YOUR mission, should you again choose to accept it, is to cycle 555 miles, from the Principality Stadium in Cardiff to BT Edinburgh Murrayfield, in two days, carrying the match ball for the Doddie Weir Cup.

Of course, this was a challenge that former Scottish rugby union and British & Irish Lions international Rob Wainwright was up for and, of course, he made it to Murrayfield in time with the match ball strapped to the back of his bike before presenting said ball to The Princess Royal.

Princess Anne had also been there at the start of the journey, presenting the Murrayfield match ball to Wainwright at Gloucester Rugby Club last Wednesday.

Wainwright was one of around 200 fund-raising cyclists (last year it was 100) who took part in the Doddie Cup 555 Ride from last Thursday to last Saturday, raising money for the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation (launched by Weir in 2017) as they went.

Not every cyclist by any means completed the whole 555 miles, but it was a bit like a who’s who of international rugby when the riders stopped off at Wharfedale RUFC last Friday afternoon, with the epic journey well underway.

Fellow Scottish international Craig Chalmers was another to cycle down The Avenue in support of the battle to cure motor neurone disease, as did former Irish international Rob Henderson, while offering their support as spectators were former England internationals and Lions Peter Winterbottom and John Bentley.

In addition, cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy accompanied the strung-out peloton on part of their route last Friday.

The first riders, who came in groups of three and four, arrived at Grassington just after 1pm, after setting off from Wrexham that morning, while Wainwright, who organised the ride, was a tail-end Charlie at after 4pm.

Then, after a feed and a hot drink, the riders got back on their bikes to face the infamous climb near Cray, hoping to get four hours’ kip when they reached Darlington before heading towards the Scottish border.

Wainwright, a Scotland and British & Irish Lions team-mate of Weir, seemed remarkably chipper when he reached Wharfedale, despite it being a poignant journey as the first Doddie Weir 555 Ride undertaken since the 52-year-old died last November after a six-year battle against motor neurone disease.

The ride also coincided with the last week of Doddie Aid 2023, a national event which involved more than 38,000 people across the UK raising money for MND research.

Wainwright said at Wharfedale RUFC: “We were in Lancashire and the sun was shining and we came over the border and it started raining and it got miserable, but it didn’t matter because there was a tail-wind, and a tail-wind makes it all worthwhile.

“Now I am worried that the flags here are blowing in the wrong direction as we prepare to head up the dale.

“What hurts? What doesn’t hurt but particularly my back and my neck. However, the spirits are soaring and as long as you get your nutrition right it is not too bad.

“If you get that wrong you get a wee dip in mood, but I have a great team with me, and yesterday was the easiest day we have ever had, and this is the fourth one I have done – beautiful weather in Wales – but today I am short of sleep, after three, three-and-a-half hours’ sleep.

“Yesterday we were at Welshpool, we started off at Cobra and had breakfast this morning at Wrexham Football Club and met a lot of the TV superstar footballers from that club, and then over to Orrell RFC, and everywhere we have gone we have had an amazing welcome.

“Wrexham to Orrell was flat and this was not so flat! We will have to turn round pretty quickly and head to Darlington, which could be the hardest bit. Some of them are probably in Darlington already but eight or more of us are doing it all, which is not to be advised.

“I think we are sitting at knocking on high £600,000 in terms of donations this time and we are at £1.7million overall. Chris Hoy joining us gave us a big lift and we just want people to donate to our JustGiving page to find a cure for this terrible disease, which I know has touched this rugby club and pretty much touched every rugby club that we have been to.”

Chalmers, returning to The Avenue after a 10-year gap when he was coaching Esher, said: “So far, I have done about 20 miles today, 120 overall so far and I will probably end up doing about 300 in the end.

“This is Yorkshire weather after what we have had and I know there will be hills shortly. It is hard work without enough sleep but we have done well so far and will raise a lot of money.”

Henderson said: “Ireland is God’s country but Yorkshire is a close second, and Craig does it without moaning, and getting the ball to Murrayfield is a great legacy for Doddie, our dear friend. I don’t go 555 miles on my holiday!”

Organising it all at Wharfedale was former Greens star Charlie Vyvyan, who said: “Our aim is to raise money and make sure that they have enough food etc.

“Some are doing the whole route, others half and others a quarter, which is still almost 140 miles, and it is in February in not particularly nice weather, and they are probably going to have less than eight hours’ sleep in 60 hours, so tiredness is going to be a big factor.

“We have had a club member in Chris Davies who died a few years ago and a lot of people in Wharfedale have donated and the messages that they have left are lovely. You don’t realise how many people have been affected.

“As for the riders, going past the White Lion at Cray, which the Tour de France did, will test them more than they realise.”

On Thursday the riders stopped at Kidwelly and Llandovery on the way to Welshpool, while on Saturday they set off from Alnwick, stopping at Dunbar before reaching Edinburgh.