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Cherry and Whites team's Edinburgh to Cardiff challenge for My Name'5 Doddie Foundation

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Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Friday, 21st January 2022, 10:00

Doddie Weir before the start of the charity cycle ride around Melrose in August Doddie Weir before the start of the charity cycle ride around Melrose in August

The Cherry and Whites are going on tour.

No, not Gloucester’s rugby team, but a very distinguished group of former players who will be setting off on a two-day trip from Edinburgh next month.

And while the trip will have a strong rugby theme – they’ve called themselves the Cherry and Whites after all – the group of six, which includes Gloucester legends Mike Teague, John Gadd and Ian Smith, will most certainly not be playing any rugby.

Instead they will be taking part in a 48-hour cycling marathon, which will see them ride 500 miles from Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby, to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, arriving in the Welsh capital just a couple of hours or so before the Six Nations Championship game between Wales and Scotland on Saturday 12th February (kick-off 2.15pm).

They will be taking part in the Doddie 500, an annual event which raises money for the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, a foundation set up to raise funds for research into a cure for Motor Neurone Disease.

It was established by Scotland rugby legend Doddie Weir following his diagnosis with the disease, and one-time Scottish back row Smith, who played alongside Weir many times back in the 90s, said: “It’s a wonderful cause and I hope as many people as possible will support us.

“Doddie is a fantastic bloke, he’s got a great sense of humour and he’ll do anything for you. He’s one of those people who is really popular whatever environment he is in.”

Some 150 cyclists are taking part in the marathon ride with former Gloucester rugby players Pete Jones, Greg Keys and Phil Pritchard also part of the Cherry and Whites team.

The super six are all enthusiastic cyclists, but they are well aware of the challenge confronting them. Ask Smith if he’d rather be preparing to play Bath away on a Friday night back in the old days or take on the Doddie 500 and he said: “Bath away!”

“It’s going to be gruelling what with the inclement weather and the topography,” he admitted. “But that’s half the battle, we want to do it because it will be tough,” adding with a laugh, “it’s good that we’ll have Phil Pritchard with us, he’s a doctor. That’s very handy considering our age!”

And to make it just that little bit tougher, the Cherry and Whites will be cycling the majority of time on their own.

“Each team on the Doddie 500 will make their own way to Cardiff on a pre-determined route,” said 58-year-old Smith. “We’ll meet up with all the other cyclists at Newport Rugby Club on the Saturday morning and then we’ll all cycle together to Cardiff, arriving with the match ball some time between noon and 1pm.”

The Cherry and Whites will set off from Edinburgh on the Thursday morning and plan to stop off at a number of rugby clubs along the way.

“We’ll be cycling in relays,” explained Smith. “Only one of us will be cycling at any one time, but if four of us are cycling that’s still more than 60 miles each per day.

“When we’re not on the bicycle, we’ll be in our back-up vehicle – there’ll be a little bit of sleeping, refuelling and bike maintenance.”

Smith also confirmed that they will be calling in at Kingsholm on the Friday evening “some time between 9pm and midnight”, by which time the finishing line will be very much in sight.

It’s a fair bet that they’ll be very pleased about that, even though they have clocked up a fair number of miles since getting the cycling bug just under two years ago.

“It was during the first lockdown,” said Smith. “Greg Keys put it all together, he got us all cycling and it’s fantastic.

“There’s a gang of about 20 of us, all former Gloucester rugby players. We go cycling once a week and in the spring and summer we go twice a week.

“We stop off at cafés and have a cake, a coffee and a chat, it’s great.”

The ‘gang’ includes the likes of Marcus Hannaford, Malcolm Preedy, Derrick Morgan, Paul Williams and Laurie Beck, and it’s not the first time they’ve supported Doddie Weir’s Foundation because some 15 or 16 of them were in Scotland last August to take part in Doddie’5 Ride, a 60-mile trek around Melrose.

That’s a decent distance too, so who are the good cyclists in the group?

“Gaddy has done fantastically well,” said Smith. “He’s had a couple of hip replacements so he’s done really well. Mike Teague is really good.

“When we started it was just a bit of fun,” he continued, before adding with a laugh, “but then we started to speed up and it got a bit competitive!”

They won’t be competing against each other when they take on the Doddie 500 next month, of course, when, just as in the old days, they will all be pushing in the same direction.

Anyone who would like to make a donation to the Cherry and Whites team in support of the My Name’s Doddie Foundation should visit https://www.justgiving.com/team/CherryAndWhiteCycling

Other Images

Former Gloucester rugby players and their bicycles
The ex-Gloucester rugby players have been cycling together for the best part of two years

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