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This summer, third-year UoB student Dan McCartney and fellow languages student Josh Lowe will cycle home from their year abroad in Bordeaux to raise funds for the Motor Neurone Disease Association and Candlelighters. We caught up with Dan ahead of their 590 mile trip.

Firstly, can you give us a low down of the route?

Josh and myself are aiming to set off on Tuesday 23rd May and hope to arrive in London the following Tuesday. We’re going to head up the coast from Bordeaux to La Rochelle and then cut inland via Tours and Dieppe. We will then get the ferry to Newhaven and follow on from there to London.

Obviously we are going to have to travel very light with only our passports, cash, some toiletries and basic provisions (carried in saddlebags). Each night, we have set destinations to reach based on the hostels we are going to stay at- we’re going to stink pretty bad by the end of the week!

Dan takes a scenic break on one of their training rides

A key motivation for the trip is to raise funds for charity- why have you opted for the two you’ve chosen?

We’ve opted for the Motor Neurone Disease Association because it is very personal to me, I had an uncle pass away from the condition last Christmas. To be honest it’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen because it strips you of all dignity and mobility. As it stands there is no known cure and it is a relatively unsupported charity compared with the likes of Cancer Research, so it is important to raise awareness.

We have also opted to raise money for Candlelighters, a Yorkshire based children’s cancer hospice. Again, it is close to my heart. I had a cousin lose his baby son at only eighteen months old and Candelighters cared for him during the duration of his illness.

The charities mean a lot to you. Is there any significance to your choice to cycle as a means of fundraising?

I think for both of us, riding from Bordeaux will enable us to show our support for the ability to take a year abroad, especially given the current political climate and the threatening implications that Brexit may have for the Erasmus programme. Personally, it has been the best year of my life and it is an opportunity to meet so many new people, both British students and local people.

Josh actually has a French girlfriend over here who will be flying to London to meet us at the end of the cycle. I think we’re both trying to convey a message of continued cooperation and travel within Europe. It is something the British government needs to ensure for young people.

Do you have a specific monetary target for the ride?

We are hoping to raise about a pound per mile, so roughly £590. We’re already at £400, so hopefully we can get a bit more in the remaining few weeks before the ride.

You’ve chosen the charities. Set the targets. Up next training. What have you guys done to prepare for the event?

I keep myself relatively fit and active. Josh is a semi-professional downhill mountain biker (he’s more machine than man) so he is very fit. Over the past three months we’ve trained together. Recently we spent a weekend in the Pyrénées, where we climbed the ‘Col du Tourmalet’, which is one of the climbs used in the Tour de France. 

Dan assured us he does spend more time on his bike than posing for photos with it

What would your advice be for fellow students looking to raise funds for charity?

I would definitely recommend ‘GoFundMe’ as a base. It is easy to operate and links well with social media outlets, so it is very useful for spreading the word. Also I think just making as much noise as you can is really important. When you’re fundraising for charity it is also important to feel comfortable chasing up promises to donate, as often people need a reminder!

In our case, we boosted our fundraising with the help of Josh’s brother, who has his own ‘energy chewing gum’ business called Blockhead Energy, a platform that he will use to help spread the word. Our ‘active/adventure/outdoors’ challenge is exactly what his business promotes, so has been a good match. So basically, it is definitely worth looking for support from business or people who are involved in or have an interest in promoting whatever activity you choose to do.

Dan taking a breather (again)

Had you done any fundraising like this before, or has it all been new to you?

I actually ran the Brighton Marathon last April supporting the Motor Neurone Disease Association and raised about £700, which was cool because they really appreciate the support.

And finally, have you started planning any future fundraising challenges?

Beyond the ride, Josh and I have already said we’d like to keep in close contact so we can continue to undertake charity work. At the moment we don’t have anything concrete planned.

Everybody at Epigram Sport would like to wish Dan and Josh the best of luck with their ride. If you would like to show your support, why not head over to their fundraising page:        

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