THREE local men have successfully completed a charity cycle which saw them cycle from Calais to Cannes in 13 days.
The money raised, £22,683.88, will be split between the Strathcarron Hospice, Kidney Kids Scotland, Pancreatic Cancer, Diabetes Scotland, and The Melanoma Society.
Former high school basketball stars Norrie Bairner, 71, Bobby Morton, 69, and Brian Williamson, 67, were aided by friend and another former basketball player,Campbell Ferrier, 69, who drove a campervan alongside them.
The handlebar heroes, who all attended the High School of Stirling, had no experience of long-distance cycling, although they are keen sports enthusiasts and were instrumental in Stirling Basketball Club winning the Scottish National League Division 1 in 1980, a team that consisted of purely local players.
Brian, an entrepreneur who has backed many local businesses and start-ups, said:”We had a blast from day one and it was a great experience. Everyone was so supportive and welcoming everywhere we went – a French newspaper in Mercurey liked our story so much they interviewed us and published it. The weather was definitely on our side and we didn’t have any issues apart from going onto a motorway at one point.
“Some roads were terrifying at times and we had a lucky break when we met a Quebec-born fellow-cyclist just as we approached the horribly busy traffic on the verge of the city of Lyons. He gave up his lunchtime cycle ride to steer us a course through the heavy traffic and I doubt we could have managed without him.
“The toughest part of the trip was climbing Mont Ventoux in Provence as every hairpin bend was followed by a steeper climb to the next hairpin bend. If you had said to us a few months ago that we would have completed such a 927-mile cycle from Calais to Cannes challenge, we simply wouldn’t have believed you.
“It just shows that in life you can achieve a lot more than you think you are capable of doing. And we arrived one day earlier than scheduled!”
Bobby, like Norrie a former PE teacher, said: “We were fortunate to have regular communication with family and friends sending messages of support and knowing that we were raising money for five fantastic charities really spurred us on.
“It was a great experience, quite emotional at the end and the three of us are very grateful to everyone who donated and sponsored us, and a huge thank you must go to our pal, Campbell Ferrier, for driving the campervan.”
As well as sponsorship received from M:X Innovations, EFT Asset Finance and BlueNord, several sports and cycling stars also encouraged them including Rugby union professional Finn Russell, former basketball pro and SKY television presenter Kieron Achara, curling superstar Eve Muirhead OBE and high-profile cycling explorers Josh Quigley and Mark Beaumont. They received dietary advice in advance from celebrity chef Nick Nairn also.
Added Norrie: “I should also say that during our trip we received best wishes from Inverness-born Jenny Graham who holds the world record for a female cycling round the world.
“In conclusion, all of our lives have been touched in different ways by life changing diseases like cancer and we want to make our own small contribution to supporting some of the charities which put so much effort and compassion into supporting others.”
The trio have not been fazed by the experience and are actively considering their next trip.