Edinburgh hospitality heroes cycle from the Scottish Capital to Rome as part of Doddie Weir charity challenge

They’ll be cycling through the night, whatever the weather
MND Ride to Rome_James Snowdon, Davy Żyw and James Porteous Pic: Tim EdgelerMND Ride to Rome_James Snowdon, Davy Żyw and James Porteous Pic: Tim Edgeler
MND Ride to Rome_James Snowdon, Davy Żyw and James Porteous Pic: Tim Edgeler

Only the finest food and drink will be fuelling seven friends – all wine experts, or owners and chefs at top UK restaurants – to take part in the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation’s All Roads Lead to Rome campaign, which will raise funds for the Motor Neurone Disease charity.

The intrepid group of Edinburgh natives includes Berry Bros. & Rudd senior buyer, Davy Żyw; James Porteous, owner of Electric Spirit Co, and James Snowdon, owner of The Palmerston and co-owner of Lannan Bakery.

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From March 1-8, they’ll be cycling in continuous relay for over 2700km from Edinburgh to Rome, starting at Murrayfield Stadium before heading to London, then France, Italy’s Apennine mountains, before arriving at the final destination of Rome’s Stadio Olimpico. They tell us more about the challenge, below.

The Palmerston Pic: James PorteousThe Palmerston Pic: James Porteous
The Palmerston Pic: James Porteous

Support the cycle at www.justgiving.com/team/cowboystew. Follow the group’s journey live at Instagram @rideformnd.

Davy Żyw

Why this cause?

Electric Spirit Co Achroous GinElectric Spirit Co Achroous Gin
Electric Spirit Co Achroous Gin

I grew very close to Doddie, as I was diagnosed only a year after he was in 2018. He was a true mountain of a man, and a dear friend. His charity has changed the landscape and raised the horizon for everyone living with MND. There is no other charity doing more for the cause, and pushing to find a cure. I'm very grateful to their CEO Jill Douglas and co, for all that they do, but they need funds to maintain their great work.

Cycling experience?

Yes, I've been a keen cyclist most of my life. But getting the bombshell of diagnosis lit a firework under me, and my passion. I've embarked on some huge challenges since 2018, for MND awareness building, and fundraising. My NC500 and the High5 were both covered by The Scotsman, between them raising some £250,000.

Does exercise help?

In one word yes. I keep fit for the physical advantages, but also the mental. My bike has been my therapy over the last few difficult years, and pushing pedals helps me process and reflect in my day to day, and keeps balance in my life. I know keeping fit protects me from much of the progressive nature of this evil disease. But on the flip, I need to be careful not to push myself too hard which would have the reverse effect. This ride to Rome will test me.

James Porteous

What has your training regime been like?

I've been doing a lot of work on Zwift, which is basically riding on a smart trainer in my living room, mixed with road rides out in the real world. For me, the hardest bit so far has been looking out at utterly foul weather and thinking ‘yup, you're going out there’. At 2am, in the middle of crossing France, we won't get to go back to bed just because it's chucking it down.

How are you going to cope?

You can ride all you like, but you can only prepare so much - we can't really do a dry run, so improving overall fitness and practicing the more unusual bits is key. Davy's given us some warning about how psychologically draining cycling in the dark is, so we're working in a bit of night training in the next couple of weeks. I wouldn't say the hills particularly worry me, unless we hit snow, which will make things very difficult on skinny tyres. At least there's a view when you're up high! Ultimately we'll cope because a bit of suffering is what we've all signed up for, and because we've got a great cause to support.

Have you ever done anything as challenging before?

Personally, no. During covid Mark Beaumont ran the World in a Day rides on Zwift for Doddie Aid, which were a real gateway to this kind of riding for me. You had to ride 240 miles on your trainer in one shift, which was my first ever ride on that scale, albeit virtually. I did 300km the first year and then 400km the next. What we're doing with this ride is on a whole other level, both logistically and physically, and we're lucky to have Matt planning each rider's shifts to make sure that even the less experienced among us will make it to Rome.

James Snowdon

Which do you anticipate will be the hardest bit?

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Night cycling, it's going to be mentally tough. All you will be able to see is what's a few metres in front of you. If that's combined with bad weather it's going to be the worst. Then there’s unknown at night, which is only known when it's probably too late gives me the ick.

As food people, have you had to tweak your diet?

I'd love to say I've tweaked my diet, but the increase in training has meant I can now justify living off Lannan croissants and The Palmerston’s staff food. A few of the lads have decided to give up drinking until after the event is over. I'd love to say I got on board, but I didn't. As Davy told me the other day, ‘You've still got to live your life!' I'm sticking to those words one whisky at a time.

Do you have a reward planned for when you get home?

We've got to get all the support vehicles and bikes back to the UK but there's a plan hatching between a few of us to make the most of the drive home. It would be rude not to break the drive up with lunches and dinners throughout Italy and France. I plan to get the whole team together to celebrate what we've achieved once we are all back. It’ll be nice to get the group together as a thank you and to look back on the event. Hopefully we will all still be talking by the end of it.



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