Cycling to ENCALS – “on yer bike”

Medical Research Council (MRC)/ MND Association Lady Edith Wolfson Clinical Research Fellow, Dr Johnathan Cooper-Knock, is based at the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN), at the University of Sheffield. The Tour de France ends up in Sheffield a week today, so to get you into the cycling spirit, John blogs about the Sheffield to Leuven ENCALS cycling challenge!

The great idea

A few weeks ago Richard Mead and I had a chat in the lab. We wondered whether it would be possible to cycle to Leuven for the forthcoming European Network for a Cure of ALS (ENCALS) conference (22 – 24 May 2014). Well of course it would be possible, but given finite resources, time and training could we do it? When we discovered the overnight ferry from Hull to Zeerbrugge (which we were reliably informed only resulted in sea-sickness 60% of the time) we realised the dream could become a reality.

We recently entered the Sheffield Half marathon, with some other members of the lab, to raise awareness and funds for the MND Association and the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN). Our aim as a group was to raise £10,000, with the ENCALS cycle being another challenge to help reach our fundraising target!

About to leave Sheffield with Richard Mead (left), Xander Beer (middle)

About to leave Sheffield with Richard Mead (left), Xander Beer (middle)

So it was a few weeks later we lined up outside the SITraN in Sheffield, bikes laden with kit, ready to set off. We had gained another cyclist – Xander Beer, a keen (and surprisingly fit) student from the lab – and a furry toy meerkat named ‘Hoy_lecule’ to serve as our mascot. In addition somewhere along the line we had decided to dress-up as superheroes; accordingly I was superman, Xander was batman, and Rich was Yorkshire-man(?!).

The ENCALS cycle

The cycling on the first day went smoothly; we soon left the big city behind and headed out into countryside. Within a few hours the Humber bridge came into view and before we knew it we were on the ferry, and the English part of our journey was over.

The ferry was fun; Xander only had his cycling clothes but admirably managed to sit through two meals wearing plastic shoes and spandex. A welcome rest ensued and we awoke the next morning in Zeebrugge. The cycling in Belgium was a delight – good, flat tarmac alongside canals and picturesque towns. Highlights included a cycling museum and a lunch stop in Ghent.

When we arrived in Leuven we were greeted by our hosts from the University. They made a fuss and took us straight to a bar for food and Belgium beer. Excellent choice!

It really is easy to get started on your very own fundraising mission, and John is already looking into what they can do next! You can view more pictures from their trip here as well as find out more about how you can get involved in fundraising via the MND Association’s website.

My trusty steed before leaving Sheffield

My trusty steed before leaving Sheffield

 

Batman and Yorshire-man in Doncaster

Batman and Yorshire-man in Doncaster

 

 

 

 

Leaving the ferry

Leaving the ferry

 

 

 

 

Cycling in Belgium

Cycling in Belgium

 

 

 

 

 

 

A well deserved beer in Leuven, Belgium

A well deserved beer in Leuven, Belgium

 

Our arrival in Leuven with the hosts KU Leuven

Our arrival in Leuven with the hosts KU Leuven

 

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