Amateur riders prepare for a 1,100-mile adventure
A group of amateur cyclists from West Linton, in the Borders, are taking part in a daunting charity ride to help a seriously ill girl in their village.
The riders, including the father and uncle of young cystinosis sufferer Morven Hutchison, hope to cycle 1,100 miles between the five capital cities in the British Isles.
Their goal is to raise Â£100,000 for research into the rare and debilitating disease.
Ten riders, including one woman, Anne Laybourne, will set off from Edinburgh on 13 May for the Great Big Cycle.
They will ride an average of 100 miles each day, with no rest days, taking in London, Cardiff, Dublin and Belfast.
The challenge includes two ferry trips but apart from that it is 1,100 miles of pedalling all the way.
Gavin Jefcoate, one of the riders, says: â€œMost of us have only taken up road cycling in the last couple of years so weâ€™re not super-fit athletes.Â We just decided that we wanted to take on a big challenge to raise money for Cystinosis Foundation UK.Â The Great Big Cycle is the biggest thing most of us will ever have done.â€
Three-year-old Morven, the daughter of another rider Neil, was born with the rare and grave illness, for which there is no cure. It is a genetic condition that causes impaired growth and kidney problems.Â The symptoms can be treated but only with unpleasant drugs that have severe side effects.Â The drugs must also be administered every few hours, including through the night.
Gavin, 38, says: â€œThe whole village knows about Morven and her familyâ€™s struggles.Â So many have got behind our Great Big Cycle and we have received so much support from them, including sponsorship.Â Everything that we raise will go to the Cystinosis Foundation and will play a huge role in helping to develop treatments and maybe, eventually, a cure for the condition.â€
Another of the riders is Neilâ€™s brother Grant, who is more often seen playing in the acclaimed Scottish band Frightened Rabbit.
Grant, 29, from Selkirk, can only watch as his brotherâ€™s family cope with Morvenâ€™s illness. He Â says he wants to play his part in the endeavour andÂ raise money for research into cystinosis.
He says: â€œThe cycle is going to be one of the toughest things Iâ€™ve ever done but I want to be a part of it.â€
The riders have been training hard all winter, despite tough conditions.Â Gavin says: â€œSome of us work in Edinburgh so we have been commuting by bike each day. Itâ€™s about a 30 to 40 miles round trip.Â The headwind on some days has been truly horrible.
â€œWeâ€™ve been adding in longer rides at weekends and have done several 100-mile rides already.Â Iâ€™m riding between 200 and 300 miles each week at the moment, which is time consuming, but I need to make sure I am fit enough.Â The training has not been easy but the friendship of the other cyclists and the support from villagers has really helped.â€
Gavin reports that many of the riders have lost a lot of weight.
He says: â€œI guess you could call us guys MAMILs (Middle Aged Men in Lycra) and itâ€™s fair to say some of us needed to shape up a bit.Â One or two of the riders have lost around a stone and a half and look a shadow of their former selves. But the efforts will be worth it.Â This is going to be a huge undertaking, especially with the back-to-back cycling days, but we are determined to make a difference to Morvenâ€™s life.â€
To find out more, and to donate, see Great Big Cycle