybe those involved with cardiovascular research, can also use the same type of equipment, depending on what it is. There is some overlap between the technologies used and how they could be applied to understanding cancer, but also in understanding other conditions, particularly those that relate to inflammation.”
Reynolds won’t be taking to the road himself but is in awe of those who not only cycle the route but who volunteer their time as stewards, marshals, mechanics and everything in between.
“The vast majority of people who do it are connected with the event or connected with cancer in some way. For a great many people [who take part], cancer has had a significant impact on their lives, through themselves or family or sometimes, extremely poignantly, through children. Then some are just cycling junkies who love the challenge and the idea of that challenge being for a good cause,” says Reynolds. Many others, however, come for the opportunity to mix with rugby stars such as Paul Wallace, Mick Galwey, Rob Wainwright, Zinan Brooke and Leuan Evans. Wallace, the brains behind the fundraiser, sets the tone and leads the cyclists through the five stages of the challenge.
Along the way they stop off at schools and events to raise awareness of cancer, though Reynolds admits that people mostly just want to meet the rugby stars. Having these famous names involved makes a big impact on the appeal of the cycle. “They know how to create team spirit, how it works – and that sort of togetherness permeates through. The majority of people who take part in it come back year after year. And they do it because they get so much from it. People put different weightings on the things they get in terms of the different elements of the experience, but the fact that so many people say, ‘That was fantastic, I want to do it again’, says a lot.”
Not everybody who participates in the cycle has to complete the 1,000km trip. Many join for a stage or two and about 100 complete the entire journey. There is still availability on some of the stages.
For more information see crossatlantic1000.com. To donate €2, text Legends to 50300. VAT may apply. A minimum of €1.63 will go to Cross.