DODDIE WEIR’S infectious energy and determination to build something positive out of a devastating situation wavered briefly yesterday lunchtime when it was suggested he hop on his bike and have a wee cycle around the Greenyards so that some promotional photos could be taken for the latest fund-raising and profile-boosting initiative for his My Name’5 Doddie Foundation– the charity set-up as part of the former Scotland forward’s brave battle against Motor Neurone Disease.
“I didn’t know I was going to have to ride this thing – that wasn’t part of the plan,” he said, casting his eyes around nervously. “I just dug it out the garage for the photo – I thought I was just going to stand next to it!”
It was a brief moment of public vulnerability, but the big man soon steadied his nerves. “Well, let’s just get on with it then,” he said, as he fixed his gaze on the task immediately ahead. Then he got on his bike and he cycled.
There’s real steel in this gentle giant.
When news broke of Weir’s diagnosis last June, he vowed to “devote my time towards assisting research and raising awareness and funds to help support fellow sufferers”. And he has been as good as his word, demonstrating unwavering resilience in the face of incredible physical and emotional stress, to support and promote the multitude of dinners, golf-outings, sponsored walks and other events organised for or on behalf of the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation.
The latest enterprise has been set-up by friend and former rival Peter Winterbottom, the great England and Lions open-side flanker of the 1980s and early 1990s, in association with the Ride of the Legends organisation which has hosted charity cycle runs all over the world in recent years.
Doddie’5 Ride will take place on 12th August and offers the opportunity for cyclists at all levels of experience and ability to take part in either the Doddie’5 Classic event over 60 miles or the Doddie’5 Challenge over 11 miles.
“Ride of the Legends started in 2013 during the Lions tour when we cycled from Melbourne to Sydney, so each year we’ve had a charity event and this year we decided it would be good to do something for Doddie, so now here we are,” said Winterbottom.
“Most of the awareness and fundraising has maybe been done in Scotland but he is well-known and loved all round the world, so I’m delighted as an Englishman that I can do my own little bit to help him in what he is trying to achieve.
“What we have tried to create here is a fun event for cyclists of all abilities and age groups, from club cyclists and weekend cyclists to complete beginners.
“The Doddie’5 Classic navigates through the beautiful Borders countryside of rolling hills and scenic lanes whilst Doddie’5 Challenge runs along the river from Melrose towards Selkirk via Tweedbank, doubling back to make it a pleasant 11 miles – ideal for younger and less experienced cyclists.
“The rugby fraternity has been hugely supportive of Doddie, but participants in other sports – such as cycling – have come forward and shown a willingness to assist the Foundation’s fundraising ambitions.”
The man himself is looking forward to playing a central role in the event – and hasn’t given up hope of actually taking part in the cycle.
“I have been asked to flag off the riders at the ceremonial start – although I’m still on the lookout for a big-boy tandem and a Lycra race suit that would fit me,” Weir quipped, only half jokingly.
“To bring an event like this to the Borders is great and it’s evidence again of the wonderful support we’re finding from all over the place. It’s phenomenal,” he added, on a more serious note. “There’s a lot more people going to be involved in this than just rugby supporters, which is great. I’m a big believer in people doing something to be fit, something is better than nothing. It’s good for you. And this event is open to all abilities.
“We’ve just come off a walk, Kelso-Morebattle, which was 10k or 5k, we did the 5k and it was a wonderful event. Somebody had been out before and planted a bottle of prosecco and four beers every 1000m metres. So by the time we’d finished the 5k we were in good spirits.”
Former Olympic, World, Commonwealth and European triple jump champion Jonathan Edwards is supporting the ride.
“It is a great opportunity for cyclists of all abilities and ages to give their support and raise much needed funds for the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation and the fight against Motor Neurone Disease. The gathering promises to be a great day of cycling and sporting camaraderie and a day to remember,” he said.
Those wishing to participate can register at: www.myname5doddie.co.uk/ride-for-doddie