4 February 2017
An inspirational Sunderland AFC supporter will take on an epic international cycle challenge this summer following a five-year battle with cancer.
Alan will join 40 riders to take on a gruelling 305-mile ride from Wroclaw in Poland to the Czech Republic capital Prague to raise funds for Foundation of Light.
It will be the second time the 63-year-old has taken part in the Foundations cycle challenges; last year he was part of a team who raised over £70,000 for SAFC’s official charity by cycling across France from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.
“I’ve always been active and competitive, really with myself,” Alan says. “I’ve always believed people want to do their best and the buzz you get from giving yourself aims and targets that challenge you really helps you throughout your life.
“I attend the SAFC Senior Supporters Club (SSC) meetings every month and had heard previously about the 2015 ride but knew I wouldn’t be in the condition to take part that year.
“I decided to increase the distance and frequency of my rides in the hope I would be in a better position to take part in the 2016 challenge. At the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016 I was unable to train because of side effects of the chemotherapy.
“Once back on the bike I found that my fitness was improving rapidly so when going to the June SSC I asked for information on the Atlantic2Med Challenge which was only three weeks away.
“I took the details home and looked at them with my wife. We saw the support that would be given during the ride eliminated any worries my wife had in me taking part. I contacted the Foundation and signed up the next day.”
Alan’s world was shaken when he was diagnosed with stage four follicular lymphoma – a cancer which attacks the lymph nodes – in 2012
After being diagnosed your whole life changes, you have to trust all the wonderful people treating you. I went through chemotherapy and radiotherapy, then two years of medication, but eventually all my tumours went.
Even when I was having treatment I was out on my bike because it’s a way to escape.
Alan successfully completed the Atlantic2Med challenge, cycling 300-miles from Arcachon on the French east coast to Gruissan on the Mediterranean Sea alongside SAFC legend Marco Gabbiadini and riders from all walks of life.
Alan adds: “I didn’t know anyone who was riding but, as the ride progresses, you soon meet and chat with the riders and get to know who you can ride with for support and help to make the miles pass.
“I really enjoyed riding with a group and reaching speeds I haven’t been able to achieve for along time. But I knew I would have to curb my enthusiasm and settle into a more realistic pace for me.
“The camaraderie was great. The routes were all marked out and we were given support with hydration and nutrition throughout the day. You had contact details in case of mechanical problems while on the road. That gave me a lot of confidence and enhanced the whole experience.”
Despite his latest scan showing a new tumour in his neck, Alan is looking forward to the future and the challenges it will bring both in and out of the saddle.
“I know I’m going to get the support to help me achieve this goal. You’ve got to work towards it, you can’t just turn up on the day without preparation, that’s a good motivation.
“I’m coming back because you’ve got to have goals and challenges in life.”
The unique Wroclaw to Prague challenge starts on the 11th June and will take the Foundation riders through some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe, climbing a total of 16,500 feet over four days – which Alan can’t wait to take on
“This year’s route looks really good,” he adds. “The Foundation are really enthusiastic about it – there will be some fantastic scenery and hills!
“Last year I didn’t have much preparation time and even though I have just had six weeks off the bike after becoming a proper cyclist but I’ll definitely be ready for this route.
“It’s a ‘Cycle Challenge’ but it’s achievable and if I’m struggling there will be people to help to get me through. There’s a fantastic support system.
“The best thing as far as I am concerned about the ride is knowing you’re going to be supported, by the organisers and the other riders. You’re never going to be alone and by the end of the journey you will have met and made a lot of good friends.”
To join Alan on this year’s ride, call Jemma Garrett on 0191 5515365 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.