Doddie Weir has been blown away by the support his foundation has received from the rugby world and views the latest planned event, in his beloved Borders countryside, as a chance to open it up even further.
The Doddie’5 Ride – which takes place on 12 August – is a mass cycling event which will start and finish at The Greenyards, home of Weir’s club Melrose, consisting of two distances; the Doddie’5 Classic 60 miles and Doddie’5 Challenge 11 miles.
It is the latest step in the foundation’s battle to help find a cure for Motor Neurone Disease, the condition with which Weir was diagnosed last year.
Since the former Scotland and Lions favourite, now 47, announced the devastating news, support for his My Name’5 Doddie Foundation has been flooding in.
Only a couple of weeks ago English rugby threw its weight behind the cause as Jonny Wilkinson, Lawrence Dallaglio and Rob Andrew carried the ball out at the Twickenham Aviva Premiership final in honour of Weir and fans were encouraged to donate via text.
The cycling event this summer was set up by former England and Lions flanker Peter Winterbottom and Weir is thrilled by the prospect.
“Very much and there’s a lot more people going to be involved in this than just rugby supporters, which is great,” he said.
“I’m a great 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. If you’re keen and you’ve got the lycra there’s the 60 miles and then there is the family unit of 11 miles.
“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!”
Winterbottom locked horns with Weir a few times in the early Nineties, including the famous 1991 World Cup semi-final at Murrayfield, and has been the driving force behind the Ride of the Legends, in which top international rugby stars take part in charity cycling events, the first of which was a Melbourne-Sydney ride during the 2013 Lions tour.
Winterbottom said: “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 making 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 fund-raising ambitions.”
Another legend supporting the event is former Olympic, World, Commonwealth and European triple-jump champion Jonathan Edwards, who said: “As a keen cyclist I am delighted to support the Doddie’5 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.”
As Scotland prepare to play their first summer Test in Canada on Saturday, meanwhile, Weir reminisced about one of his earliest international tours to North America back in 1991.
Weir had been to New Zealand the previous summer, but didn’t feature in the Tests, but played in both non-capped internationals the following year, beating United States in Hartford and losing to Canada in Saint-John.
“It is different but sometimes it is quite nice to visit a new place,” he said. “You always want to test your expertise against the best in the world, but sometimes it is great to do something different.
“The boys go on the tour and wherever it is it has got to be the same ethos – they have got to get together, gel together and perform. And the teams who they are playing, their rugby is improving as well. So it is not going to be that easy a tour. It is at the end of a very hard season.”