Image: Bethan Wild

Doddie Weir Cup: Cycling 555 miles in 55 hours is ‘a challenge of a lifetime’

Sporting legends lead 200 riders to deliver the Six Nations match ball and support the fight against Motor Neurone Disease

MORE than 200 riders, including some sporting legends, are cycling 555 miles between Cardiff and Edinburgh in 50 hours to support the charity founded by Scottish No 5 Doddie Weir.

They on are on track to arrive in in time to deliver the match ball for the Doddie Weir Cup, awarded to the winner of the Scotland v Wales Six Nations match.

The cyclists set off from the Principality Stadium on Thursday, February 9 to raise money for the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, set up by the former Scotland and Lions player when he developed Motor Neurone Disease.

This is the fourth charity cycle to the Doddie Weir Cup but the first since Doddie died in November 2022. 

Footage of cyclists leaving Cardiff. Credit: Bethan Wild

Sporting legends and friends of Doddie, such as former rugby captain of Scotland, Rob Wainwright, and British long-distance cyclist, Mark Beaumont, are among the cyclists.

“I know he would be incredibly proud to see this community carrying on,” said Beaumont.

Andy Morgan and team on the cycle route to Edinburgh. Image: H.Merrett

Triathlete Andy Morgan, 57, who is leading a team to Edinburgh, said: “There are plenty of worthy causes out there, everybody has been touched by cancer but with some cancers there is a chance. With Motor Neurone Disease there is absolutely no chance, your body is going to deteriorate, your mind is going to deteriorate and eventually you will pack in and you will die. 

“And you die as Doddie Weir did in a painful and horrible passing. He was a brilliant rugby player. Rob Burrow, who people know from his Rugby League days, was an amazing athlete. He is now strapped in a wheelchair. It’s just awful to see. 

“So, if there is anything we can do to raise awareness, to find a cure or to raise funds to find medication that can control MND it just has to be something we have to do.”

Doddie Weir was one of the most well-known Scottish rugby players of his time. He earned 61 caps for Scotland and toured with the British and Irish Lions in South Africa in 1997. 

In 2016 Doddie was diagnosed with MND and that same year he launched the My Name’5 Doddie charity with a vision of freeing the world of the illness. 

Yellow and blue tartan outfits with the number five on the backs worn for Doddie. Image: Bethan Wild

Beaumont, who holds the record for cycling 18,000 miles around the world in less than 79 days, said this challenge to honour Doddie Weir was the “biggest ride they have ever taken on in their lives”.

At the moment it feels like the country is just shrugging its shoulders and saying here is a wheelchair and see you the next life.”

Andy Morgan
Cyclists ready to take off on the 555 mile ride to Edinburgh. Image: Bethan Wild

Triathlete Morgan said: “The adrenaline will get us through. We know the cause, we know what this is all about and we know what the end goal is, so I think we will cope. 

“Yes, we will be tired, yes at the end we will be suffering I am sure, but because of the cause I think we will quickly not feel that pain and just get on and do it.

“Until I started getting involved in this, I had no idea just how many people are affected by MND, this is not just about raising funds, but it is also about raising awareness, it could hit any of us at any time and it is blinking awful.

“At the moment it feels like the country is just shrugging its shoulders and saying here is a wheelchair and see you the next life.”

Dressed in blue and yellow tartan with Weir’s No 5 on their backs, the cyclists set off from Cardiff’s Principality Stadium at 8am on February 9. 

The cyclists had 55 hours to get to the BT Murrayfield Stadium by 4.45pm on February 11, allowing for compulsory four-hour breaks each night. 

Led by Wainwright, a core group of 20 riders will pedal every mile of the way. Rob has the match ball on the back of his bike for the entire journey. 

The other 200 cyclists are split into teams of six to eight, with at least two driving at all times. Most groups will be taking part in a relayed 555-mile ride, in which two riders from each team cycle for around two hours at a time before swapping over. 

The cyclists are not taking a direct route so they can clock up the magic 555 miles.

After their first pit stop at Tondu RFC in Bridgend, Wainwright said: “Every 300 yards there has been a van parked cheering us on — the spirit is fantastic.”

Rest point at Tondu RFC during Doddie Weir cycle. Image: H Merrett

Their second resting point is in Darlington, England before the last leg to Murrayfield.

If the weather allows, most teams plan to ride the last few miles together in a ceremonial finish. 

“The first thing we will do when we finish is probably acknowledge what we have just done and then hopefully get together as a team and have a pint,” said Morgan.

All teams had to raise a minimum of £2,000 to participate and all ticket profits from the Scotland v Wales match will be donated to the My Name’5 Doddie foundation. 

What is Motor Neurone Disease?

MND is a life shortening illness that attacks the body’s nervous system, interrupting messages between the brain and the body’s muscles. In most cases it spreads rapidly, leading to weak muscles and eventually paralysis. 

According to the MND Association: “MND can leave people locked in a failing body, unable to move, talk, swallow and eventually breathe.”

About 1,100 people are diagnosed with MND every year in the UK. One in three people succumb within a year and half within two years of diagnosis. There is currently no cure. 

Doddie’s foundation funds research in the hopes that one day one will be found.