Cross-continental bike ride for Wigan man

Stuart saddled up and the late Victor Leonard
Stuart saddled up and the late Victor Leonard

A Wigan man is preparing to saddle up for a gruelling continental charity cycling trip in memory of his brother-in-law.

Stuart Shelmerdine, from Hawkley Hall, will raise money for Wigan and Leigh Hospice by pedalling the 300 miles from London to Paris in tribute to Victor Leonard.

Stuart has signed up for the charity’s first foray into fund-raising in Europe as WLH cared for Victor before his death from pancreatic cancer in January 2017, aged just 60.

The 44-year-old decided that taking on the ride between the two iconic capital cities was the ideal way to thank the hospice for the way it looked after Victor and supported the whole family at a very tough time.

He said: “Victor was a very healthy guy: he was vegetarian, a regular runner who went jogging every day and really looked after himself. Then he started getting stomach pains and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

“The hospice provided amazing support during the period up to and after his death, providing round the clock palliative care at home in his final week, and delivering a hospital bed for use at his home. They also provided emotional support and advice for the family throughout what was an incredibly difficult time.”

Stuart is no stranger to fund-raising on two wheels, having previously cycled 101 miles for charity, but he admits the latest ride will be a challenge. He also has to raise at least £1,900 and has a programme of activities to bring in the cash lined up before the ride departs.

Stuart said: “I’m feeling pretty confident about the ride. Getting up and cycling on day two after all that cycling the day before will be the hardest bit.

“I’m up to £1,000 now with my fund-raising and will be adding another £300 to that soon. I’ve been overwhelmed by the response; when people find out you’re doing it for the hospice they want to help.”

Stuart, who works as a service co-ordinator for Ingersoll Rand in Horwich, has raised £300 by selling a running machine on eBay donated by Victor’s wife and another £75 by restoring an old bike and selling that on the online auction site.

He will be doing a bag-pack in Tesco in August and on May 5 he will be cycling on a turbo trainer in the Wigan supermarket between 10am and 3pm, an event which will serve the useful double function of raising funds and getting some training in.

The ride starts on September 18, with the cyclists pedalling past historic landmarks and through the World War One battlefields before reaching Paris and then returning to Wigan on September 23.

Several places remain and anyone interested can sign up by calling the fund-raising team on 01942 525566 or emailing fundraising@wlh.org.uk